The Health Benefits of Black and White Teas
It’s a hotly contested topic: which is better for health, coffee, or tea? While both beverages are superfoods in their own right, each possesses distinct advantages over the other. Teas have been used for centuries in Asia (specifically China and India) where the Camellia sinensis plant–which is the basis for most teas–is native. Coffee has been the preferred beverage of the West, originating in the cocoa heavy regions of South and Central America.
The popularity of each beverage has gone beyond their native habitats, however. In recent years, teas have become quite popular in the West, where many people now prefer tea to coffee (which is an acquired taste of sorts).
Despite the growing popularity of tea, few people realize that not all teas do the same thing. There are four types of tea that can be made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and they are green tea, oolong tea, black tea and white tea. The differing levels of processing involved in the different teas cause them to retain or gain features not characteristic of others.
The Benefits of Green and Oolong Tea
- Green Tea– One of the most popular varieties of tea is green tea, which is typically made by steaming the leaves of the plant. Green tea has a high concentration of EGCG, a polyphenol compound which has been studied extensively for its potential to help people lose weight, prevent aging, and more. Studies have also indicated that green tea may reduce the risk of certain cancers and even heart disease.
- Oolong Tea– Made from either oxidation or fermentation of the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, oolong tea is believed to have the best potential for reducing cholesterol levels and improving heart health.
After briefly exploring the nature of green and oolong tea, we are ready to explore the topic in question, which is the difference between black and white teas and how these often-overlooked teas can benefit you.
The Benefits of Black Tea
Black teas are made by allowing tea leaves to naturally wither and then grinding them into the fine powder we find in stores for purchase. Black tea is likely the most commonly consumed variety in the Western world since it is widely available and pleasant to taste. Black tea is also considered to be an oxidized variety of tea because after the leaves are crushed they are allowed to turn black by the process of oxidation. Black tea has a number of advantages over other tea varieties, including the following:
- Boosts Focus and Energy Levels- Black tea contains a higher amount of caffeine per cup than the other teas, ranging from 40-60 mg per cup. This makes it perfect for a morning pick-me-up when a cup of Joe isn’t for you.
- Helps Reduce Cholesterol Levels- Though Oolong tea has the strongest cholesterol reducing power, black tea comes in second place. When consumed daily, along with a sensible diet, it can help keep cholesterol levels in check.
- Acts as a Diarrhea Preventative- Black tea is rich in tannins, which are phytochemicals that help slow down intestinal motility and prevent the symptom of loose stool.
- Helps Treat Respiratory Conditions- Thanks to the presence of caffeine and other methylxanthines (such as theophylline and theobromine), black tea is useful in relaxing the airways, thus allowing for easy breathing.
The Benefits of White Tea
Of the four types of tea, white tea is the least processed. Because of this, when people drink it for the first time they sometimes become puzzled and wonder if they are really drinking tea, or if they are drinking mildly flavored water. White tea is also low in caffeine content, with about 10-15 mg per cup. Despite its mild nature, white tea possesses a unique set of benefits:
- An Anti-oxidant Powerhouse- Due to the absence of significant processing, white teas retain most of their natural antioxidants. This is one reason that people believe that white tea is useful in cancer prevention.
- Potent Anti-Microbial Properties- White tea has stronger anti-microbial effects that green tea and is able to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. White tea is also used to prevent the growth of oral bacteria and fungi, thereby effectively helping to treat periodontal diseases.
- Promotes Heart Health- White tea can help reduce cholesterol levels, thin the blood, and enhance blood vessel function. It also improves blood pressure levels.