There are some undeniable emotional benefits that come with curling up to a cup of tea (instant relaxation, anyone?). But the physical benefits go way, way beyond that—from disease prevention to UV ray protection, coffee’s cousin can do it all.
The only caveat? Not everything you think of as tea is technically tea. True tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis (think green, black, white, and oolong), which is what we’ll be talking about below. Anything else (like herbal) is technically from a different plant and isn’t really tea—but can still contain antioxidants and other health benefits.
Why Tea Is Awesome (and Healthy)
1. Tea can boost endurance.
Scientists found that the catechins (a.k.a. antioxidants) in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which leads to improved muscle endurance. Basically, your workout just got a whole lot easier.
2. It might reduce your risk of heart attack.
If you’re a heavy black tea drinker (we’re talking three cups or more per day), you’re less likely to get coronary heart disease than someone who drinks tea less. In the same vein (pun obviously intended), there’s also evidence to suggest tea can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. It might help prevent cancer
Actually, a lot of cancers. Studies show tea can reduce the risk of breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, ovarian, liver, prostate, head and neck, and oral cancers. But it’s not a miracle drink—research is mixed, so don’t rely on tea alone.
4. Tea helps fight free radicals.
Tea is high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (“ORAC” to its friends), which is a complicated way of saying tea helps destroy free radicals (which can damage DNA) in the body. While bodies are designed to fight free radicals on their own, they’re not 100 percent effective. And since damage from free radicals has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and neurological degeneration, we’ll take all the help we can get.
5. Tea is hydrating.
Yep, despite the caffeine.
6. Drinking tea can lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
After adjusting for known variables (like age, BMI, blood pressure, and more), a study from Finland found that drinking tea (and coffee, for what it’s worth) lowers our risk of Parkinson’s.
7. It can protect you from UV rays.
Weird but true: Green tea might reduce the severity of UV radiation and save you from nasty sunburns. Green tea extract has to be applied topically, though—in this case, just drinking it won’t cut it.
8. Regularly drinking tea can help with weight loss.
In one study, participants who regularly consumed hot tea had smaller waists and lower BMIs than non-consuming participants.Scientists speculate it’s because regular tea drinking lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome.
9. It might counteract some of the negative effects of smoking.
It’s not an excuse to go hard on cigarettes, but research shows drinking green tea lowers a certain chemical (8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine, if you’re curious) in smokers’ urine and plasma. That change suggests tea might protect smokers from cancers, diseases, and other damages associated with smoking.
10. It can help people with Type II diabetes.
Studies found the compounds in green tea may help people with diabetes better process sugar, among other benefits.
11. It can help the body recover from radiation.
One study found tea helped protect against cellular degeneration upon exposure to radiation, while another found that tea might help skin bounce back post-exposure.
12. Tea strengthens your bones.
More specifically, green tea increases bone mineral density and strength. That means osteoporosis—and all the fractures, pain, and posture problems that comes with it—is further off.
13. Tea might prevent (and treat) neurological diseases.
Tea may play a part in preventing degenerative diseases (think Alzheimer’s), especially. How? The polyphenols in green tea may help maintain the parts of the brain that regulate learning and memory.