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Tea: The good-for-you brew
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More and more, it appears that the recipe for the world’s most effective health tonic is a few ounces of water and a tea bag.

Not just any tea, mind you—only traditional teas like green, black or oolong that are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Available in your local supermarket, these teas contain potent levels of flavonoids, antioxidants that hunt down and destroy free radicals, those bad guys that damage cells. And tea has only about 40 percent of the caffeine of coffee.

Whether served piping hot or chilled over ice, this centuries-old beverage has been linked to reduced risks of:

  • Heart disease. A review of 13 published studies presented at the 2001 American College of Cardiology Scientific Session found an average 11 percent lower heart attack rate among people who drank three or more cups of tea each day.
  • Cancer. A major study of postmenopausal women found a 40 percent reduction in urinary tract cancer and a 68 percent reduction in the risk of digestive tract cancers in those drinking two cups of black tea daily.
  • Osteoporosis. In Britain, a study of women ages 65 to 76 concluded that those who drank a cup or two of tea daily had significantly higher bone density than non-tea drinkers.

What’s more, recent studies have even credited tea with reducing dental plaque, halting chronic stomach gastritis (a cancer precursor) and eliminating herpes simplex viruses that cause cold sores. Keep in mind that not all studies have shown benefits, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers the scientific evidence for health claims for green and black teas unclear at present.

Here are some tips for making the perfect pot or pitcher of tea:

  • Brew your own. Instant tea mix is loaded with sugar.
  • Let black tea brew a full five minutes, green tea two to three minutes, to release all their health effects.
  • To make iced tea, use 50 percent more tea than for hot tea. Otherwise, melting ice will dilute the brew.