By Amy Hendel, Physician Assistant and Health Expert
Despite images you might typically associate with tea — delicate cups and saucers, yoga and meditation, garden parties and magical spells — he-men, alpha men and all kinds of men do drink tea. They drink it simply because they understand the value of taste and the health benefits in the brew. Now’s a great time to talk about tea as part of a healthy lifestyle for men, since June is National Men’s Health Month. Nationwide, there will be screenings, health fairs, health education and health outreach aimed at men, particularly during the week of June 9 through the 15, designated Men’s Health Week. But let’s get back to the subject of tea!
Basic Tea 101
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is a shrub native to China and India. Tea typically contains less caffeine than coffee, and herbal teas have no caffeine. Tea’s popularity in the U.S. has been steadily increasing as knowledge of its health benefits grows. In fact, some experts predict that tea sales may overtake coffee by 2017.
Certain natural chemicals in tea called polyphenols (compounds that work like antioxidants to protect cells), specifically some flavonoids (compounds in plants whose actions are similar to vitamins), have been shown to support heart health and may also help to support avoiding certain cancers. The flavonoid in tea most researched is ECGC, which may support limiting the impact of free radicals. The research is still ongoing.
Green, Black or White – Which is Best?
The more processed or oxidized the tea, the lower the content of polyphenols and specifically flavonoids, including the catechin and antioxidant, ECGC. Still, even processed teas have some low levels of antioxidant compounds. In order of most flavonoid potent to least, green tea is at the head of the pack. It‘s a popular tea choice because of its caffeine and theobromine content. It’s also the most researched to-date of all the teas.
Green tea’s antioxidants support arterial health, promote a more efficient usage of stored fat (if you drink several cups daily), and act as a counter-punch against the impact of oxidative stress on the brain.
A study by Shinichi Kuriyama, M.D., that looked at green tea consumption in about 1,000 Japanese men, found that those who consumed a minimum of two cups daily seemed to show some cognitive improvements, based on test scores compiled in the study. One study published in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that green tea’s ECGC may reduce levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) in men who had prostate disease, but again more research is needed.
Even decaffeinated green tea seems to have a protective nature, with a study showing reduced triglycerides and cholesterol in lab animals. Though the mechanism isn’t clear, one explanation offered is that the antioxidants in green tea may make blood vessels more flexible and less likely to develop blockages. For men (and women) struggling with weight issues, four cups of green tea daily may help to nudge weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
Black tea is made with oxidized tea leaves. It has the highest caffeine content (so if you are looking to reduce a coffee fix, this is the one to choose), and it may support lung health.
White tea is completely unoxidized, and research is underway to look at possible anti-inflammatory properties.
Instant teas typically have limited amounts of actual tea, so their polyphenol and flavonoid levels are usually low. Still, unsweetened instant tea can be refreshing and offer an alternative to water and high-calorie drinks.
Herbal Teas Deserve Special Mention
They may have lower concentrations of antioxidants, but herbal teas made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots may have benefits that support or promote health. The most common herbal teas include ginger, gingko biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, chamomile, echinacea, mint, rooibos, jasmine and rosehip. Which are of most interest to men?
- Some research suggests chamomile may help to prevent certain complications of diabetes.
- Research is ongoing but suggests that hibiscus tea may help to promote healthy blood pressure.
- Ginseng tea research suggests that it may promote sexual health in men.
- If you suffer with indigestion after a large or spicy meal, you may appreciate a cup or two of ginger tea.
Tea is Trending Big
In a recent supermarket trends report for 2014, tea was mentioned twice among the top ten trends. With consumers expressing a desire for “foods they can trust and foods that suggest pureness,” the report predicts teas will be increasingly used as a swap-out for less healthy ingredients like butter and oils. Brewed teas will also become more popular and be used to poach and steam proteins and vegetables.
Of course, one of the most common uses of brewed green tea is in an energizing smoothie, as a liquid substitute for the juice you might typically use. You can steep the tea overnight to get a very concentrated brew. Add it to Greek yogurt, frozen berries and bananas, chia seeds and a dash of honey to create an energizing morning smoothie. Brewed tea also blends well with frozen mangos, kiwi and frozen cubes of fresh squeezed orange juice.
Getting Your Man to Embrace Tea
Your guy may need some convincing, especially if he loves soda, energy drinks and beer. Why not appeal to his male attitude? Sexy men drink tea. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Jeremy Renner, David Beckham, Mike Tyson, Timothy Olyphant, Paul McCartney and many more male celebrities young and old have been spotted drinking tea.
If you want to really make a commitment to a leaner physique and better health (or showcase those abs!), why not choose a brew that refreshes, rehydrates, is calorie free and supports health? Men do indeed choose tea — so what are you waiting for?
About the Author
Known as The HealthGal (www.healthgal.com), contributing health expert and blogger, Amy Hendel, is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, lifestyle expert, columnist and spokesperson. Trained as a physician assistant and nutritionist, she maintains a private practice as a health coach.
Her first book, Fat Families Thin Families (BenBella Publishers, 2008), offers a team approach to helping families cope with obesity and related health issues. The newest edition, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, is available at bookstores and online.
Amy is a featured host of Healthination’s What’s for Lunch?, Food Rescue and Simple Smoothies. She’s been a guest on Today, Good Morning America, FOX News, The Early Show, Rachel Ray, The 700 Club, EXTRA, and national and local news and talk shows. Past producer and host of healthy home segments on HouseSmarts, Amy has also hosted Westwood One’s Good Eating Good Living, Lifetime’s Stories on the Beach, and the PBS medical talk shows HealthZone and Doctors on Call.