These Teas Can Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
Tea is the second-most-popular beverage in the world — behind only water. And aside from being delicious, tea has been shown in medical studies to have anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and cholesterol-lowering properties, among other benefits. But, how exactly does that work?
Let’s get into the science of cholesterol a little bit: The body actually needs a certain amount of cholesterol in order to carry out functions like producing hormones and building cells, and it travels through your blood on proteins called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins: LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also called “bad cholesterol,” and HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease or stroke, and can create a buildup of plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. Thankfully, eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising can help keep bad cholesterol in-check — and adding tea to your daily ritual can be a fantastic part of your cholesterol care, too.
This is because the antioxidants in tea — called catechins and theaflavins — have been shown in studies to prevent cholesterol molecules from forming plaque in artery walls, which blocks blood flow.
Sound amazing? We thought so, too. Here are the teas to try that have the highest levels of antioxidants:
1. Green tea
Green and black tea both come from the same type of tea plant, Camellia sinensis. However, green tea has higher levels of antioxidants, and a number of studies have shown that green tea extract actually reduced overall cholesterol levels and specifically LDL (or “bad cholesterol”) levels in subjects. There are a number of delicious green tea varieties to try, which should all be brewed at a lower temperature than you might be used to (175-180 degrees Fahrenheit) to maintain the integrity:
- Sencha: A steamed Japanese green tea made from small-leaf Camellia sinensis with a refreshing grassy taste. There are many types of sencha to try.
- Genmaicha: Japanese tea leaves mixed with toasted rice, which gives it a warm, nutty taste.
- Matcha: A type of Japanese Tencha green tea that is stone ground and traditionally used in tea ceremonies.
- Dragon Well: Also known as Longjing tea, this is the most famous green tea in China. It has a gentle flavor and pleasing aroma.
- Woojeon: From the volcanic island of Jeju in South Korea, this tea is picked when the leaves are very young, and it has a nutty aroma and a toasty, savory flavor.
2. Black tea
Black tea is second to green tea in terms of its antioxidant levels, but it still packs a punch. In fact, black tea drinking has been correlated with low incidences of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The main difference between black and green tea is that black tea is oxidized, or exposed to air, which darkens it, and green tea is not, which is why it is lighter in color. One animal study showed that both black and green tea lowered bad cholesterol and prevented blood vessel plaque from building. Consider trying some of these black tea varieties:
- Earl Grey: This classic black tea has the addition of bergamot oil that gives it a slightly floral, citrusy taste.
- Lady Grey: This tea contains even more bergamot, as well as lemon and orange peel, which give this blend an extra boost of antioxidants.
- Pu-erh: A type of fermented black tea traditionally produced in Yunnan Province, China. One study showed that Pu-erh tea had particularly remarkable cholesterol-lowering properties, and positively altered gut microbiota in mice and humans.
- Assam: A fragrant Indian tea that is often used as the base for chai, with the addition of spices like cinnamon, ginger, clove, anise, coriander, and cardamom.
- Darjeeling: A fragrant black tea from India that is sometimes referred to as the “champagne of teas.”
- Lapsang Souchong: A smoked tea from the Wuyi mountains of Fujian province. It’s delicious and savory.
3. White tea
White tea also comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and it has a very delicate taste and light color because it is minimally processed and harvested early before the buds open. Studies show that white tea extract is also effective at regulating how the body metabolizes cholesterol, so it’s another good choice to add to your tea rotation. Check out these versions:
- Silver Needle: Considered the highest-quality white tea, Silver Needle is mostly cultivated in Fujian province of China, but it is also grown in Yunnan Province, and other places around the world. It is a delicate, sweet-flavored brew.
- White Peony (Bai Mu Dan): Another high-quality tea that is made with both the buds and leaves of the tea plant, this has a stronger, more floral taste than Silver Needle.
- Ceylon White: This tea grows in Sri Lanka and has a fruity, honeyed flavor.
- Malawi White: This white tea is grown in Malawi, and it is made from the twigs and stems, so it has a more potent flavor with undertones of honey.
- Darjeeling White: This tea is from the Darjeeling region of India, and it has a sweet, mellow flavor.
What we often call “herbal teas,” like hibiscus, lemon balm, and echinacea, aren’t technically teas because they aren’t actually made from the tea plant. Rather, they’re tisanes, or herbal infusions that could be made from any part of a plant, like the bark, flowers, leaves, buds, seeds, roots, or fruits. Tisanes that include citrus or berries actually benefit from an added antioxidant boost. Here are a few tisanes known to help reduce cholesterol:
- Hibiscus: Although this tisane is very high in antioxidants and some studies suggest there is promise for hibiscus lowering cholesterol, not all studies have been conclusive.
- Rooibos: Also known as red bush tea, or red tea, this is made from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub, a plant native to South Africa. Studies show that drinking rooibos could reduce cholesterol levels.
- Ginger: Made from the ginger root and often used to soothe stomach upset, studies suggest ginger tisane also reduces cholesterol.
- Dandelion: When the roots are used in tea, it can be a mild diuretic, and some use it as an earthy replacement for coffee. Animal studies show that it may be able to reduce cholesterol levels.
While tea alone might not get your cholesterol levels to where you want them to be, it can add a delicious boost of bad-cholesterol-fighting antioxidants. It’s a great treat to incorporate into a healthy diet and exercise plan, all while aiding you in regulating your cholesterol levels.
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