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Sipping Tea for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  May 7, 2013 11:53 AM

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Photo Source:  Lipton
I was lucky enough to receive the entire three seasons DVD collection of Downton Abbey as gift from a friend.  After being totally immersed and hooked after the first DVD, I found myself habitually watching the remaining eight DVDs mimicking the English characters continually sipping on a soothing pot of tea.  I have to thank the writers of the series for this new tea drinking habit, which I have since uncovered has the power to fight against heart disease.

Both black and green teas contain certain flavonoids called catechins, which are phytochemicals that have been shown to help maintain healthy blood vessels.   According to Baiz Frei, PhD, a researcher at Oregon State University, the catechins appear to work their magic by increasing the nitric oxide production in the blood vessels.  Nitric oxide is a substance in the body that can increase the dilation or relaxing of the blood vessels and inhibit the clumping of platelets that are part of artery-clogging plaque as well as the formation of blood clots.  The combination of the constriction of the blood vessels, the buildup and rupture of the plaque, and the presence of a blood clot are the causes of most heart attacks and strokes, according to Frei. 

While tea is the major source of flavonoids in the diets of Americans, the longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids in your brew.  With the warmer weather approaching, a tall glass of iced tea can be a cooler way, rather than hot tea, to get these flavonoids, according to Frei.  (But go easy on the added sugar.) 

So how much tea do you need to sip daily to reap some of these heart health benefits?  The exact amount is not known but a review of over 15 studies found that the incidence of a heart attack among individuals was reduced by 11 percent in those consuming at least 3 cups of hot tea daily.

While Downton Abbey fans may have to wait until January 2014 for the next season to start, brewing up a pot of tea daily may not only help you stay emotionally connected with the series but may also help soothe your heart.
Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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