There's intriguing research that tea may have special benefits. It's rich in protective antioxidants and may contribute to healthier hearts and bones. Above all, it's a lovely soother and a warmer-upper. To get the greatest boost:
Green, black, and oolong teas all come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Green, the least processed, is the richest in antioxidants. Black and oolong teas also have them, just not as much.
Recent studies of popular brands have found that they differed in levels of antioxidants. Some winners:
Green tea: Celestial Seasonings Emerald Gardens and Lipton 100% Natural
Black tea: Tetley Classic Blend, Twinings Earl Grey, and Nestea Instant
DRINK UP AFTER A MEAL -- ESPECIALLY A HIGH-FAT ONE
At the University of Maryland, volunteers ate a high-fat meal, which prevented their blood vessels from widening properly. But when they followed the meal with iced black or green tea, their blood flowed more freely. "It's one of many ways in which the antioxidants in tea help prevent heart disease," says John Weisburger, M.D., of the American Health Foundation, in Valhalla, NY.
SIP IN MODERATION
Although tea has less caffeine per cup than coffee, and green tea has even less than black tea, it can still cause nervousness and sleeplessness in some people. Pregnant and nursing women especially should have only one or two cups a day -- or sip decaf. (Look for tea that's decaffeinated using carbon dioxide -- it retains most of its antioxidants.)