English breakfast tea, sometimes just called English tea, is a blend of different black teas. Although the mixture varies a little with each maker, it generally contains tea from India, Sri Lanka and sometimes China. English tea has a strong, full-bodied flavor, making it a popular pick-me-up drink the early morning. It also contains several micronutrients as well as certain phytochemicals with possible health benefits.
Although English tea is essentially calorie-free, a 6-ounce cup contains about 65 milligrams of potassium, which is needed for fluid balance, and small amounts of magnesium and phosphorus, which are needed for bone health and many important biochemical reactions. One cup of English tea also provides about 9 micrograms of folate, a B vitamin that helps your body produce new red blood cells and other types of cells. There is about 0.5 milligrams of fluoride in one cup of tea. Fluoride is a mineral that can help prevent dental caries.
Fresh tea leaves are naturally high in a class of plant-based compounds called polyphenol flavonoids. During production of black teas such as English breakfast tea, fresh green tea leaves are dried, rolled and allowed to oxidize and ferment before being exposed to heat. In addition to darkening the leaves, this processing produces high levels of two types of polyphenols called theaflavins and thearubigins. These natural chemicals are powerful antioxidants that help stabilize free radicals, allowing your body to rid itself of them. Free radicals are digestive byproducts and they also form after exposure to environmental toxins. Over time, they can damage DNA and other parts of cells; thus, they may eventually raise your risk of heart disease, cancer and other disorders.
A number of research studies suggest that phytochemicals in black tea may have significant cardiovascular benefits. In one study, published in "Circulation" in 2001, subjects with coronary artery disease who consumed black tea had improvement in their arteries after drinking tea for four weeks, compared to a placebo group. Another study published in "Clinical Science" in 2002 found that subjects with moderately high cholesterol who drank 5 cups of black tea daily for four weeks also experienced positive changes in their arteries compared to a control group. In a six-year study of Dutch women published in "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2002, the risk of heart attack was lowest in those subjects who drank the most tea. However, since all these studies involved small numbers of subjects, a possible association between tea and increased heart health needs further confirmation in large, controlled clinical trials.
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