During ancient times, herbal infusions, otherwise known as teas, were used as homeopathic medicine. Today people continue to drink tea to cure and fight ailments ranging from simple colds to cancer. Tea has become the panacea for making your body healthy. But recent studies have shown that the tea that you’re drinking could actually be making you sick(er), instead of better!
Pretty crazy, right?
Metals found in the environment and in everyday products can find their way into your system and make you really ill. Although your body needs trace amounts of these metals, you can quickly overload on the maximum recommended amount by eating products that are tainted with them.
Recent studies have found that 32 percent of the tea leaves from China exceeded the limit for lead, which is a toxic heavy metal. This lead contamination is a result of China’s massive industrialization efforts. The lead from industrial pollution and car exhaust contaminates the soil and air, which is then absorbed by the plants via the roots or lands on the leaves in the local environment. Tea plants absorb lead from the environment at a higher rate than other plants, and green tea plants are known to be especially effective at absorbing lead from the soil. Green tea was found to have the highest amount of lead, with up to 50 times the maximum permitted level.
By some estimates, Americans drink nearly 10 billion servings of green tea each year, and roughly 80 percent of the green tea is produced in China. Various teas were analyzed by ConsumerLab.com, and they reported that tea from brands like Lipton and Bigelow contained up to 2.5 micrograms of lead per serving compared with no measurable amounts in Teavana brand, which gets its tea leaves from Japan. Most noteworthy was that zero percent of the tea leaves from Japan exceeded the limit.
Experts do believe that the lead in the tea leaves does not leach very well into the tea you end up drinking; it mostly stays in the leaves. This is okay if you soak the leaves and drink the liquid, but if you’re consuming matcha green tea (made from ground-up leaves), it’s especially important that it doesn’t come from China. The best matcha green tea comes from Japan and is steamed rather than roasted or pan-fried. As a result, matcha green tea retains all the nutrient-rich value possible from the tea leaf without additives or contaminants.
Studies also showed that using a paper filter such as a tea bag or K-cup can also reduce the amount of lead in your drink. Interestingly, there was no lead found in any of the decaffeinated teas, so scientists concluded that the process of decaffeination actually removes lead.
All teas are rich in antioxidants, but green tea—especially when brewed from loose leaves—is known for its great abundance of polyphenols, which do wonders for your body! Research has found that drinking at least 2 to 3 cups of green tea daily can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. It can also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
So drinking tea is great for you and you shouldn’t stop! The key is to know the source of the leaves and use a filter or bag when possible. And if you do happen to accidently consume too many heavy metals, know that a healthy diet rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron can also help to minimize the harmful effects.