This time of year, when the snow has already started to fly and the air feels worthy of your warmest winter coat, a hot mug of tea feels like a great big hug just when you need it most. I prefer herbal teas, many of which are non-caffeinated, because they’re perfectly suitable for all-day drinking.
You usually don’t have to worry whether they will keep you up all night or whether you’ll get the jitters from drinking two full pots of the stuff.
Herbal tea can also help keep us hydrated in extremes of cold or hot weather. Plain herbal tea enjoyed without milk, sugar or other add-ins also contains very few (if any) calories, if that matters to you. The nutritional benefits of many herbal teas are also impressive.
Whether you choose caffeinated or not, tea of all kinds packs a nutritional punch that suggest it could play a role as an everyday superfood in our lives. Here are a few of my favourites:
Camomile Tea. This calming tea is ideal for de-stressing and unwinding after a busy day that involves lots and lots of holiday shopping! It can be mildly sedating to help reduce high stress levels and ease tension and anxiety. Keep in mind that it can be a common allergen for some people.
Fennel Tea. Fennel, with its licorice-like taste, is ideal when your digestion is sluggish. It has anti-spasmodic properties that help relax the muscles in the intestine to help “move things along” when it comes to constipation, gas and indigestion.
Ginger Tea. A spicy tea for nausea, morning sickness and upset stomachs, ginger can also help boost the immune system. It can support healthy digestion, stimulate appetite and metabolism, as well as promote healthy circulation. You can boil some chopped, fresh ginger root in water and sip on that (warm during fall/winter, or cool during the summer) for an easy homemade tea.
Peppermint Tea. Peppermint helps ease bloating, gas and indigestion after you may have overindulged in things you shouldn’t have… [insert your favourite guilty pleasure food] (mine would likely be sugary sweet or rich and creamy!)
Cranberry Tea. A delicious choice for those who have felt the pain of a urinary tract infection (UTI), cranberry tea may help acidify the urine and prevent the buildup of unhealthy bacteria in the bladder. Cranberries are also astringent and high in Vitamin C so they are an immune-supporting and seasonal delight. Look for unsweetened versions since sugar can depress the immune system and prolong infection.
Nettle Tea. It has a distinctly ‘earthy’ flavour that won’t appeal to everyone, but when you’re feeling tired or out of sorts, nettle tea supplies a rich source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C, phosphorus and others to help you regain your energy. Nettle tea can also improve the body’s ability to absorb iron from foods. It also offers quercetin, studied for its abilities to combat seasonal allergies by helping manage the body’s natural antihistamine reaction.
All that said, many herbal teas (including several of the above!) are not recommended for pregnant mamas, so check with your doctor or other health care provider before you replace your morning coffee with an herbal tea addiction.
Whether or not all of the nutritional benefits and uses of tea are substantiated remains to be seen, but tea can certainly be part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.
If nothing else, herbal tea offers soothing comfort during the dark days of fall and winter. And I’ll drink to that!
Life is a plate… Eat up!