Q. Is it healthier to drink tea or water?
A. Although water is certainly a great way to hydrate, drinking a few cups of tea daily has the perk of providing fluids packed with an army of disease-fighting antioxidants. All true (nonherbal) teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant; the varieties (listed in ascending order for antioxidant content) are black, oolong, green, and white. A large body of research confirms that drinking more than three cups of any of these teas each day reduces the risk of numerous health problems ranging from heart disease and osteoporosis to dental cavities.
But wait, you might ask, doesn't drinking caffeinated tea dehydrate the body? Although it is true that extremely high intakes of caffeine act as a diuretic, drinking moderate amounts of tea—up to five cups a day on average—provides a net gain of fluid. (The tea varieties with more antioxidants have less caffeine, so black has the most caffeine and white the least, with oolong and green in the middle.) If you're concerned about caffeine, drinking decaffeinated tea is also a great option.
As a final bonus, drinking tea even relieves stress, thanks to the amino acid L-theanine. And who wouldn't benefit from that?
Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, a health journalist since 1993, calls the Pacific Northwest home. She enjoys hiking and cycling with her husband and children.