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April 17, 2013

Teas can be an excellent alternative to drinking coffee thanks to their low (or no) caffeine content and variety of health benefits. Some teas are thought to be detoxifying, while others have antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties. You can pick your teas based on the flavors you enjoy or your individual health goals.

The following five teas may not be familiar to you, but they have some great benefits that could help you shake up your morning routine. All but one of the teas listed are naturally caffeine-free, so you don't have to worry about replacing a coffee habit with more caffeine.

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1. Nettle tea

Nettle tea is a rich source of calcium, B-vitamins and iron. These essential nutrients serve a variety of functions, including promoting bone health, deriving energy from the food you eat, and carrying oxygen in the blood. Nettle also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it helpful in treating conditions like arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Nettle tea can help increase breast milk production in new mothers with low milk supply. This tea has a mild flavor on its own, or you can blend it with green tea and peppermint.

2. Hibiscus tea

Made from the brilliantly colored hibiscus flowers, this tea is a rich source of the potent antioxidant vitamin C. Antioxidants are essential for neutralizing damaging free radicals. Vitamin C is also important for keeping the immune system strong and for collagen formation. In addition, some research suggests that drinking hibiscus tea may help lower blood pressure.

3. Fennel tea

Fennel is a carminative, meaning it helps the body get rid of gas and prevents gas formation. In other words, fennel tea is an excellent digestive aid, and indeed, drinking fennel tea (or eating fennel seeds) is a traditional remedy for indigestion. Fennel’s therapeutic effects may be due to its ability to mildly speed up movement through the digestive tract, making it especially helpful for constipation.

4. Dandelion root tea

Surely everyone is familiar with dandelions, but did you know that tea made from the flower's roots is thought to have diuretic and liver-detoxifying properties? Research indicates that dandelion root may also have anti-inflammatory activity and is a rich source of antioxidants. Serve dandelion root tea with honey and lemon.

5. Pu-erh tea

Pue-erh is an uncommon fermented tea made from the tea plant. Pu-erh does contain some caffeine, though in smaller amounts than other teas. The fermentation process gives this tea a unique flavor, and preliminary research indicates that pu-erh tea may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while helping increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Pu-erh tea tastes delicious blended with ginger and a splash of lemon juice.

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Margaret Wertheim, R.D.
Margaret Wertheim, R.D.

Margaret Wertheim, R.D., is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and is the author of Breaking the Sugar Habit: Practical Ways to Cut the Sugar, Lose the Weight, and Regain Your Health. Take this quiz to determine whether you need to curb your sugar intake. Margaret holds a Bachelors in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She counsels individuals and groups on how to adjust their diet to include whole and real foods to support optimum overall health. She also specializes in supporting women's health, fertility, and pregnancy through nutrition and lifestyle choices. Check our her blog for the latest nutrition information, healthy eating tips, and recipes, check out her Breaking the Sugar Habit online course, or sign-up to download your free Natural Sweetener Guide or Fertility and Pregnancy Resource Guide.