Green Tea Health Benefits: How Real Are They?
Green tea is the un-roasted leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
Since it has undergone a minimal amount of processing, green tea retains most of the beneficial chemicals which are found in the leaves of Camellia sinensis. (The process which turns green tea into black tea usually burns off or otherwise destroys these chemicals.)
Why is green tea good for you?
Green tea is rich in a category of chemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols are the same beneficial chemicals which are found in red wine, blueberries, olive oil, and pomegranates.
Polyphenols are very powerful antioxidants. There are a lot of health claims around polyphenols and antioxidants these days. Antioxidants like Vitamin C are definitely beneficial, but it’s difficult to assess how beneficial, and in what way.
Green tea also contains a lot of different minerals and trace elements, including selenium, chromium, manganese, and zinc.
What are green tea’s health benefits?
Depending on who you ask, green tea is said to help just about any condition you can think of! Green tea health claims include:
Inconclusive data (often stemming from in vitro studies or animal studies, and not yet proven in large-scale double blind human tests)
- Reduce cardiovascular disease
- Reduce cholesterol
- Reduce the progression of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Prevent glaucoma
- Prevent dental cavities
- Prevent kidney stones
- Prevent cancer
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve bone density
- Improve insulin tolerance
- Improve glucose tolerance
- Improve cognitive function
- Help dieters lose weight by oxidizing fat
I think you will agree that a lot of these claims are probably inaccurate or misleading. It’s tea, not magic!
One thing is true: we don’t understand everything that each chemical in green tea does. Most of the extraordinary health claims result from isolating these chemicals, then using them in large quantities. There is no down side to drinking a cup or two of green tea every day, and many potential benefits.
However, one thing is true: green tea is a delicious and satisfying beverage, whether you drink it hot or iced. It helps keep you hydrated while providing a little caffeine kick. Green tea therefore makes an excellent replacement for sugary sodas, fat and calorie-laden espresso drinks, and even carb-filled natural fruit juices.
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