The Health Benefits of Green Tea
What is green tea?
Green tea originates from East Asia, and is now grown extensively through Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East. In modern times, tea is the most widely drunk beverage after water. Green tea and black tea come from different varieties of the same plant. While many herbal infusions call themselves tea, true teas are made with the leaves of a small shrub with the Latin name Camelia sinesis. The green variety of tea tends to use younger leaves and does not go through an oxidising process, which leaves its liquid much lighter in colour than black tea. Leaves are often steamed before being rolled and dried to prevent oxidisation. The longer the fermentation is allowed to occur, the leaves increase the caffeine content and lose polyphenol content. Polyphenols are the antioxidants found in the tea leaf and a major source of many of the health benefits offered by green tea. The polyphenols are what gives the tea its slightly bitter flavour.
A short history of green tea
Green tea has been used as a medicine in China for thousands of years, and used to treat conditions ranging from headaches to depression. Traditional medicine proscribes green tea as a diuretic to cleanse the body of excess fluids and toxins, as a stimulant, as a medicine for a healthy cardiovascular system, and to help stop bleeding and close wounds. It has also been used to treat gassy build up, fluctuating blood sugars and to promote digestion. Ongoing research is being conducted into these claims but so far many of these traditional treatments have been confirmed as scientifically plausible.
The most widely researched benefits come from an important group of antioxidants. Green tea contains flavonoids and is the best source of a group called catechins. These antioxidants have many uses in the body, but one of the most important is their role in reducing the formation of free radical cells. These rogue cells can be responsible for a host of issues including premature ageing. An antioxidant called EGCG can be found in large amounts, and is able to assist in treating many different diseases.
Antioxidants found in green tea help to prevent some fatty tissues from forming, increasing cardiovascular health. They have been shown to lower LDL cholestorol and increase the ratio of good fats to bad in the body.
Green tea and extracts made from the plant are growing increasingly popular as an ingredient in topical applications such as face creams. The antioxidants slow down the aging process by helping the body to eliminate free radicals, and this process can occur internally and externally for the best effects. Studies have shown that green tea applied topically can reduce skin damage caused by sun exposure. Some creams are recently being developed that may help in the fight against skin cancer.
The infusion has high amounts of the amino acid L-Theanine, which has an anti-anxiety effect and improves brain wave function. Scientists have found that this amino acid combined with caffeine is an ideal pairing for improving brain function. Green tea contains caffeine, but not near the levels found in coffee or black tea, allowing it to act as a mild stimulant without the strong effects large amounts of caffeine can have on the brain. These benefits can also assist with brain function in old age, especially with long term consumption.
Green tea is widely used in weight loss supplements and increases metabolic function. Studies have been conducted which showed that people who drank green tea burned a significantly higher amount of calories compared to those who had not. Traditionally caffeine has also been used as an ingredient in many weight loss products and supplements.
Green tea inhibits some viruses and kills some types of bacteria, including the types that cause bad breath and dental damage. It also has fluoride to assist in building strong teeth, as well as other minerals.
This form of tea can assist in managing diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering glucose levels. Studies show it may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Getting the most out of your tea
With so many benefits, it is obvious that green tea is worth adding as a regular part of a healthy diet. However,the range on the shelves can be confusing. It is worth choosing carefully, as some types of green tea and methods of preparation yield better nutritional results than others. Caffeinated green tea retains more of its nutritional value than the decaffeinated variety, and is worth choosing. Tea that is brewed from bags or leaves is much better than instant, powdered varieties. There is no real difference to be found between loose leaves and tea bags, as long as the product inside is good quality. Bottled and ready-to-drink tea often contains far less of the beneficial compounds, and can contain sugars and other nasty additives. The health benefits do degrade over time, so it is important to drink the tea when it has been freshly made. It is important to let it cool slightly and not drink it at a scalding temperature.
The perfect way to make tea
Advice on the amount of green tea to drink ranges from 3 cups to 10 cups a day, but most studies show no discernible benefits from drinking more than 3-5 cups per day. If the tea has not been prepared correctly, the flavour can be compromised. The best way to prepare green tea is to take the time needed to bring out the catechise, and drink it before they start to reduce in potency. Using one tea bag or 2 – 4 grams of loose leaf tea per cup, fill a kettle with cold water and bring to the boil. Allow it to stand for up to 3 minutes, and then pour the water over the tea. Allow the tea to steep for a further 3 minutes. Remove the bag, allow the tea to cool further, and then drink.
With so many amazing health benefits, a great flavour, improvement of brain function and the superior hydration that comes with drinking a water-based beverage – green tea is an excellent choice. Consider increasing your intake, and feel the difference it will make.