The Health Benefits of Green Tea
In my never ending search for good nutrition, one of the many healthy foods I’ve come across is green tea. There have been many historical references, reports, news articles, and scientific studies done on the health benefits of green tea. What are these health benefits?
Traditional Uses of Green Tea
Green tea has been considered a medicine and a healthful beverage since ancient times. Traditional Chinese medicine has long recommended this plant for headaches, body aches and pains, digestion, depression, detoxification, as an energizer and, as a general tonic to prolong life.
Modern Science and Green Tea
Let’s take a look at what modern science has found out about green tea. Green tea’s caffeine acts upon the central nervous system, stimulating wakefulness, facilitating ideas association and decreasing the sensation of fatigue. Another chemical in green tea called theophylline acts as a vasodilator, and a diuretic. Theophylline, also known as dimethylxanthine, is a drug used to treat Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by causing a non-specific relaxation on the bronchial smooth muscle, and also causes respiratory stimulation. Essential oils found in freshly brewed green tea are shown to facilitate digestion.
Consumption of green tea has been associated with decreased total serum cholesterol, increased HDL cholesterol, and decreased triglycerides. It is shown to have preventative effects against disorders of the liver. The polyphenols found in green tea have been shown to have preventative effects for many of the adverse effects of sunlight on human health.
The number one health ingredient in green tea is epigallocathechin gallate (ECGC). The cathechins and polyphenols found in green tea are very powerful antioxidants that reduce the oxidative stress to cells in the body caused by today’s highly processed foods. Green tea has also been linked to a reduced incidence of certain types of cancer. Other health effects of green tea include reduction in body weight, and it also increases glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, thus aiding diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome.
Green tea has been shown to also have antibacterial and antiviral properties, promoting oral health as well as inhibiting the growth of Salmonella, Clostridium and Bacillus strains of bacteria, and Influenza and Herpes simplex virus.
All Green Tea is Not the Same
The difference is all in how green tea is prepared before its brewed. So what is the healthiest form of green tea? The most common form is bottled green tea. While this is the easiest to get, it’s also the least healthy. An October 2005 news release by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University states that some bottled tea products they studied “have levels of polyphenols and antioxidant activity 10 to 100 times lower than conventionally brewed tea, regardless of whether they are based on green teas or the white teas that supposedly have more health value.” This is because of the large mounts of sugar put into these bottled teas, and these products are made with dehydrated powdered teas rather than brewed tea leaves. Another popular form of green tea is tea bags. Tea leaves contain chemicals and essential oils, which are the basis for the delightful flavor of tea. When the tea leaves are broken up, those oils can evaporate, leaving a dull and tasteless tea. Typical tea bags are filled with the tiniest pieces of broken leaves, called fannings. So even though tea from tea bags is freshly brewed, it still loses much of the health benefits due to evaporation of these volatile oils. Loose tea is by far the best form of green tea. The larger the pieces of tea leaf, the higher the concentration of essential oils and polyphenols.
Where to find a Good Green Tea
You can go to the local mall to find gourmet blends of tea, but that can be very expensive. For me, the best place to find a quality, affordable green tea is at your local Asian market. There is one family owned Vietnamese near where I live.
This small market has a full aisle (both sides) of every form and type of tea you can imagine. I found a very nice Japanese Sen-Cha green tea (“Sen-Cha” is aJapanese term used to describe tea made from dried leaves that are not chrushed and powdered, or “Mat-Cha”), for about $4.99 for 7 ounces. The tea can be steeped up to three times before it is needs to be changed, so it’s very economical when compared to tea bags and is much healthier for you.
A Word of Warning,
As with anything, too much of a good thing is bad. Not only does green tea contain EGCG and theophylline, but it also contains fluoride. While fluoride is important to prevent cavities in teeth, too much fluoride will occupy the iodine receptors in the Thyroid gland. This impairs iodine’s ability to help the thyroid to function properly causing many metabolism-associated problems. One to two cups a day will greatly help you, while eight to ten cups may begin to impair your thyroid. Use some common sense and a little research (as with all things).
Consider adding simple “whole leaf” green tea to you nutrition plan for many reasons, not the least of which is it also tastes great.
Be Fit and God Bless!
P.S.: If you found some useful ideas in this post, please feel free to share is using the social media buttons on this page. I would also like to hear any suggestions, questions or comments you have below.
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