Miracle of green tea

Tea, especially green tea, has a host of beneficial health properties.

The practice of drinking tea is believed to have originated in China some 4,000 years ago although there is archaeological evidence to suggest people consumed tea leaves steeped in boiling water as far back as 500,000 years ago.

People in Asian countries more commonly consume green or oolong tea, while black tea is more popular in the United States and Europe. In fact, tea is second only to water in terms of global consumption.

Green, black and oolong teas are all derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Originally cultivated in East Asia, this plant grows as large as a shrub or tree. Today, Camellia sinensis grows throughout Asia and in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves, while the leaves of oolong tea are partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. The more the leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content and the higher the caffeine content. Green tea has the highest polyphenol content while black tea has roughly two to three times the caffeine content of green tea.

The healthy properties of green tea are largely attributed to polyphenols, chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. In fact, the antioxidant effects of polyphenols appear to be greater than that of vitamin C.

Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals – damaging compounds in the body that alter cells, tamper with DNA (genetic material) and even cause cell death.

Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet rays from the sun, radiation, cigarette smoke and air pollution) also give rise to these damaging particles. Many scientists believe that free radicals contribute to the ageing process as well as the development of a number of health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralise free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Polyphenols contained in teas are classified as catechins. Green tea contains six primary catechin compounds: catechin, gallaogatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and apigallocatechin gallate (also known as EGCG). EGCG is the most active and the most studied polyphenol component in green tea.

Green tea also contains alkaloids including caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. These alkaloids provide its stimulant effects. L-theanine, an amino acid compound found in green tea, has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system.

Ancient superfood

Practitioners of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine use green tea as a stimulant, diuretic, astringent and to improve heart health. Other traditional uses of green tea include treating flatulence, regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion and improving mental processes.

Green tea has been extensively studied in people, animals and laboratory experiments. The results from these studies suggest that green tea may be useful for the following health conditions:

·High cholesterol – Research shows that green tea lowers total cholesterol and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol in animals and people. In a small study of smokers, researchers found that green tea significantly reduced blood levels of harmful LDL cholesterol.

·Cancer – Emerging clinical studies suggest that the polyphenols in green tea may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Researchers also believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop their progression.

·Diabetes – Green tea is traditionally used to control blood sugar in the body. Animal studies suggest that green tea may help prevent the development of Type 1 diabetes and slow the progression once it has developed, as it may help regulate glucose in the body.

Some small clinical studies have found that daily supplementation of the diet with green tea-extract powder lowers the haemoglobin A1c level in individuals with borderline diabetes.

·Liver disease – Population-based clinical studies have shown that those who drink more than 10 cups of green tea per day are less likely to develop disorders of the liver. Green tea also seems to protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances such as alcohol.

Results from several animal and human studies suggest that catechin in green tea may help treat viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver from a virus) although it should be noted that in these studies, catechin was isolated from green tea and used in very high concentrations.

·Weight loss – Clinical studies suggest that green tea extract may boost metabolism and help burn fat. One study confirmed that the combination of green tea and caffeine improved weight loss and maintenance in overweight and moderately obese individuals.

·Other uses – Drinking green tea has been found to be effective in a small clinical study for dental caries or tooth decay. Research also indicates that green tea may benefit arthritis sufferers by reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage breakdown. In addition, chemicals found in green tea may be effective in treating genital warts and preventing symptoms of colds and influenza.

How about a cuppa?

Producing the perfect cup of green tea is a tricky process. If not brewed properly, those same polyphenols that provide health benefits can ruin the flavour, making the tea taste “gassy”. But with the variety of quality products fortified with green tea extract available in the market, it’s easy to have the perfect cuppa.

The health benefits of green tea are overwhelmingly stacked in its favour, so maybe it’s time to let its unique health benefits grow on you! – Article courtesy of Dutch Lady


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