Health Benefits of Green Tea
Why Green Tea?
Regular black tea, oolong tea and green tea all come from the leaves of the same Camellia Sinensis plant. How the three teas differ varies according to their oxidation levels (that is, their exposure and reaction to oxygen) in the fermentation process.
Green tea is steam, baked or pan-heated to prevent oxidation. It is not fermented, thus the leaves stay green. However Oolong tea is partially fermented and black tea is fully fermented, hence their darker colors. The more the tea leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content, and the higher the caffeine content.
Because green tea is not subjected to oxidation (fermentation) a compound called EGCG (which is a type of antioxidant) is preserved. In the other tea varieties this compound is lost in the fermentation process. Green tea is abundant in EGCG antioxidants which are considered to be important for good health and to prevent free radicals within our bodies causing cell damage.
The presence of EGCG in green tea only makes it a superior beverage over other tea varieties. Our bodies contain free radicals which are highly reactive when they react in a process called oxidation. These free radicals become oxidized free radicals which can lead to tissue and cell damage attributed to things such as cancer, and heart disease. This happens naturally in our body but our body has a defense system of antioxidants which tries to stop this ‘reacting process’.
Environmental factors such as exposure to UV light, smoking and radiation exposure can also activate these free radicals. Green tea which is high in EGCG (an antioxidant) interacts with free radicals and neutralizes them to terminate and inhibit cell damage.
Teapot of Goodness. What’s in Green Tea?
Green tea is abundant in antioxidants all of which are necessary for optimal health in the human body. Tea comes from leaves, from nature. It is therefore a natural herbal product and healing remedy. The various chemical compounds found naturally in tea tend to have a positive effect on our body.
Green tea contains the following compounds and nutrients:
- Vitamin C: Assists in warding off flu and colds, as well as providing stress relief.
- Vitamin E: Helps fight the ageing process, lowers cholesterol, and prevents arteries from hardening.
- Dietary fibre: Essential for regular bowel movement and aids digestion which assists in weight maintenance.
- Theanine (a type of amino acid): Inhibits increase in blood pressure, and promotes neural function. This gives tea its tranquilising and relaxing effect. A cup of green tea is the perfect way to relax, whilst also improving our mental awareness.
- Polyphenols: There are various different types of polyphenols (chemical compounds) found in tea such as catechins. One catechin in particular called EGCG has been identified as the key ingredient found in green tea which gives its many medicinal properties. Other sources of this are found in foods such as broccoli, spinach, strawberries.
This chemical component has been found to reduce incidences of cancer because it helps fight cancer-causing (carcinogenic) bacteria. Catechins work to inactivate oxidants before cell damage occurs, thereby inhibiting growth of cancer cells and reducing the number and size of tumors. It has also been found to prevent cavities (because it is high in fluoride content), increases metabolism, improves digestion, prevents bad breath, and reduces oxidation by active oxygen.
An average cup of green tea contains 50-150mg of this compound. EGCG is the particular compound found in green tea only which has been known to give it superior health benefits over other teas. Green tea contains 30-40% of polyphenols compared to 3-10% found in black tea. The polyphenols also give green tea its fat-burning effects which helps improve metabolism. It is the polyphenols in green tea that gives it its slightly bitter and stringent flavor over other teas.
- Caffeine: All teas including green tea naturally contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase your metabolism. However tea both stimulates and calms. The caffeine in tea does not stimulate circulation but rather on the brain and central nervous system. The tannin compound (a type of polyphenol) found in tea bonds to the caffeine meaning that it does not get released until it reaches the digestion stage in the intestines. This is why green tea has a calming effect.
Green tea has considerably less caffeine than coffee and even black tea. Black tea has 2-3 times the amount of caffeine than green tea. Green tea contains an average of 15mg of caffeine compared to coffee (ave 100mg) per cup. Hoji Tea, a variety of green tea contains little to no caffeine. Decaffeinated teas are available.
Some research suggests that adding milk to tea reduces the effectiveness of tea because of the way the milk proteins bind and react to the molecules found in tea. However because green tea is consumed without additives such as cream, sugar or milk, it is a much healthier option. The absence of sugar and milk in green tea also means you consume fewer calories.
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