Not so many years ago, the only place you heard of green tea was when it was offered to you in tiny cups at Chinese restaurants. Today, however, it seems that everywhere you turn people are telling you to drink green tea. Before you write it off as a passing fad, take a look at some of the research and see for yourself if green tea is worth adding to your daily routine.
What’s in the Leaf
First off, green tea is from the same plants as black tea. The difference in the two types of tea is the preparation. Green tea is steamed and then dried, preserving it as quickly as possible. Black tea undergoes a period of fermentation before being dried. As a result of the variation in preparation, different constituents are available in the leaves.
Teas are best known for their polyphenols: antioxidants that are proven to protect the body from certain damaging substances. Green tea has higher levels of the antioxidants known as catechins, while black tea is higher in theaflavins and thearubigins. Of particular interest in the catchins is epigallocatechin-3-gallate, more commonly known as EGCG. This antioxidant is found most abundantly in green tea, and is thought to be the main factor in green tea’s health benefits.
The Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea has long been heralded by the Chinese for its health-giving properties, but research in more recent years finally lends credence to many of the historic claims. Here are four scientifically researched benefits that will get you reaching for a steaming cup of green goodness on a more regular basis:
- Cardiovascular Health -in a meta-analysis of twenty different trials and studies utilizing green tea catechins, consistent reduction of LDL cholesterol levels were found. This is consistent with numerous reports on the effectiveness of green tea or its extracts to reduce levels of LDL in the blood. Little effect is seen on HDL or triglyceride levels. In addition, various studies have shown that EGCG can help prevent inflammation of the blood vessel walls leading high blood pressure, increase blood flow, and prevent abnormal platelet aggregation. One reason for the beneficial effects of green tea on the heart may be the ability of EGCG to stimulate nitric oxide synthesis, a substance which causes blood vessel lining to relax and increases blood flow.
- Cancer Prevention – that same substance, EGCG, has also been shown to protect cells against cancer proliferation, especially cancer of the prostate, breast, pancreas, colon, and mouth. Although scientists are not clear on how green tea and EGCG actually works against cancer, markers that indicate the proliferation of cancer cells are consistently lower when green tea or its extracts are consumed.
- Brain Power – fascinating research is pointing to the polyphenols in green tea as protectors of the brain cells, or neuroprotective agents. It is of particular interest in relationship to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, where oxidative damage is a key concern. In addition, EGCG has been linked to reduced cognitive impairment, even in younger populations .
- Strong Bones – osteoporosis is one of the top concerns for many women as they get older. Research reveals that components in green tea actually favor the formation of bone while decreasing the rate of bone resorption. This is thought to be accomplished through the antioxidants in green tea reducing the oxidative stress on the body. Some women have seen change in bone mass within just three months of consistent consumption.
Drinking the Right Stuff
If you are convinced that green tea is good for your health, perhaps it is time to start including it in your daily routine. Although it may be tempting to grab a bottle of popular green tea out of the cooler of the closest quick mart, a recent study shows those bottled drinks may not contain enough EGCG to do any good. In fact, Diet Snapple Green Tea had practically no EGCG at all. The best way to get the potent antioxidant power of green tea is to brew it fresh and drink it quick. So, why not brew up a cup of tea in the evening and relax for a bit?
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