The health benefits of green tea

The Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green Tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis, and is grown and picked all over the world. There are different green teas, and many originate from China. The secret of the health of tea lies in the way it is processed. Green tea was drunk for medicinal purposes in China, as well as for bringing peace and serenity to body and mind. Western culture has since adopted green tea as a beverage for health and well being. According to studies, green tea may help protect against many health conditions, due to the high level of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants within the leaf. Studies have been conducted that show there are many health benefits from drinking green tea.

Green tea leaves are picked in thousands of acres of lush tea gardens. The gardens are in China, Formosa (an island in Taiwan), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Japan, India, Kenya and other exotic areas of the world. China is perhaps the largest of green tea producers. There are different types of green teas that come from China. Green teas are distributed flat leafed, whole, in a ball, rolled lengthwise or twisted. Rolled teas, or teas in a ball include Gunpowder and Chun Mee, and are among the more affordable teas. Others include Lung Ching (Dragon’s Well) that helps with tiredness, Gu Zhang Mao Jian, Ping Cha and Xia Zhou Bi Feng. These teas are best drunk in the day and are refreshing and smooth. Higher quality green teas are normally twisted or flat. These tea leaves have a silver color and include the teas Pi Lo Chun, Shi Feng, and Dong Yang Dong Bai. When steeped, the leaves produce a pale green and pale yellow color. All green teas are processed before distribution, however the nutrients are left in the leaves.

The tea leaf from the Camellia Sinensis plant is processed differently for green teas than black teas and oolongs. In green teas, the tea leaves are laid out on mats for steaming. The leaves can also be pan heated or baked. This process prevents fermentation or oxidation (oxygen leaving the leaves). The green color is than left in the leaf, thus keeping all of the nutrients inside the tea. The nutrients consist of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the tea. Vitamins and minerals include: iron, potassium, sodium, carotene, B1, B2, A, D, and Vitamin C. The antioxidants in the tea are actually molecules that co-exist with free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms in the body that, when left unchecked, grow and multiply, causing damage to otherwise healthy cells. Free radicals can cause diseases such as cancer, heart disease, premature aging and other diseases. The antioxidants guard against this damage, and help keep cells healthy.

One such antioxidant is EGCG or epigallocatechin (one of the cathechins) and, according to studies, is one hundred times more powerful than Vitamin C and twenty- five times more powerful than Vitamin E. Other antioxidants include, flavanoids, polyphenols, tannins and theanine. Flavanoids are the bright colored compounds found in fresh fruit and vegetables, and may help fight infections. Polyphenols are phytochemicals found in high amounts within green tea. These phytochemicals help in prevention of diseases like heart disease and cancer. One cup of green tea may possibly provide 10 mg of polyphenols, and has antioxidant levels higher than one serving of spinach, carrots, broccoli, or strawberries. Tannins are a group of flavanoids, phenols and polyphenols compounds found in green tea. Tannins are produced by plants and are resistant to fermentation and digestion. Theanine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that has a tranquilizing effect on the brain. The Japanese green tea Sencha contains theanine. Three to four cups contains 100-200 mg of theanine.

Green tea can help prevent oxidative damage within the body, when taken with a balanced diet. A group of volunteers, according to a study drank two cups of green tea per day, while another group ate their balanced diet, but did not drink the tea. The group who drank the green tea had a large increase in their plasma antioxidant levels, decreased oxidative damage in lymphocytes (white blood cells), and a significant decrease in LDL or bad cholesterol in comparison to the non-tea drinking group. Other health benefits of drinking green tea include: lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, fighting carcinogenic bacteria, reducing tumors and mutations, helping fight headaches, lifting spirits and depression, fighting halitosis (bad breath), and improving digestion.

Written by:

Deidre Bissonette

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