The Benefits of Green Tea
Some of you have expressed interest in learning more about the potential benefits of green tea. I’m happy to oblige!
Green tea has only recently gained popularity here in the West. We’re more accustomed to drinking black tea. But green tea has never gone out of style in Asia, where it’s been prized for its delicate flavor, floral scent, and health-promoting properties for thousands of years.
All tea is made from the leaves of a shrub called Camellia sinensis. Leaves are plucked, dried and shredded, then steeped in slightly-less-than-boiling water to produce a lightly colored, clear beverage known as green tea. Sometimes, immature leaf buds are hand picked. These become white tea. They’ve not had time to develop the chlorophyll found in green tea leaves. Hence the name, white tea. White tea tends to have an even more delicate scent and flavor profile, and some of its beneficial chemicals are even more concentrated that those found in green tea.
Black tea is made from tea leaves that have been oxidized. The process deepens and enriches the flavor, but some important beneficial compounds are sacrificed in the process. This may explain the rising popularity of green tea in the West. It’s even more beneficial than black tea.
The main component in tea that’s credited with providing numerous remarkable health benefits is an antioxidant polyphenol chemical called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). In laboratory studies, EGCG appears to fight cancer on several levels. Studies on human populations suggest that this effect doesn’t just occur in test tubes. People who drink up to six cups of the brew daily enjoy a significantly reduced risk of certain diseases, such as certain cancers and even heart disease.
Green tea also contains relatively small amounts of caffeine (compared to coffee, for instance), and a unique amino acid called theanine. While caffeine is well known for its stimulating effect, what’s less well known is that theanine has an almost opposite effect: it promotes relaxation and helps reduce anxiety. Indeed, theanine may account for tea’s reputation as a calming beverage that’s also good at helping you focus your concentration. In other words, it’s less likely to keep you awake when you’d rather sleep, and it won’t give you the jitters.
So there you have it: potent, unique antioxidant properties, good flavor, calming and focusing. What’s not to like? Did I mention that it may help prevent cancer?
Khurana S1, Venkataraman K, Hollingsworth A, Piche M, Tai TC. Polyphenols: benefits to the cardiovascular system in health and in aging. Nutrients. 2013 Sep 26;5(10):3779-827. doi: 10.3390/nu5103779.