Green Tea is one of the world’s healthiest beverages. With the wide array of choices in the supermarket tea aisle, you may wonder what the difference is between Green Tea and the other, more widely consumed Black Teas. They both come from the same plant- the Camellia Sinensis bush. The difference is in how and when they are harvested. The Green Tea leaves are quickly harvested when they are fresh, while other darker teas are made after the leaves oxidize and turn brown. The level of oxidation of the leaves determines the type of tea. The Green Tea leaves are totally unoxidized and the least processed of all types of tea. This is one of the reasons it has the highest amounts of antioxidants. The antioxidants in Green Tea are called polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that are found in plants and they protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with things like heart disease and cancer and inflammation. Dr. John Weisburger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention, there are 8-10 times more polyphenols in Green Tea than in fruits and vegetables. That is why adding Green Tea to your diet every day is such a powerful decision to do for your health.
The health benefits of drinking Green Tea are plentiful. It is beneficial for your heart and your brain health, cancer, diabetes, weight loss and exercise performance, dental health, stress, and longevity.
- Heart health: Green tea drinkers have a 31 % decreased risk of CVD. Green Tea has been shown to improve blood flow and to help lower cholesterol- the incredibly high antioxidant capacity of Green Tea helps to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol; the oxidation of LDL is a pathway to heart disease. Green Tea has a beneficial effect on total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, blood pressure, and other heart disease-related conditions.
- Brain health: Brain health is closely related to your heart health- what is good for your heart is also good for your brain. Heart disease is systemic and those precious arteries to the brain carry nutrients and oxygen and if the arteries are compromised by plaque buildup, your cognitive function will decline. The bioactive compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on the brain. They may reduce the risk of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the two most common neurodegenerative disorders. Green tea contains some caffeine and has been shown to help with the working memory parts of the brain. Green tea is also neuroprotective so in addition to protecting your arteries, it may also lower your risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
- Cancer: This is one that probably gets the most marketing hype for green tea but although there are a lot of observational studies out there that point to reduced risks of breast, prostate, and colon cancers there aren’t enough long term studies that have been done for it to be a foregone conclusion that Green Tea prevents cancer. However, if you connect the dots and think about how the high antioxidant capacity of green tea cleans up the oxidative damage from free radicals that are known to cause damage and erratic growth in cells, adding green tea as a healthy drink is still a good idea.
- Diabetes: Green Tea has been shown to help with blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. A large review of many studies indicates that green tea drinkers have an 18 % lower risk of becoming diabetic.
- Weight Loss and Exercise Performance: Drinking green tea is associated with weight loss, especially belly fat loss. The caffeine in green tea helps with fatty acid mobilization which, in turn, helps you burn fat during exercise. If you substitute green tea for just one can of soda every day you could possibly lose up to 15 pounds just by the reduced sugar intake. Studies have also shown that drinking Green Tea just before your workout can increase your body’s fat-burning ability by 17%.
- Dental Health: It is important to keep a healthy balance of good bacteria in your mouth. This is causally linked to your overall health. The catechins (the polyphenol ) in Green Tea help to get rid of the ‘bad’ bacteria that cause dental cavities.
- Stress: Grab a cup of green tea to relaxxxx. Green Tea can literally zen you out to a wonderful relaxed and calm state of mind. Here is how it works: The Green Tea contains an amino acid called L- theanine. This amino acid can cross the blood-brain barrier (a very tricky thing to do) and increase a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA acts to quell anxiety. At the same time, dopamine levels increase. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which means it is a chemical messenger in the brain and body and it helps us to feel pleasure as well as helps with thinking and executive function- how we think things out and plan things. The L theanine helps to increase the production of alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are exhibited in the brain when you are calm and relaxed. And here is an interesting fact- the small amount of caffeine in green tea has a synergistic effect with the L- theanine in the tea. This synergy creates a calm, relaxed, purposeful, and laser focus in our brain. Just think how that kind of state of being could help you during the day? Whether you are driving or just at your desk or performing and kind of your daily work? Remember that stress has very damaging effects on your health- raising blood sugars and fats, increasing belly fat, inhibiting your ability to absorb nutrients in your food, and is tied to heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, and reduced immunity. Using green tea as a relaxing break from the day makes sense to improve your overall health and well- being.
- Green tea drinking is associated with longer, healthier life spans. Drinking Green Tea is associated with longer life spans. That is perhaps the best reason of all. Studies show that drinking Green Tea habitually can reduce the risk of dying from ANY cause by 15% and reduce the risk of dying from stroke or heart disease by 22%.
Here are a few tips to keep your Green Tea healthy:
- Don’t heap the sugar into your tea or buy the commercial sweetened bottles. Use stevia if possible or raw local honey.
- Keep it clean and brew it up yourself with a high-quality organic green tea bag.
- Add lemon to enhance the bioavailability of the polyphenols
- Don’t add milk because that inhibits the antioxidant activity.
By: Cindy Luisi WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach