Medicinal benefits of Green tea
Is any other food or drink reported to have as many health benefits as green tea? The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. In her book Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, Nadine Taylor states that green tea has been used as a medicine in China for at least 4,000 years.
Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.
To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High cholesterol levels
- Cardiovascular disease
- Impaired immune function
What makes Green tea so special?
The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.
Links are being made between the effects of drinking green tea and the "French Paradox." For years, researchers were puzzled by the fact that, despite consuming a diet rich in fat, the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. The answer was found to lie in red wine, which contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers.
Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.
New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. In November, 1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.
Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea - from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market.
To date, the only negative side effect reported from drinking green tea is insomnia due to the fact that it contains caffeine. However, green tea contains less caffeine than coffee: there are approximately thirty to sixty mg. of caffeine in six - eight ounces of tea, compared to over one-hundred mg. in eight ounces of coffee.
Green tea comes from the leaves of the white-flowered tea plant, Camellia sinensis, a bush native to Asia. These tea leaves are less processed than black tea and contain rich sources of antioxidants, which protect the body's cells from damage and fight diseases. The antioxidants, the benefits in green tea have been linked to cancer prevention, decreased risk of stroke, heart diseases, and lowered blood cholesterol. Catechin, a phytochemical, is the main component which benefits in green tea and is present in higher amounts than in grape juice and red wine, which are also believed to reduce the rate of heart disease. Other health benefits of green tea are still plenty!
Good for your heart?
Recent research suggests that beneficial antioxidants in green tea play a role in reducing the negative effects of bad cholesterol, lowering triglyceride levels and increasing the production of good cholesterol. They have also been shown to inhibit excessive blood clotting which may help against heart diseases and stroke. Further evidence has suggested that green tea plays a role in prevention of age-related and brain degeneration diseases, such as Parkinson and Alzheimer's. Its antioxidant properties are thought to reduce free radical damage and the breakdown of neurotransmitters. That is another beneficial antioxidants of green tea for health.
Green tea's rich supply of antioxidants may also play a key role in the prevention of various cancers, like breast, colon, stomach, and lung cancer. They suppress the formation and growth of potent cancer-causing agents. While the potential anti-cancer properties of green tea look promising, they are also complex and not yet completely understood.
Good for your teeth?
Another interesting benefit of green tea is its effectiveness in preventing dental decay. It inhibits the growth of oral bacteria, which can help to fight cavities. When used as a mouth rinse, green tea reduced plaque and the incident of periodontal disease.
How to serve Green tea
You can enjoy green tea including its numerous health benefits during any season. Green tea can be served hot or cold and still provide a host of health benefits. While sugar and lemon are not thought to alter the antioxidant content, milk may bind to the antioxidants and make them unavailable to the body. To brew a potent cup of green tea, make sure to steep the tea bag for at least 3 minutes. Otherwise, all of the antioxidants may not end up in the tea. If you're concerned about caffeine, a 6-ounce cup of green tea contains approximately 30 mg. That is much lower than coffee, which has about 100 mg per cup.
While there is plenty of new and exciting evidence about the health benefits of green tea, it's still important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes other rich sources of antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables.
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