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Health benefits of green tea

green tea, health benefits

An ancient Chinese proverb says: Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one!

It is believed that people steeped tea leaves in boiling water even 500,000 years ago! It is a popular drink even today around the world, and though other varieties are more common, there is growing awareness of the health benefits of green tea.

Few items of food or drink have been known to have as many health benefits as green tea. Green tea has been consumed throughout the ages in India, China, Japan, and Thailand. Green tea was used by traditional Chinese and Indian practitioners to treat a number of problems. Nadine Taylor’s book “Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life”, describes how green tea has been used in China for at least 4,000 years, for health benefits, and to treat ailments ranging from headaches to depression.

What is special about green tea?
The varieties of tea reflect the region where it is grown, (such as Ceylon or Assam), the form (like pekoe, or gunpowder) and the processing method (black, green, or oolong).

The leaves of the same plant produce different kinds of tea; the difference in taste and health benefits is due to the way they are prepared and processed. Green tea is said to have the most health benefits. There are some reasons for this.

Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves, while black tea is fully fermented, and oolong tea partially fermented. The more the leaves are fermented, the higher the caffeine content, and lower the polyphenol [anti-oxidant] content. Consequently, green tea has the highest polyphenol content, and the lowest caffeine content. It is particularly rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a stronger anti-oxidant than Vitamins C and E.

Green tea is also processed differently. To produce green tea, the leaves are not allowed to oxidize, but are steamed. This process preserves the natural ingredients in the leaves.

What are the health benefits of green tea?
The anti-oxidant in green tea has tremendous potential in contributing to good health, such as: neutralizing free radicals [which damage our cells] combating infection, and raising immunity. Besides controlling the growth of cancer cells, green tea kills these cells without harming healthy tissue. Green tea has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots, which is the leading cause of strokes and heart attacks.
Many research studies have pointed to the natural properties of green tea, which have health benefits.

“Herbs for Health” magazine reports a Japanese finding that men who drank ten cups of green tea per day stayed cancer-free for three years longer than men who drank less than three cups a day (there are approximately 240 - 320 mg of polyphenols in three cups of green tea).

Japanese scientists at the Saitama Cancer Research Institute discovered that there were fewer recurrences, and slower spread, of breast cancer in women with a history of drinking five or more cups of green tea daily.

A study by Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA, concluded that drinking four or more cups of green tea per day could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, and reduce symptoms in patients.

Green tea has been a traditional home remedy to control blood sugar in the body. Animal studies show that green tea may slow the progression, and even prevent the development of type 1 diabetes. This is because Green tea may help to regulate glucose in the body. Patients with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, which is required to convert starches and glucose (sugar), and other foods into energy needed in daily life.

There is some emerging evidence that one of the health benefits of green tea is that it can even help people lose weight. The findings of a study at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [November, 1999]. Researchers concluded that men who drank a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those who took only caffeine.

Another health benefit of green tea is due to the fact that it has bacteria-destroying abilities. As a result, it can help prevent food poisoning, and also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. The presence of fluoride in green tea helps strengthen the teeth and gums, and prevents tooth decay. The brewed green tea can be combined with water and other ingredients to make a homemade mouthwash.

Green tea is increasingly being used for skin care, specially to treat acne and eczema. It can be used as a toner/astringent for acne. Drinking a moderate amount of green tea has also shown some results in controlling acne, though one must limit the intake of caffeine.

The major health benefits of green tea are too many to be discussed here, and research is still on to validate some claims. However, at a basic level, green tea can be tried simply for energy and enjoyment, and a feeing of well being, which has health benefits. The light, delicate flavor of a cup of green tea is soothing at any time. Green tea is also energizing, because though it has much less caffeine than other varieties, there is enough to give the much needed boost.

How should green tea be used for maximum health benefits?
Half the enjoyment of a cup of green tea is the way it is brewed. The method is slightly different from that of “normal” teas. The best way is to use green tea leaves [not tea bags] and let them steep in boiling water for a few minutes, and then strain. However, over brewing will spoil the taste. Allow the tea to cool for 2-3 minutes to get the real taste. Green tea is best enjoyed with honey sweetening, and without milk.

Green tea can also be used as iced tea. Allow the brewed tea to cool, pour it over ice, and you have a deliciously refreshing and healthy drink.

There is a large variety of green teas in the market, so the best green tea is truly a matter of taste and preference. The best suggestion is to try a number of different types and choose your favorite flavor.

So the next time you are tempted to have yet another cup of coffee or tea, try green tea instead!

Caution: Even green tea can have contraindications, so one must check with a practitioner before using it for medical purposes.
Published: 2008-10-08
Author: Nita Mukherjee

About the author or the publisher
I have a post graduate degree in teaching, a Masters [gold medalist] in English, and two diplomas in writing. I have over 20 years experience teaching at various levels, and am also a freelance writer. In the last 10 years, I have authored a number of educational books, written and
edited content on diverse topics and done online tutoring for American

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