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Labelled a superfood that’s loaded with antioxidants, the healthiest beverage on the planet (aside from water!), and one of the
best detox drinks around, the benefits of green tea have been touted by many, including the medical world.
So is it true? Is green tea actually good for you? And if so, how is it good for you and what does it do to benefit your health?
First up, let’s just clarify what tea is and then we’ll look at green tea, specifically.
Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, an evergreen shrub that’s native to East Asia and probably originated in the borderland of north Burma and southwestern China.
This plant comes in two varieties and produces four different types of tea. One is used for green and white teas while the other for black and oolong teas.
The origins of green tea date back to 2737 B.C. when history states that Chinese Emperor Shennong drank water in which a tea leaf had mistakenly been boiled and finding it refreshing continued to include it in this diet. A new beverage was born.
There are also several varieties of green tea which differ based on the growing conditions, horticulture methods used, production processes, and the time of harvest.
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Is green tea actually good for you?
Of course no beverage is going to cure or prevent all illnesses, but if you’re keen on taking care of yourself and are looking to improve your diet, then research has shown green tea does have health benefits.
So, how is green tea good for you and what does it do to help improve your health? I've listed below the main health benefits of green tea according to research.
Studies have shown a link between green
tea and weight loss as green tea increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation. It also contains a compound called epigallocatechin (EGCG) which
boosts your metabolism and can help beat cravings.
Some nutritionists encourage drinking green tea throughout the day, in particular after eating when cravings might strike.
Green tea won’t see weight melt off, but if you’re sipping green tea instead of another glass of wine or nibbling on sugar-rich snacks then the benefits are obvious.
I’ve noticed that green tea helps me resist unhealthy temptations, like that extra glass of wine. If I make myself a green tea I find that my cravings stop nagging me.
This is also helpful when you’re becoming fidgety while trying to work and looking for something to make sitting and concentrating less challenging.
Acne is caused by an excess of sebum clogging pores and stimulating bacterial growth. The EGCG (mentioned above) that’s found in green tea has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties and helps reduce sebum excretion in the skin therefore reducing the likelihood of acne.
Clinical studies have shown that both oral and topical use of green tea can greatly improve photoaging as well as remarkably inhibiting wrinkle formation and the skin's ageing process in general by improving elasticity and reducing the appearance of sun damage.
All varieties of tea from the Camellia Sinensis plant
contain antioxidants. However when making green tea the leaves and buds of this plant undergo less withering and oxidation then when making
This means green tea retains higher levels of antioxidants, making it more beneficial health wise. These antioxidants are known for their ability to help protect the body, reducing the risk of disease by scavenging free radicals from body cells and preventing or reducing the damage they may cause.
Inflammation in small short term doses is a positive as it’s required to heal injuries and fight off foreign invaders.
But when it’s severe and chronic it can ignite a long list of ailments including arthritis, diabetes and cancer. The antioxidants in green tea act as an anti-inflammatory, which can help to reduce inflammation.
According to research green tea may improve your fat burning rate, particularly in the abdominal area, and boost your metabolism over
the short term providing you with increased energy as well as aiding in weight loss and keeping it off.
Increased metabolic activity has also shown to improve your quality of sleep which in turn increases the calories you burn at bedtime.
Green tea contains caffeine, although much less than coffee, which blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This allows an
increase in the activity of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters showing that green
tea can improve your brain function
in areas such as memory, reaction time, and mood.
And unlike coffee, tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that prevents a caffeine rush and instead helps you remain more productive over several hours.
Studies have shown that the regular consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart
disease by up to 30%.
The compound EGCG helps lower LDL cholesterols and triglycerides, breaks up plaques, and prevents amyloid build-up in your arteries which is linked to dangerous blockages.
An illness that continues to become more prevalent throughout the Western world, studies have shown that green tea may help
prevent type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels.
A review of seven separate studies showed that green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of developing diabetes.
Unlike coffee and other caffeinated drinks, the caffeine in green tea is less intense and slowly released, therefore not causing a
short rush of energy that could lead to anxiety.
Also, the amino acid L-theanine found in green tea increases the activity of inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect.
It also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain further supporting a relaxed state.
Clearly green tea is not going to end cancer, however anything you can do to care for your body is a good thing, especially when
it’s as simple as drinking a cup of tea.
Studies are still early but green tea has shown to aid healthy cells in all stages of growth and there is some indication that it may also help destroy cancer cells.
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Firstly, what is a detox?
The term detox relates to the physiological or medical process of removing toxic substances from the body. However, it has really been turned into a commercial term used to advertise detoxification diets and regimes which have varying results - both good and bad.
If realistic, the only way to detox your body is to remove all unhealthy elements from your diet and lifestyle. A big job. So a few mugs of green tea alone will not be enough.
Having said that, green tea is a very healthy beverage, so adding it to your daily routine while removing other drinks or foods that are bad for you will only improve your body’s wellbeing and reduce the toxins entering your system.
So how many cups of green tea a day do you need to reap the benefits?
Different studies have shown differing results, some suggesting five or more cups per day while others show benefits from just one cup per day. It may come down to the illness you're treating or trying to prevent.
For instance, regarding diabetes a study showed that people consuming 6 cups per day were 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
While other studies indicated reduced occurrences of breast cancer resulting from more than three cups per day and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke from one to three cups per day, when compared to those who drank less than one cup per week.
Based on these variations it’s advised to drink three to five cups per day.
Tea experts always recommend using loose leaf tea rather than tea bags, but is this valuable advice or simply a bit of tea
Well, the jury’s back and it appears to be true, loose leaf tea is generally better quality.
One of the most significant benefits of loose leaf tea is that, usually, better quality leaves are used. Often, tea bags are used as a way to hide lower quality tea leaves and often contain more stems, which don’t carry the same benefits as leaves.
The loose leaf variety is also most likely to be less bitter, stay fresh longer, and have a fuller and more subtle flavour than tea bags.
And as with most things, if you use better quality you should experience better results, so if you can, try buying the best quality green tea. Organic health food stores are usually the best place to go.
Then there’s matcha green tea.
Matcha green tea is considered to be the best because with this version you're consuming the whole leaf, not just what’s extracted from the leaves when steeped.
This means the drink contains a higher concentration of antioxidants, up to 137x that of regular green tea. So if you’re looking for the healthiest option available explore this one - the flavour is stronger so maybe work towards it!
Also, the benefits of organic green tea make it healthier yet again, for both your body and the planet. Just check the tea is certified organic, rather than just a marketing ploy.
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In order to get the very best from each mug, there are some simple steps regarding how to make green tea.
1. Don’t use boiling water when making tea. Instead heat water to 80-85ºC or 176/185ºF as this helps avoid a bitter flavour.
It’s also not good for catechins, which are some of the healthy chemicals in green tea.
2. Pour the water into the glass or teapot first.
3. Now add the tea leaves using a tea strainer, sieve or infuser. Packets may come with instructions on how much tea to use, but if not the rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of tea leaves or one tea bag to 1 cup of water.
4. Now let the tea steep for 3 minutes before removing leaves from the water. This is considered the best length of time in terms of flavour, but if you find it too strong, reduce this to something that suits you.
It’s suggested that the longer you brew the greater the health benefits, so consider working towards 3 minutes or longer.
Make sure you use a strainer, sieve or infuser so you don't have tea leaves swimming in your drink.
Apply the same method if you’re using tea bags and with match green tea the packet will come with instructions for the best results.
If you don’t enjoy the flavour of green tea and would like to try adding something to make it easier to include in your diet, there are a few things you can try.
1. Coconut milk, which is packed with its own fabulous list of health benefits, is a great way to add a subtle sweet flavour while toning down any bitterness.
Just add a small amount when you’ve finished steeping your tea. Or you could make the tea with coconut milk by heating the milk in a saucepan until just below boiling point before pouring it into a teapot or mug and then adding the tea leaves.
2. You could try adding some stevia if you’re looking for a little extra sweetness.
3. Another idea is to include a small piece of cinnamon or ginger in your tea.
4. Or you could try a small slice of lemon or some lemon, orange or grapefruit peel.
5. You could also refrigerate your tea and serve it cold, again adding some stevia or citrus if you’d prefer.
6. Then there are matcha lattes, green tea smoothies, and raw treats like Matcha Bliss Balls which are also worth a go.
Just remember you're probably drinking this tea because of the health factors, so make sure anything you do to improve the flavour is good for you and won’t undermine the health benefits. For instance, adding sugar or other unhealthy sweeteners wouldn’t be a good idea.
You know green tea is good for you but how much green tea is too much? Is there a limit to this health gem? And are there any possible side effects?
Drinking green tea every day will not harm your body (unless you have an allergy or reaction in which case you should see your doctor), but don’t go too wild and consider setting a limit as mentioned above of five per day.
Although very unlikely, there can be some side effects to green tea, particularly if you're having more than 8 cups a day. These include headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness and others.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or any other possible side effects stop drinking tea immediately and see your doctor if
you are concerned or a hospital if your symptoms are severe.
Also, due to the caffeine it contains, the side effects of green tea at night could be trouble falling asleep as well as disturbances throughout the night. As mentioned earlier green tea contains much less caffeine than coffee, but best choice is to stop drinking all caffeinated beverages closer to bedtime.
There you have it, while it’s not going to be the standalone method of maintaining or improving your health, green tea is good for you and there are multiple benefits of drinking green tea every day.
These benefits include anti-inflammatory effects, a high dose of antioxidants, improved brain function and better fat burning results, never mind the other benefits mentioned above, which are all worthwhile.
And it's so easy to include in your daily routine.
So how about adding some green tea to your day and contemplating the benefits you're offering your body while you sit, sip and relax.
And make sure you let me know how you go with this.
Now go get brewing!
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