While many of us turn on the coffee maker or fire up the espresso machine for a latte in the morning, should we be brewing a cup of green tea instead? People I know who maintain healthy lifestyles often seem to drink it rather than other teas or coffee. I have often wondered if the popularity of green tea was simply a food fad, so I wanted to learn more.
But First, a Little Background on Green Tea
Green tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, the same plant that gives us black tea, Oolong tea, and white tea. The differences in the teas simply come from the variety of the tea plant and whether the leaves were processed by withering, steaming, drying, crushing, and fermenting them (or some combination of these).
It’s generally accepted that green tea originated in China. Wikipedia puts the first cup of green tea being brewed in 2737 BC. In fact, this organic tea web site claims that the term “tea,” in China, means green tea specifically. If you have any friends who speak any of the various Chinese languages, I’d love to know if that’s is true.
Enough history and background on green tea—how does green tea help your health, or does it at all?
Chock Full of Antioxidants
Green tea contains the flavonoid, catechin. In fact, according to this Wikipedia entry, about a quarter of the weight of dry green tea comes from catechin. Once brewed, each cup of green tea has about 267mg of flavonoids, including catechin.
What’s important about Catechin and flavonoids?
Catechin and other flavonoids are phytochemicals, chemicals that occur naturally in plants. Like many phytochemicals, they are antioxidants. I’ve discussed antioxidants in a recent post on lycopene (link to: http://www.saladmenu.com/saladmenu/tomatoes-lycopene-and-your-health). Many studies suggest that antioxidants prevent or slow damage to your body’s cells, perhaps slowing the aging process and preventing cancer. This article in the Archives of Toxicology, while a bit older, discusses the antioxidative and anticarcinogenic properties associated with tea.
A Metabolism Booster
While some articles I read claimed that drinking green tea can increase your metabolism, and therefore help you lose weight, NPR mostly toned down that claim in, Will Drinking Green Tea Boost Your Metabolism? Not So Fast. The article mentioned that a meta-analysis of available research found only statistically insignificant amounts of weight loss from drinking green tea. Another study finding increased metabolism was believed to be perhaps too small to be reliable, and still another study showed no weight loss at all.
Green Tea for Longer Life
What was interesting to me about the NPR article was its mention of the Blue Zone Project. This fascinating project examines the health habits and lifestyles of those in communities worldwide with the highest number of people 100 years old or older. According to the project, drinking green tea regularly is associated with longevity.
A separate NPR article about the Blue Zone Project quotes Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution, a book that sheds light on those habits and lifestyles. Buettner recommends that for longevity, “Sip green tea all day; green tea usually contains about 25 percent as much caffeine as coffee and provides a steady stream of antioxidants.”
Summing It Up
What I discovered about the health benefits of green tea was a bit mixed. In fact, the benefit that I liked most and that made sense to me, was the claim in this post on Authority Nutrition that green tea makes your breath smell better. My favorite green tea is Gorgeous Geisha Green Tea, it smells amazing!