Green Tea? According to ole Waylon Jennings, “T” is for Texas,” T” is for Tennessee; how about just” T” is for Tea? No self-respecting cowboy or outlaw would be caught dead sipping tea, green or any kind for that matter, but they should.
They should because tea is a beverage that holds an incredible arsenal of health benefits but to maximize those benefits, we must choose the right tea and prepare it properly.
Tea types are named mostly by color; black, yellow, green, white except for oolong or pu-erh but all are classified according to their production and processing.
The difference in classifications depends on whether the leaves are wilted or unwilted, oxidized or unoxidized, fresh green leaves or yellowed or darkened by age and whether fermented or not.
The focus here will be confined to green since it seems to be the one that imparts the best health benefits. This is the only one in which green, unwilted, unoxidized and unfermented leaves are used in the production.
Processing of tea leaves is important. Fermentation destroys a large portion of the polyphenols in the leaves. Polyphenols refer to a large group of chemicals found in plants of which catechins, flavonoids, lignans and tannins are among them. Black tea and Oolong tea have both undergone some degree of fermentation.
Decaffeination has no effect on the healthy chemicals in tea, so decaffeinated green tea still has all its polyphenols. Japanese tea is richer in super catechins, known as epigallocatechin gallate-3 (EGCG), than common varieties of Chinese tea thus giving the Japanese variety an edge.
Most green teas should be allowed to steep for between three and eight minutes, although some types of tea require as much as ten. If you want stronger or weaker tea, adjust the amount of tea leaves used and not by changing the steeping time.
Steeping time is vitally important health wise in that tea catechins are released during the steeping time.
Never heard of catechins? You’re not alone. The chemistry of catechins is quite complex so let it suffice to say that they are antioxidants and flavonoids and can account for as much as 30% of the dry weight of freshly picked tea leaves.
This is a good place to introduce our readers to Teavana.com, one of the best, if not the best, sources of quality green teas plus many others. Click on the link below and go to their drop-down tea menu to find Matcha Japanese Tea, Gyokuro Imperial Tea, Sencha Reserve Tea and many other quality "greens".
In animal tests, catechins have been seen to reduce atherosclerotic plaques and in the petrie dish (in vitro) to reduce the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells (carcinogenesis).
There is no shortage of studies on the health benefits of catechins and the evidence is such that many researchers believe that catechins can reduce the incidence of the big four health problems; cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Tea is rich in catechins but we can also get them from dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables and red wine.
The impact on the big four mentioned above is big news but the list of other health benefits from tea is very lengthy including:
Specific to cancer, the catechins in tea, particularly the aforementioned EGCG’s retard the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow and spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). What seems to be even more important is that they seem to be able to induce death of cancer cells (apoptosis).
Polyphenols and catechins in tea work as antioxidants and detox agents by activating enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body.
So as teas go for disease prevention or a natural cure, green is the one to drink. It is often a developed taste to many due to its slight bitterness but there are several flavored green teas on the market particularly one with slight amounts of pomegranate. Pomegranate is another great source of polyphenols.
You want to Ask Your Doctor about drinking tea for health? How about asking about blueberries, walnuts, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, soy, mushrooms, seaweed or any supplements? Forget it!
Chances are your doctor will be clueless and give you the stock answer… “the FDA hasn’t evaluated them and we can’t be sure if they’re safe. Just go home and take your prescriptions”.
As always, you are responsible for your health but know what you are doing and if you are under a doctor’s care, be sure he or she knows what you are taking and what you are eating. Many foods and supplements do interact with those prescriptions that the doc has given you.
The thing to Ask Your Doctor is…”Hey doc, I’m eating and taking (name your health food or supplement) and I would like to know if there are any contraindications or interactions.” The doctor will understand that language.
Drinking green tea is one thing; but to really up the ante, consider trying green tea extract. They are both from green tea but are worlds apart when it comes to their health benefits.
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