Do you feel soothed by that warm, subtle cup of green tea? Does it seem to summon a clearer, more relaxed attitude? Your body might be trying to convey its gratitude that you have decided to feed it this nutritious drink! If you're more familiar with green tea ice cream, now is the time to wake up to the health benefits of green tea. This is no fad.
We are very fortunate that green tea is so rich in flavonoids. What are flavonoids, you ask? They are a set of pigment compounds in plants, but in our bodies they act as powerful antioxidants. Green tea happens to contain a veritable bounty of flavonoids - especially catechins, which belong to the flavan-3-ol subcategory. One such catechin, Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (thankfully abbreviated to EGCG), is abundant in green tea but thus far can't be found anywhere else.
What can green tea do for your health? Here are a few of the big reasons to drink green tea:
- Antioxidants = anti-cancer. The antioxidant flavonoids in green tea (like EGCG) inhibit both the growth and the spreading of cancer cells. They fight against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals, and studies suggest that they can even attack and eliminate cancer cells without any collateral damage to healthy cells in the body.
- Cardiovascular health. Not only is green tea rich in flavonoids that can fight cancer, but it is also a great source of flavonols and flavones, two types of flavonoid that studies have shown to improve cardiovascular health. Studies have suggested that green tea, with all of its antioxidants, can serve your circulatory system in the following ways:
- Reduce oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, thereby fighting against atherosclerosis.
- Reduce bad cholesterol in general without affecting levels of good cholesterol
- Reduce the risk of heart attack, as well as the likelihood of fatality during a heart attack.
- Strengthen blood vessel lining to improve circulation.
- Strengthening the immune system. The L-theanine component in green tea (and found in all teas) has been shown to potentially strengthen our T-cells in their battle against infection and disease. Green tea can provide an anti-inflammatory and also an anti-allergic boost to your system.
- Cognitive benefits. A recent study of senior citizens in Japan indicated that green tea can combat cognitive decline. Not only that, but the results of a separate study suggest that green tea might potentially slow down the advancement of Alzheimer's.
- Stress reducer? We're all looking for ways to reduce stress in our lives, but most of us don't have the option of simply avoiding stress. When our goal is to cope with unavoidable stress in healthier ways, we should look to green tea. Tea can improve our ability to recover from stressful events.
- Why green tea instead of other kinds of tea? For one thing, the health benefits of green tea have been substantiated by a greater amount of research. But beyond that, the levels of antioxidants in green tea would be hard to duplicate in kinds of tea whose leaves were allowed to oxidize to a greater degree. With black teas and even oolong, oxidation of the leaves causes conversion of catechins by certain enzymes. Because green tea leaves are steamed when they're fresh, they don't oxidize nearly as much as other tea leaves, thereby saving many of the catechins for your personal benefit.
Lastly, green tea is not traditionally drunk with milk or cream added. You'll find that its subtle, delicate flavors require nothing added anyway. Studies seem to suggest that adding milk to teas renders them less beneficial to our health.
Many studies of the health benefits of green tea relied on a daily consumption of four or five cups. Others stipulate at least two or three. At one or two cups of green tea per day, we can still reap some of the many benefits of drinking green tea. For those of us who find ourselves drinking maybe one cup a day at most, we should consider introducing green tea and all its benefits to our coworkers (encouraging tea-drinking at the office). As a modest source of caffeine, it's even a great way to quit coffee!