When is the last time you made a cup of green tea? Or is the box of tea still hiding at the back of the pantry cupboard, behind your “normal” teas and coffee? Often described as bitter or swampy, many people will turn away from drinking green tea, but we have some good news for you! Green tea should not taste bitter, and if made the right way, will have a pleasant, sweet after-taste. We here to boost that cup of green tea for you so that it is no longer hiding at the back of the cupboard because it is actually really good for you! How is green tea good for you? Put on a pot and share a cup with me while you read through some of our insights into green tea!
What is Green Tea?
For those who have never had a cup or would simply like to understand what they are drinking, green tea comes from the leaves and buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves and buds used for making green tea have not undergone the same oxidation and withering process that is used to make teas such as oolong and black tea. The Camellia Sinensis plant is a small shrub that is native to East Asia and India and has been enjoyed for its many health benefits for centuries. Although most commonly consumed in China (you have seen it on Chinese menus I am sure), it is becoming more popular throughout the world and scientists are continuing to uncover new benefits of the beverage.
Not only are scientists uncovering new benefits for green tea, but the beverage has some of them excited as they drink alongside their research:
“It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,”
says Christopher Ochner, Ph.D. He is a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. Rather impressive coming from a research scientist !
Making Green Tea the Right Way
If your cup of green tea has a bitter taste, then this section is for you! It should not taste so bad and the reason it may be tasting bitter is that you may be using the wrong water. Green tea should taste grassy, nutty, vegetal, or herbaceous. Tap water and distilled water do not develop tea flavours well and the chemicals in tap water can disturb the chemical compounds in green tea, creating a sour taste. For the best cup of green tea, always use pure, filtered water. If green tea is brewed at a very high temperature it will turn the tea sour because the polyphenols are released too quickly. Be careful not to let the tea steep for too long as this “overcooks” the tea and also turns it bitter.
SO, what is the science?
Brew your next cup between 160 and 180F and only allow the tea to steep for 1 to 3 minutes.
Choosing the Right Tea!
The flavour of green tea also depends on the type of green tea you choose. Japanese green teas, for example, are steamed during the production process; this offers a vegetal taste with a slightly nutty undertone. The most popular, and the best green tea for taste, is Japanese matcha. The matcha tea offers a rich, creamy texture and many add steamed or frothed milk to this type of green tea to boost the taste and texture a little more. Matcha is the powder form of Tencha green tea and ceremonial grade matcha powder offers a pleasant vegetal and slightly sweet taste. Matcha green tea may offer a better taste compared to that of loose-leaf green tea but it is also healthier because it has more antioxidants in comparison to the loose-leaf counterpart. Antioxidants help protect the cells in the body from damage from free radicals.
Below is a list of popular green tea varieties:
- – Gyokuro
- – Genmaicha
- – Sencha (this is the one that most commonly drank in Chinese restaurants)
- – Biluochun
- – Hōjicha
- – Longjing
If the varieties available were not enough for choice, there are also three forms, namely tea bags, loose-leaf tea, and powdered matcha. One cup of matcha (237ml) is the equivalent of 3 cups (711ml) of regular green tea because it is more concentrated in antioxidants. Just make sure that you do not drink more than 2 cups or 474ml per day of matcha because it contains caffeine and other smaller contaminants such as fluoride and heavy metals from the soil in which the plant was grown. The best choice to eliminate these contaminants is to choose organic matcha that was not exposed to pesticides.
Now That it Tastes Great, why is it so Beneficial?
Improved blood flow and lower cholesterol
A 2013 review of studies found that green tea is beneficial for preventing various heart-related conditions including high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. A Japanese study conducted on 40,530 individuals showed that drinking three to four cups of regular green tea per day was associated with a 31% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Green tea contains a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This antioxidant helps prevent atherosclerosis which is the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Green tea also helps improve the function of endothelial cells in blood vessels which helps eliminate some triggers of heart disease.
If you are looking to shed a few pounds, then you may have seen this helpful article on what foods to eat and lose weight. Another great addition to your diet is green tea. This natural beverage contains catechins (an antioxidant) as well as the previously mentioned antioxidant, EGCG. These active ingredients help those trying to lose weight together with the phytonutrients present in green tea. A 2009 meta-analysis of studies found that drinking catechin-rich green tea significantly reduced body weight. In addition, the study also found that those individuals who drank green tea were more likely to maintain their weight after losing the pounds. Green tea contains caffeine and together with catechin, the compounds work hand-in-hand to speed up metabolism. Catechin can break down excess fat while caffeine increases the amount of energy the body uses.
Drinking between two to three cups of hot green tea daily is sufficient for helping weight-loss.
If you are hoping to boost your immunity, then drinking a cup of green tea more frequently will help fend off those sniffles. In a randomised controlled trial, 32% fewer individuals that consumed green tea developed cold or flu symptoms. Green tea contains Vitamin C which is a natural immune booster for the body. In addition to being rich in Vitamin C, polyphenols are believed to give green tea some of its immune-boosting properties. One study has shown that catechin can help kill influenza viruses.
If there is one benefit to making another cup of green tea, at least for me, it is that green tea helps keep you looking youthful. Since stress and sun exposure have added on some years to my age, I am more than happy to look at natural options that will help turn back the clock. Beauty experts are starting to include green tea extracts in body moisturisers because green tea offers anti-inflammatory properties and improves skin elasticity. Prolonged exposure to the sun causes photo-aging as a result of the sun’s harmful UV rays. EGCG in green tea helps protect the skin from UVB rays and inhibits UVB-induced protein oxidation. What does all of this mean? It means that green tea is great for anti-aging. Drinking green tea, and applying the extracts topically exposes the skin to EGCG and helps fight DNA damage from UV rays, promotes DNA skin repair, and in turn, prevents skin cancer and signs of aging.
Longer life span
Now that we know that green tea offers anti-aging properties, you will surely want to live a little longer? A large study conducted by The Department of Public Health and Forensic Medicine, in Japan, followed participants for 11 years. The individuals consumed 3-4 cups of green tea daily and the results were intriguing. Male participants had a lowered risk of mortality by 5% and females by 18%.
Natural stimulant for the brain and body.
Green tea is a natural source of caffeine, this means that you can replace your cup of coffee with this natural beverage instead. Green tea does not contain as much caffeine as coffee, but it does do the trick as a natural “pick-me-up” to get me through the day. The best part is that I can sip on my cup of green tea throughout the afternoon and my sleep will not be disturbed and I will not feel jittery either. Green tea offers more than just the benefit of staying alert, but the naturally occurring caffeine acts as a stimulant for boosting brain function too. Caffeine helps block the inhibitory neurotransmitter known as adenosine, this means that it increases the firing of neurons and increased concentration of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Continuous research has proven that caffeine helps brain functioning and improves mood, reaction time, and memory.
Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine which can cross the blood-brain barrier and boost brain activity. L-theanine has proven anti-anxiety effects since it increases the activity of GABA; an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In addition to boosted brain activity, several studies have shown that the catechin compounds in green tea have a variety of protective benefits on neurons in test tubes; this may lead to a lowered risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Lowered risk of cancer
The uncontrolled growth of cells in the body is what causes cancer. Extensive research has shown that oxidative damage can lead to chronic inflammation and cancer. The best natural fighting compounds against inflammation and oxidative damage by free radicals are antioxidants; and green tea is full of them. Studies have linked green tea compounds to a lowered risk of cancer, especially breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. Epigallocatechin gallate, in particular, has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate and breast tumours.
No more bad breath
Test-tube studies have suggested that catechins in green tea are able to suppress the growth of bacteria. This can potentially decrease the risk of infections, especially in the mouth. Catechins have been shown to inhibit the growth of oral bacteria including the common mouth bacterium, Streptococcus mutans. This ability means that green tea can help prevent tooth decay and bad breath since oral bacteria is the root cause behind these conditions.
Consumption is key!
In general, there are no harmful side effects of green tea, unless it is consumed in excess or if an individual is sensitive to caffeine or tannins. If consumed in large amounts it can cause the following problems:
- – Stomach irritation and diarrhea, this is especially the case because caffeine has a laxative effect on the body.
- – Headaches
- – Sleeping problems
- – Anemia
- – Liver disease
If green tea is brewed too strongly or consumed on an empty stomach it may cause stomach irritation because it contains tannins that increase stomach acid production.
So, how many cups is just right to reap all the natural health benefits of green tea without side-effects? Three to five cups a day should do the trick !
Bottom of the Cup…
Did you finish your cup of green tea? Maybe it’s time for another. Green tea has a wide range of natural health benefits that are great for both the body and mind when consumed regularly. Make green tea a part of your daily life and you may just live a little longer and look a little younger too !
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Until next time