The health benefits of green tea
There few drinks with as many important health benefits as green tea, and the Chinese have long known about the many benefits of this exciting foodstuff. The Chinese have been using green tea in traditional medicine to treat problems ranging from headaches and insomnia to depression and stomach aches.
Research done by modern scientists has backed up the traditional benefits of green tea, with many studies, both in Asia and the West, finding solid evidence of the many health benefits associated with drinking green tea on a regular basis. On often cited study showed a sixty percent decreased in the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women who drank green tea on a regular basis. The study concluded that a compound in green tea served to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
In addition, other research seems to indicate that green tea has the ability to lower both total cholesterol levels and the ratio of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL).
Some of the many conditions for which green tea is thought to be effective include cancer, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems, infections and lowered immune system function.
The power of green tea
The secret to the power of green tea is thought to lie in the fact that it is so high in polyphenols. The most significant of these ingredients is thought to be epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is known as a powerful antioxidant, and it has been shown to both inhibit the growth of cancer cells and kill cancer cells without injuring healthy body tissue. EGCG has been shown to be effective at lowering the level of bad (LDL) cholesterol, and in helping to prevent blood clots from forming. This may be why green tea has shown such promise in preventing heart disease and stroke.
In addition, scientists have been studying the role green tea may play in what has become known as the French paradox. Many people find it amazing that the French, who eat diets rich in fatty foods, have a much lower level of heart disease than do Americans. The answer to the French paradox is thought to lie in the healthful benefits of red wine. Red wine contains resveratrol, which is a polyphenol thought to mitigate the effects of the fatty French diet. Studies have shown that EGCG, a main ingredient of green tea, is twice as powerful as the ingredients found in red wine.
What makes green tea so special?
While green tea, oolong tea and black tea are all made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, green tea is different in the way it is processed. The leaves of green tea are steamed, which helps to prevent the oxidation of the important EGCG compound. Black tea and oolong tea, on the other hand, are made from leaves that are fermented, and this means that the EGCG they contain is converted to other, less effective, disease fighting chemicals.
In addition to its many traditional health benefits, there is even evidence that green tea can be helpful when trying to lose weight. One study found that those who consumed a combination of green tea extract and caffeine burned a higher number of calories than those only taking caffeine.