Green Tea: Antioxidant Powerhouse

Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It is consumed the most, only second to the ever so essential water. Tea has such a long history, dating back centuries in ancient China. Plus you can see the importance of tea in other cultures. How about tea in Britain (tea and crumpets), or even right here in this country (ever heard of the Boston Tea Party)?There are all kinds of tea: Oblong, black, white, and the one we’ll be addressing today: green. The only difference is how they are fermented and where they come from. Of course today tea is a fancy deal with all kinds of flavorings and names and spices added on. Of course the best teas are grown at higher altitudes, where the leaves can mature more slowly and yield a richer flavor.The main difference (and the great thing) in green tea is that instead of coming from fermented leafs, it is made of steamed tea leaves. This process enables it to retain all of it’s vital antioxidants. Green tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China for over 4,000 years. Chinese and Indians have long used tea as:

  • a stimulant
  • diuretic (urine output)
  • astringent (control bleeding and help heal wounds)
  • improve heart health
  • create flatulence (gas)
  • regulate body temperature
  • regulate blood sugar
  • promote digestion
  • improve mental processes

  Today there have been so many positive studies about green tea, that I don’t think anyone can argue against its greatness. Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols. The best known (rather the most studied) is epiallocatechin gallate, or we’ll refer to it as EGCG. This is a powerful antioxidant, most famous for its cancer fighting abilities. Want an idea of how important it is? It is twice as powerful as resveratrol (the renowned antioxidant of red wine, known for heart health and for limiting the affects of smoking). What does it do for cancer? It inhibits the growth of cancer cells, but also it kills cancer cells without harming the healthy tissue. Because green tea is steamed, it prevents these EGCG from being oxidized. Need more? Green tea decreases IGF-1 (associated with breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancers), reduces the expression of compounds metastasis and the spread of cancer cells, reduces the amount of vascular endothelial growth factor (develops new blood vessels to carry nutrients to developing tumors).  It’s great for hormone-derived cancers forms: it enhances the survival of ovarian cancer, and helps with prostate cancer (it inhibits the production of prostate-specific antigen, a marker for prostate cancer). As with most things, green tea is not only great for cancer, but for your heart as well. It lowers the risk of atherosclerosis by lowering LDL levels, triglycerides (terrible for the promotion of heart disease), lipid peroxides, and fibrinogen (involved with blood clots). The catechins in the tea thin the blood as well, which prevents the formation of blood clots by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds derived from omega-6 (found in grocery store meats and polyunsaturated vegetable oils).How can we talk about cancer and the heart without talking about the brain? Tea slows the age-related decline brain function like declining memory, cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Other important points, is that it may increase bone mineral density, which is vital to preventing osteoporosis. Dieters love it too! It promotes the loss of visceral fat. What’s visceral fat? It’s the fat that accumulates in the abdominal cavity and surrounds the intestines and organs (think of an apple shaped women). This is especially important, because excess abdominal fat is associated with an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Something else that is fascinating is that it may help prevent tooth decay (most people associate discolored teeth with tea drinking, but again it’s the kind of tea that you’re drinking. The benefits and studies backing them go on forever, so go on and brew yourself some green tea.

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