The Many Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea, the prized buds and young leaves of an oriental evergreen tree, is made by briefly steaming the leaves, and drying them until they are crisp. The resulting greenish-yellow tea has an earthy, slightly astringent flavor close to the taste of the fresh leaf.
Other than white tea, green tea is the least processed and packs a nutritional antioxidant punch. The astringent flavor characteristic of green tea is due to the presence of antioxidant tannins. Tannins can be found in a variety of other plants and help the plant protect itself against predators such as animals and insects; with its characteristically bitter taste. Tannins in tea have an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and an antiparasitic effect.
Catechins and other flavonoids are categorized as tannins although they do not have true tanning properties. EGCG is the most abundant catechin in tea, which is believed to be responsible for most of its health benefits - specifically its ability to ward off mental decline and to lower LDL cholesterol.
Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, in part, result from the combination of damaging factors including excessive inflammation, increased levels of iron, and increased free radical production. All of which green tea has demonstrated to protect against.
Researchers at Japan’s Tohoku University studied green tea intake and mental sharpness in the elderly, and found that drinking greater than two cups a day cut the odds of cognitive impairment by sixty four percent! Keep in mind a Japanese cup of green tea is much smaller (about 3.2 fluid ounces) than its American counterpart.
Another study found that elderly Japanese drinking more than two cups a day had over a fifty percent lower risk of age-related declines in memory, orientation, ability to follow commands and attention than those drinking less than three cups a week.
For those of us who can’t stomach two cups a day, there is still good news - as the study found that those drinking four to six cups of green tea a week had a thirty eight percent lower risk of brain function decline.
Tannins are not always good
One of the issues associated with the tannins in green tea is their effect on iron absorption. Tannins bind with iron in the intestinal tract making it less readily absorbed - it’s recommended to drink green tea between meals to avoid interfering with iron absorption. Adding lemon (which contains vitamin C, aiding in iron absorption) to green tea can help offset some of the effects. It is important to note that tannins only reduce the bioavailability of plant sources of iron (non-heme), and have no affect on animal sources (heme).
How to increase your green tea consumption?
First things first, brew your own green tea with high quality leaves and filtered water, read labels as tea should contain neither artificial colors nor ingredients. Look for teas that only contain green tea on the ingredient list.
Make a green tea chai by brewing green tea in milk (non dairy works well) and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and allspice.
Brew 1-2 teaspoons loose-leaf green tea in 8 ounces cool water for 20-30 minutes to develop flavor, and add to stir-fries, marinades, dressings, soups and even sauces.
Brew green tea with fresh ginger and lemon slices. Add one teaspoon (or less) of honey per cup, stir and serve hot or let cool to make iced tea.
Combine cooled green tea half and half with a fruit juice (100 percent juice).