Much is being written about in the media about the growth of nutraceuticals (nutritional substances that provide greater health benefits than simply being nutritional) and people are exploring a great number of foods for these proposed health benefits. From Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood to resveratrol found in red wine, there are a great number of opportunities to enhance one’s health while simply eating or drinking something enjoyable. Green tea has come to the forefront of the nutraceutical movement for the many health benefits associated with its consumption.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has presented much evidence to the effect that green tea may prevent cancer, yet, interestingly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to disallow any health claims to be associated with green tea for food labeling purposes. This may cause some confusion to tea drinkers in the U.S.
Green tea it turns out is particularly rich in the powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate, otherwise known as EGCG. While black tea is also a source of EGCG, it turns out that green tea contains far more than black tea. Why does this matter you ask? well, ECGC has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory. While less consistent results have been shown in the general population, enough evidence is there to show that this powerful food is of benefit to one’s health. This lack of consistency is the reason why the FDA has not approved a health claim on green tea…. yet. Another property of green tea is that its consumption has been shown to lower one’s low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level, otherwise known as the bad cholesterol. It has also been shown to help prevent heart disease. Recent studies at the Medical College of Georgia have shown that green tea may help protect against autoimmune diseases as well.
Essentially, the antioxidant EGCG helps to stabilize highly reactive molecules we call free radicals that damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, or alter the DNA in our genes, which can lead to cancer. It turns out the EGCG may also affect the enzymatic reactions and cellular signaling between cancer cells, which can slow the development of existing cancer.
Why Green Tea?
While all tea contains EGCG, green tea contains far more than other teas. The difference is that green tea is steamed before it can oxidize, while other tea types are allowed to oxidize partially or fully. Steaming the tea leaves while they are still green helps prevent the naturally occurring EGCG from breaking down during oxidation.
Another substance mentioned in the news these days is the resveratrol content in red wine, which also has been shown to have similar properties. What makes this interesting is that French studies have shown that the the French have much lower incidences of heart disease than people living in the U.S., which has been correlated with red wine consumption. However it turns out that EGCG is approximately 50% more powerful than than resveratrol, therefore making green tea, by volume, a much stronger source of powerful antioxidants.
There are also studies recently that have shown that the consumption of green tea can help the body burn more calories in those who drink it compared to people who do not (a property now being noted and exploited by a major soft drink manufacturer that shall remain nameless in this discourse). Green tea has also exhibited anti bacterial qualities, which has been shown to help prevent tooth decay in green tea drinkers.
A Healthy Choice
As you can see, as well as being tasty, green tea is an incredibly healthful beverage, with a great array of beneficial properties. While no magic cure that would allow a person to forsake all other methods for staying healthy, green tea consumption, as a part of a healthful lifestyle, may aid the body to avoid any number of diseases and illness from which we suffer. There are many ways to incorporate this incredible drink into your diet, and with no downside, there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have a least one cup of this wonderful elixir every day. Drinking green tea is also another way to keep you body hydrated, so instead of reaching for a glass of water, take the time to make a cup of green tea. Your body will thank you in the end.