Western science is finally waking up to what the ancient Asian cultures have known for thousands of years: Green tea is extremely beneficial to our health!

The Chinese have long been promoting the medicinal properties of green tea, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression and it appears that us Brits are finally jumping on the bandwagon. You only have to Google green tea to discover hundreds of websites promoting green tea’s many health benefits with countless scientific studies showing it offers protection against a wide range of illnesses including heart disease and cancer.

Why green’s the new black…

Let’s face it, we’re a nation of tea lovers and most of us can’t make it through the day without a good old ‘cuppa’ or two. So, is it time we switched our allegiance from black to green tea?

Whilst our nation’s beloved black tea has been shown to possess considerable  antioxidant properties itself, a cup of green tea offers four times the antioxidant power of the traditional ‘builder’s brew’.  Meaning green tea  offers better protection against free radicals – those nasty little molecules that cause damage to our cells and are responsible for the aging process.

So how does green tea differ?

Whether you’re a Tetley lover or a PG Tips fanatic, the tea that is contained in your teabags all originates from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, an asian evergreen that grows throughout Asia and parts of the Middle East and Africa. Green tea is derived from this very same plant but what distinguishes it from black tea is the way it is processed.

Once picked, black tea leaves are left to ferment for long periods of time. This process gives the tea its distinctive dark colour, strong flavour but also destroys a large amount of the nutrient content. In the case of green tea, the leaves are steamed immediately after picking so they are unable to ferment, giving them a natural, fresh character, subtle taste and most importantly locking in the all important nutrients.

So what’s the magic ingredient?

It’s common knowledge that green tea is packed full of antioxidants. A recent study demonstrated that just one cup of green tea provides us with more antioxidants than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots or strawberries. Impressive reading, but what is it exactly that sets green tea apart from other teas?

Green tea’s potent antioxidant power comes from its high concentration of ‘catechins’, a particularly powerful type of natural antioxidant found in plants. In fact, one good quality green tea bag can contain up to 40% catechins, an incredibly concentrated amount, securing green tea its place firmly at the top of the list of catechin-rich foods.  

Medicine in a cup?

A particularly potent catechin found in abundance in green tea is called Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. EGCG could be classed as the godfather of the antioxidant world, with scientific studies showing that it is 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than vitamin E at protecting our cells from DNA damage by free radicals. Plus, wine drinkers take note… EGCG packs twice the punch of resveratrol another powerful antioxidant found in red wine.

Dr Mitscher, a professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Kansas University who has carried out extensive research on the power of EGCG and green tea says “I’m not making any claims, but, used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program, drinking green tea is like an insurance policy. It increases your odds of avoiding or postponing diseases associated with free radicals”.

If the catechins aren’t a good enough reason to convince you to switch to green tea, then perhaps its other health promoting ingredients will do the trick. Green tea also contains good amounts of  carotenoids, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and selenium. It has also been shown to enhance concentration as it contains L-theanine, the ‘feel good’ amino acid known for its brain relaxant properties, which when combined with the caffeine in green tea may actually help lessen anxiety and improve mental focus. An ideal drink to have before an exam or important meeting perhaps?

Green tea: an aid to weight loss and hormone balance

Yes, you read that right. Green tea has been shown to help with weight loss when drunk in significant quantities. It works by boosting the metabolism and increasing the rate at which fat is burnt within our bodies. Furthermore, research shows that the powerful antioxidants in green tea may help the safe detoxification of oestrogen in the liver helping to reduce breast cancer risk and benefiting those with conditions related to sex hormone imbalance such as PMS, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

If the countless pieces of scientific research available to read on the internet and in various journals are to be believed, then green tea can help all of us. Research shows it offers protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, stroke, chronic fatigue, HIV, Osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease to name but a few. These extraordinary powers are largely thanks to its potent antioxidant properties.

Go on, why not give it a try!

How to get the most out of your cup:

To obtain the maximum amount of antioxidants:

  •   Always opt for a good quality, organic tea
  •   If using tea bags select unbleached, flow through variety
  •   Pour the water as soon as it boils
  •   Leave tea steeping for up to 5 minutes or leave the teabag in
  •   Keep tea in an airtight container