What Can Green Tea Do For You?

Green tea is a superfood! It is a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to have a long list of health benefits. Three cups a day have been shown to have a positive effect on DNA. Both green tea and black tea (the type we’re most familiar with) come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, which is native to Asia but is now cultivated in tropical areas around the world. The difference between these two teas has to do with how the leaves are processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, rolled and dried to preserve their polyphenols, the antioxidant compounds they contain. Black tea has polyphenols too, but fewer because the leaves are more heavily processed.

Studies in populations that drink a lot of tea have shown that enjoying three cups (green or black) daily leads to an 11 percent decrease in the rate of heart attacks. Green tea has also been shown to help prevent atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease) in populations that drink a lot of tea. Studies have also shown that drinking green tea helps lower cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, although researchers haven’t pinned down exactly how this happens.

Here are some of the other benefits of green tea:

  • It’s good for the brain: Research in China found that EGCG, (epigallocatechin-3 gallate) an antioxidant in green tea increases production of neural progenitor cells, which like stem cells can adapt, or differentiate, into various types of cells. In studies with mice, they found that giving the animals EGCG enhanced their learning and memory.
  • Protection against cancer: Studies have shown that cancer rates are low in countries where people drink green tea regularly, although researchers can’t say for sure whether drinking the tea is responsible. Other research has have suggested that the polyphenols in green tea protect against cancer by killing off cancer cells. Drinking green tea has been associated with a reduced risk of skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder cancer.
  • Weight loss: Some evidence suggests that green tea extract may help burn fat by boosting metabolism, possibly due to the effects of antioxidants in green tea called catechins.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Green tea may help reduce the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (the two types of IBD).

Beyond all that, green tea has also been shown to protect against liver problems, prevent cavities, reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis, help treat genital warts, and prevent cold and flu symptoms.

Pretty impressive, right?

If you’re going to drink green tea, brew your own and always drink it freshly brewed in order to get the beneficial polyphenols. You won’t get the same benefit from bottled green tea or instant tea. And spritz a little lemon juice into your tea: a study from Purdue University found that the juice can quadruple the bioavailability of the tea’s catechins.

Remember that green (and black) tea contain caffeine, though not as much as coffee. On the Omni Diet and in The Brain Warrior’s Way, I ask you to limit coffee to a cup a day, and drink it before noon. Green tea is a great alternative to coffee as long as you don’t drink it too late in the afternoon (the idea is to prevent caffeine from affecting your sleep).

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