Monday, March 31, 2008

Why Green Tea?

Green tea has become part of my daily routine. As I've written before, I am making a real effort to change my eating habits, and incorporate some new, good habits. In addition to the Omega 3 food addition to our weekly meal plan, I have begun drinking green tea every day. Today I thought I would share some of its benefits.

One fact I was surprised to discover is that although teas may be created equal, but they don't come to our table equal. Although they come from the same botanical source, they are processed differently. Most teas are allowed to oxidize...but green tea leaves are steamed. Black tea and oolong tea (served in chinese restaurants) are made from fermented leaves, which results in the valuable EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) being converted into other compounds. It is this EGCG, as well as other catechin polyphenols (definitions found here) that is so powerful in their antioxidant properties.

Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, EGCG kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. That's more important than it first sounds when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke. There are many more benefits to drinking green tea. It is also known to be helpful in rheumatoid arthritis, infection, and impaired immune function. It has even been shown to help burn more calories, hence its presence in many diet aids.

For these reasons and more, green tea has become my first hot drink of the morning instead of coffee. I try to have at least two cups per day, with an eye on that is recommended in order to receive all its benefits.
Although making a cup of tea may seem elementary, producing the perfect cup of green tea is a tricky process. If not handled properly, those same polyphenols that provide health benefits can ruin the flavor, making the tea taste "gassy." It's particularly important not to overbrew. While it's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions for each variety of green tea, here are some general instructions:

Use one tea bag, or 2 - 4 grams of tea,* per cup.
Fill a kettle with cold water and bring to a boil.
After unplugging the kettle, allow it to stand for up to 3 minutes.
Pour the heated water over the tea bag or tea, and allow it to steep for up to 3 minutes.
If using a tea bag, remove the bag.
Allow the tea to cool for three more minutes.

*One to two teaspoons, depending on the variety of green tea you are brewing.

Of course, just heating the water to boiling and pouring it over my tea bag works too! ;)

Hope some of this info is helpful to you, and perhaps will encourage you to replace a couple of cups of coffee with some good green tea.

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