Green tea is a subject of great excitement among health enthusiasts, weight watchers, fitness fanatics, spiritualists, as well as academics and professionals. If you knew how beneficial this nootropic tea is, you’d be jumping on the green tea bandwagon as well.
The History of Green Tea
Green tea’s rich history first appeared in recorded history as far back as 3,000 years ago in China. Anecdotal records imply that this herb was probably eaten in its natural form before it was ever prepared as a tea.1
Once people figured out flavor could be extracted from herbs when placed in boiling water, tea rapidly became an entire culture. For many centuries, green tea was only enjoyed by the elite class in China. Special teas called tribute teas were produced and delivered to the emperor’s court. This “gift-giving” continued for several dynasties. Only after 1,000 years of this tradition was green tea was made accessible to the commoners.2
When European Traders first began to trade around the 1500’s, green and black teas were introduced to Europe and saw great popularity. Most Europeans preferred the smooth, high-caffeine black tea over the less stimulating, bitter green tea. Nevertheless, green tea has had a small foothold in Western culture ever since.
During the early days of the American Revolution, the 1767 Tea Tax gave the East India Company a monopoly on all tea trade in the Americas. The colonists opposed the motion and ordered three ships loaded with quality tea to return to England. When the British captains refused, a band of colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded the ships and dumped the cargo into Boston Harbor. This resulted in the loss of 45 tons of green tea.3
What’s So Special About Green Tea?
Whether you drink oolong, black, white or green tea, you will be brewing leaves from the Camila Sinensis. Since all teas are derived from this plant, they all contain a selection of healthy components. The differences between the teas come from different levels of oxidation and fermentation.
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Green tea leaves are not oxidized or fermented like other varieties of teas. Therefore, they have a distinctive green color and produce a bright greenish brew. Rather than dried out, the fresh leaves are steamed which allows them to retain their original color and a full array of natural compounds.4
A cup of unfermented green tea has only a quarter of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee and half the amount found in fermented black tea. This makes green tea a more soothing stimulant than other caffeinated beverages.5
The unique manufacturing process of green tea allows it to maintain a full profile of healthy components with important health benefits.
The most important catechin in green tea is called EGCG and it accounts for 50% to 75% of all polyphenolic content in green tea. EGCG is a strong antioxidant studied for its applications in treating prostate cancers, neurodegeneration, chronic fatigue, and even HIV.6
While it does not have as strong of a caffeine kick as black tea, oolong tea, or coffee, green tea is a terrific stimulant and brain booster. Caffeine in green tea boosts stamina, decreases drowsiness and may help reduce chronic inflammation.7
Green tea can be a bitter brew with all the polyphenols and caffeine, but l-theanine adds the full-bodied aspect. It has a distinctive umami flavoring just bordering on sweetness. L-theanine has a soothing effect on the brain and improves cognitive function especially when coupled with caffeine.8
A cup of green tea contains about twice as much vitamin C than from black tea. Other important nutrients are vitamin B2, folic acid, beta-carotene, and vitamin E.9
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that occurs naturally in the body. It works to keep the brain from becoming overly stimulated. Caffeine works to accelerate brain activities whereas GABA works to soothe the mind and keep blood pressure low.10
Those were just a few of the many nutrients found in what is arguably the healthiest drink on the planet. Additionally, green tea contains potassium, manganese, calcium, cancer-fighting saponins and more. Clinical and medical studies have found the array of nutrients and minerals in green tea carry important health benefits.
Those looking to shed a few pounds should consider including a few cups of green tea in their daily diet. When the body begins to shed weight, it also reduces the metabolic rate in an effort to retain stored fat. Studies have shown that the stimulants present in green tea counteract this reduction and increase the capacity to shed fat.11
Furthermore, green tea could allow the fat burning metabolism from healthy exercise to continue its effects after you leave the gym. Studies show that the organic compounds of green tea can promote fat oxidation in a healthy human even if they are at rest.12
Enhanced Cognitive Power
Green tea is a well-known cognitive enhancer with special benefits to attention, alertness, focus and improved information collection. This is due to its ideal combination of mentally stimulating and soothing compounds.13 Surprisingly, green tea does more than this.
The brain functions at various levels of consciousness. Each one is linked to a frequency emitted by brainwaves. Green tea has been found to promote alpha brain waves which forms a bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. The alpha waves are where the mind goes in a state of meditation and relaxation. It is also the place where the elusive flow state can be activated for effortless functionality.14
In addition to enhancing the function of the brain in the short term, green tea can also work to protect the brain from age-related conditions. The fact is, human brains are subject to a wide range of attrition. Without maintenance, the brain can fall to cognitive decline.
Two of the most common neurodegenerative conditions are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia while Parkinson’s is caused by a severe lack of dopamine in the brain. Both of these conditions can be effectively prevented with a few extra cups of green tea sprinkled throughout a lifetime.15
Catechins are the compounds that provide important neuroprotection and reduce the risk of degenerative conditions. Green tea has a high content of catechins since it hasn’t been oxidized. Catechins oxidize easily when exposed to light so keep your green tea in a sealed container for maximum neuroprotection.16
The healthy nutritional profile in green teas can keep the body safe from a wide variety of life-threatening conditions including heart disease, cancers, and cognitive decline. Green teas have also been studied for their capacity to treat obesity and type-2 diabetes.17,18
In a study performed on over 40,000 elderly tests subjects, green tea drinkers were found to live slightly longer than those who did not regularly partake of this beverage. Interestingly, drinking over 5 cups of green tea daily, provided the best protection against the occurrence of strokes and cardiovascular disease.19
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, natural beauty products for the skin are being infused with green tea for its incredible benefits as a skin tonic. There is evidence that drinking green tea can provide many of the same high-quality anti-oxidants that keep the skin young and vivacious.
Green tea is filled with important antioxidants, like vitamin C, caffeine, and catechins that fight the effects of free radicals and prevent cellular damage from UV radiation. In the skin, this means retaining elasticity by supporting structural integrity.20
Other studies have suggested that caffeine can help prevent the accumulation of fat cells beneath the skin that contribute to cellulite patches.21
Side Effects of Green Tea
Despite the many benefits of green tea, those with specific conditions should be careful when including this beverage in the diet. Some of the most important side effects and health precautions to be aware of are listed below.
There has been a link between having a miscarriage and the consumption of green tea during pregnancy.22 If you are pregnant or considering having children, consult your doctor before including green tea in your diet.
Green tea has compounds that can cause an upset stomach. This is especially true for those with sensitive conditions and caution should be taken to avoid nausea, cramps or other conditions. To avoid this, try not to steep green tea for over 5 minutes.
Caffeine affects everyone differently. Those with a low tolerance to this drug should be careful. Parents of young children should consider consulting a doctor before allowing them to drink caffeinated beverages.23
Green tea is an all natural beverage packed with antioxidants and nutrients to keep you healthy, alert, and feeling young. Try drinking a few cups of green tea a day instead of sugary pop or energy drink for a healthier alternative.
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