Green tea is quickly becoming the drink of choice amongst health conscious consumers. The Japanese and Chinese have been touting the benefits of green tea for years, as do many other cultures. And now it is starting to spread across North America, in the form of Bubble Tea shops and new specialty green tea and Maccha shops.
If you have never tried it before, then get ready for a surprise. This is not the watered down leaf-laden water you get at the local Chinese restaurant, and the positive health benefits beat coffee any day of the week.
What is it?
Out of the three tea types – black tea, Oolong tea and green tea – green tea is not fermented. This means that all the health properties of the tea are retained, as well as the unique taste. A similarity can be drawn between the difference of eating vegetables raw and boiling them.
When you boil vegetables, much of the nutritional properties of the vegetable end up in the water that you are using to boil the food. Conversely, when you ferment tea leaves, all the beneficial anti-oxidants are lost. Green tea can also be purchased in a very raw, unprocessed state, similar to buying organic food. As a general rule, the less processed the food you consume is, the healthier it is for you.
What are the health benefits?
The Chinese have been drinking green tea for over 5,000 years, so there are many claims to the positive effects it will have on your health.
Here is a list of the most common claims:
- Prevents Cancer – Antioxidants – which can also be found in fruit and vegetables – neutralize or minimize free radicals in your body, which are know to interact with proteins and molecules in your system. This interaction affects aging and health, as these free radicals are often associated with cancer.
- Reduces Cholesterol, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries – Once again, due to the high level of antioxidants and catechins, green tea should – in theory – help to reduce cholesterol levels and plaque build up on arterial walls.
- Reduces blood sugar levels – The catechins in green tea are also supposed to help lower blood sugar levels, particularly in those who already have elevated blood sugar – like diabetics.
- Slows down the aging process – It is a known fact that Asian countries tend to have the longest life spans in the world, and their diet is an obvious contributing factor. Since free radicals are associated with aging, anything that neutralizes them in your body will help to slow down the aging process.
- Energy infusing – Of course green tea has caffeine, so it will give you the same jolt as coffee. However, due to the fact that it is laden with catechins and antioxidants, the caffeine you are getting will be healthier than what you derive from coffee or soft drinks.
- Prevents colds and the flu – It seems obvious that anyone who has a cold or flu might be drinking a lot of tea, but there are claims out there that it actually prevents both.
- Health drink – Due to the nature of its limited processing and raw form, green tea can be consumed as part of a healthy diet.
- Other healthy effects – There are also claims that green tea kills bacteria, reduces cavities, dissipates diarrhea, improves your sex life, cures stomach and intestinal problems, and can prevent food poisoning.
Types of drinks:
- Tea – Green tea is served mainly as tea, with most restaurants and consumers merely adding the dry leaves into a teapot of boiling water. More often than not, the leaves of the tea are in your drink, which might take some getting used too. In order to regulate the level of caffeine you are consuming, you need only put fewer leaves in the pot. If you eat at a Chinese restaurant at night, they will often water down the tea, compared to the strength you will get during the day.
- Maccha Aisu – Green tea ice cream is wildly popular is Asia, with many shops offering it here in North America. Usually a combination of green tea powder (Maccha), milk, rum and vanilla.
- Bubble Tea Shops – Bubble Tea Shops offer a variety of concoctions, which can be made from red or green tea powders.
Why is Green Tea better than coffee?
In North America, coffee is still king. But coffee has had a bad reputation for years, and with specialty green tea shops starting to open, many are turning to this new drink as a healthier option. Unlike all the claims being made by the proponents of green tea, coffee gets the opposite comments from its detractors.
Coffee is supposed to elevate insulin levels, increase blood pressure and heart rate. It is also said to interfere with your body’s ability to prevent plaque build up in your arteries, and increase stress. You might have even noticed that your heart palpitates (beats irregularly) if you have a lot of coffee in a day.
And then there is the production of coffee, which is done in countries that do not regulate the level of contaminants in the soil and water. Unless you are drinking certified organic coffee, you are most likely getting some serious chemicals into your system. Green tea can also be mass produced, but there are more organic options available.
How do I switch?
If you are trying to wean yourself off of coffee and switch to tea, be patient. Remember how horrible coffee tasted when you first tried it, so it might take some time to acquire a taste for green tea. Try to avoid loading it up with sugar and sweetener, since white sugar is a poor health choice.
If you like specialty drinks, then check out your local tea shop, or see if there are any new green tea stores opening in your area. Those locations will have the kind of variety you find at a Starbucks, making your transition to tea that much easier. And even though many of the green tea health claims are just that – claims – tea is definitely better for you in the long run. Who knows? If even half the health claims are true, it seems like a chance worth taking.