Magryta column: Benefits of green tea
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2008
Tea is an aromatic beverage that has been popular worldwide for millennia. It is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide after water.
Tea comes from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. It is prepared by few methods and produces four major varieties including white, green, oolong and black. Herbal teas are not teas at all but infusions or tisanes of whatever herb is used.
Three major reasons that teas are so beneficial to our bodies are:
– It replaces unhealthy beverage choices.
– The catechins present in teas are antioxidants that have a beneficial effect on health.
– You increase your intake of water.
Tea is an excellent replacement for sugar-laden beverages that plague our bodies. In our struggle with obesity, one major problem is the over-ingestion of simple sugars in caloric beverages like juice, soda, sports drinks, and, yes, sweet tea.
In the American Journal of Public Health, April 2007, Yale researchers noted that people who drink sodas consume more calories in a typical day than those who don’t.
Reducing the consumption of caloric sweetened beverages is a part of a healthy diet. Dr. Gary Taubes has put forth the hypothesis that obesity is driven by elevated insulin levels. The major drivers of insulin in the Western diet are flour and sugar based foods. As expected, one of the greatest dietary changes in America over the last 40 years has been the increased consumption of these high glycemic carbohydrates. Switching to unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea will help this issue.
Catechins are polyphenols or flavanoids that provide a source of scavengers for oxygen radicals that are cell damaging and disease causing. This effect is being studied actively with green tea and cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Green tea contains EGCG, a major catechin, which is under intense investigation at the University of Arizona in relation to cancer prevention. Polyphenolic content is the highest in white tea and green tea, then oolong; it is lowest in black tea.
Milk proteins bind the catechins and make them unavailable; therefore, I don’t recommend milk in tea. Ice in tea also has a negative effect on the flavanoids. It turns out that ice precipitates out the catechins to the side of the glass, making it unavailable for consumption. Hot, warm or refrigerated tea is the preferred method of drinking tea for the most benefit.
Caffeine is present in tea, as it is in coffee and some kinds of soda. If you do not wish to drink caffeinated beverages, then there is a trick to remove it from tea. Caffeine is very soluble in water. Brew your loose tea for one minute and then pour the water off. Then rebrew the tea. Most of the caffeine is now gone, but the catechins remain, as does the nice taste.
As we fight the obesity epidemic, tea can be another piece of the wellness puzzle.
Encourage your children to drink green tea daily and always lead by example.
Dr. Chris Magryta is a pediatrician with Salisbury Pediatric Associates.