Green Tea: The Emerald Elixir of Longevity
Green Tea: The Emerald Elixir of Longevity
Filled to the rim with health benefits, green tea is one of the most consumed drinks in the world.
Whether black, green, or oolong, it all comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but green is the unoxidized, un-fermented version.
There is much to be said about Camellia sinensis, also known as "cha," "chai," and most commonly, "tea." With thousands of years of history, rich culture, and daily consumption by hundreds of millions of people, the benefits and impact of this astonishing plant are undeniable.
Long before the advent of acai bowls, green tea had a reputation as a healthy alternative to coffee, carrying vague connotations of longevity. But is green tea really all that? And if so, is it time we replace our boring, antiquated notion of it as something generally "good for you" with a more specific understanding of what makes it so special? The answer to both questions is an unqualified Yes! In this short article, I will argue that even if one were heedless of tea's long and fascinating history, an honest nutritional consideration of it alone would yield the conclusion that it is indeed a remarkable drink.
What's In Green Tea?
Looking through a clear glass of sencha or genmaicha, it might seem like there isn't much there but the subtle imprint of a grassy hue on otherwise plain water. But as with all highly functional foods, the chemical profile of the solution we call "tea" is detailed and complex. In other words, it consists of a long list of different ingredients that work together in very cool and intricate ways.
Quercetin, rutin, chlorogenic acid, vitamins, trace minerals, chlorophyll and caffeine, can be found in steeped green tea. But the real distinction to which most of its health benefits are credited is found in the diverse family of phytochemicals known as polyphenols.
These powerful antioxidants make up a complete 30 per cent of the dry weight of green tea. Dominant among them are catechins, a unique subtype of polyphenol featuring members like epicatechin and epigallocatechin. The amount and type of these catechins vary with different geography and growing and processing methods. Still, they are categorically much more abundant in green tea than in any other. Miniscule amounts can be found in cocoa, red wine, and some fruits, but Camellia sinensis is absolutely loaded with them; these catechins represent almost half of all soluble solids that pass from the leaves into the water!
Did you know that there are more than 35,000 published studies on the health benefits of green tea?
It benefits cardiovascular health, blood sugar and insulin balance, healthy weight control, and cognitive and oral health. It keeps your metabolism running smoothly, protects your heart and brain from age-related decline, and keeps your breath smelling its best.
Green Tea Can Do All Those Things For You Because It's...
A powerful systemic inflammation fighter, drinking green tea hits the 'on' switch for the production of major anti-inflammatory cytokines. Catechin metabolites cross the blood-brain barrier and help to quell neurological inflammation. Combined with their antioxidant effect, green tea catechins protect existing brain cells and even cause neurogenesis- the birth of new brain cells! But the anti-inflammatory benefits can be system-wide, showing promise for many types of chronic illness, including autoimmune conditions.
The sum antioxidant power of green tea's chemical synergy neutralizes circulating free radicals on contact before they can damage our cells. More impressively, camellia causes the activation of protective genes in our DNA, which generate vast amounts of antioxidant enzymes when triggered. These enzymes, such as glutathione transferase and glutathione reductase, are powerful antioxidants capable of protecting and detoxifying on a large scale at a cellular level.
Green tea's ability to fight bad breath and support dental health primarily comes down to the antimicrobial qualities of catechins. Research has shown that a single cup of green tea inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria and stops it from adhering to mucus membranes in the mouth, gut, and urinary tract, for up to six hours! In the gut, those same catechins help rebalance the microbiome by promoting beneficial species like Akkermansia while inhibiting a wide variety of nasty pathogens.
Perhaps green tea's least known benefit is its propensity to fight off viral infection. But it's true, the same EGCG, in particular, is credited with strong antiviral activity against a wide variety of RNA viruses like RSV, adenovirus, HIV, Epstein Barr, influenza, rotavirus, and many more.
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