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Green Tea: So Good and So Good for You

Weight loss, cancer prevention, cardiac health—there seems to be no end to the benefits of green tea. That’s why it’s been all the rage for the past few years. But does it live up to the hype, or is it just another health fad? Read on to find out.
Green Tea: So Good and So Good for You

Anyone who’s even remotely health-conscious has heard of green tea and its supposed health benefits. From helping you lose weight to keeping cancer at bay, its healing powers are seemingly endless. Even longtime coffee drinkers are making the switch. But what is green tea, and why is it so good for you? Here are some of the basics.

Green, white or black?

Black, white, green, and oolong tea are all made from an evergreen shrub called the Camilla sinensis. White tea is made from the buds, while the other three are made from the leaves. The difference lies in how they are processed. Black tea leaves are fully fermented or oxidized, and oolong tea is made from semi-fermented leaves. Green tea is preserved so that it undergoes no oxidation; that is, the leaves are still green.

What’s it like?

Not all green teas taste the same, although they do share a common flavor. Its taste has been described as light and grassy—not as strong as coffee, but not as bland as water. Some high-grade green teas are so strong that you can taste the bitterness of the leaves. Most of them, however, are just slightly bitter with a tinge of sweetness.

Of course, not all people will like green tea. People used to the strong flavors of coffee often take a while to get used to the subtle taste of tea. But it’s a very versatile drink; you can throw in a wide variety of flavorings, from sugar to fresh fruit extracts, to suit your tastes.

So why is it so good?

Like most forms of processing, fermentation greatly reduces the nutritional value of tea leaves. Because it’s virtually unprocessed, all the catechins—chemicals that fight disease—in green tea are still intact. Research shows that green tea has up to three times as much antioxidant content as black tea, and one-third the amount of caffeine.

Of the nine catechins present in green tea, the most potent is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has stronger antioxidant properties than vitamins A, C, and E—up to 100 times as much, depending on the level of fermentation. That means a cup of green tea is equivalent to eating an entire day’s worth of vegetables!

Does it really prevent cancer?

There is some evidence linking green tea consumption to lower cancer incidence, but no one’s sure how it works yet. Doctors believe it’s the EGCG: it protects cells from the type of DNA damage believed to cause cancer. Antioxidants in general are known to fight free radicals, which are highly reactive particles that damage tissues. Green tea has also been proven effective against stroke, digestive problems, and heart disease.

How much do you need?

There really is no prescribed amount for anyone, as everyone has different needs. You don’t need a lot to ward off disease—your doctor may recommend a few cups a week. If you’re trying to lose weight, though, you’ll need to drink at least five cups a day to see it work. But a cup a day will definitely make a difference—you’ll feel lighter, cleaner and generally healthier in as little as one week.

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