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A hot cup of tea and its wonders

A steaming hot cup of tea may have more benefits than just relaxing you after a hard day at work.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 18, 2011 01:22 IST

Recent medical research suggests that apart from being revitalizing, tea offers considerable health benefits. While green tea is the most beneficial, you can’t go wrong with any variety. A simple beverage made by steeping dried leaves of the tea plant in boiled water for a short while, it consists of a complex brew of chemicals, a large number of which are flavonoids, a class of natural antioxidants. Flavonoids help your body get rid of free radicals that react negatively with important molecules like DNA in the cells, paving way for heart disease and cancer.

Population studies have linked consumption of tea with reduction in the risk for several types of cancer. Researchers speculate that flavonoids in tea, especially those found in green tea can kill cancer cells. They have also been found effective in lowering LDL levels and in helping blood vessels relax. This potentially lowers the blood pressure and reduces stress on heart. Studies indicate that catechins of green tea alleviate metabolic rate and increase thermogenesis i.e. production of heat in the body. Thus it might be protective against strokes and the debilitating neurological disorder, Parkinson’s disease.

What makes green tea so special?

The secret of green tea lies in the fact that it is rich in EGCG polyphenol which is a powerful anti-oxidant, in fact twice as powerful as resveratrol of red wine that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. Though green, oolong, and black tea, all come from leaves of the same plant — Camellia sinensis, they don’t have similar health-giving properties. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Whereas black and oolong teas are made by fermenting the leaves, green tea is only steamed before packaging. Steaming prevents EGCG from getting oxidized but fermenting results in their conversion into other compounds which are not as effective.

Why is tea best taken without milk?

If you drink tea for health, hold the milk! Proteins of milk react with flavonoids, abating their healthy effects as regards their vasodilatory function and the cancer fighting properties apart from neutralising their fat-fighting ability. Plain tea prepared by pouring boiled water overleaves and letting them brew for a while to bring out their catechins, has all the goodness of its antioxidants.

Decaffeinated, bottled, ready-to-drink tea preparations and instant teas have less of these compounds. Boiling leaves in water is also not advised as it results in their tannin to get released into the liquor which can harm the stomach walls.

By Kavita Wadhwa, nutrition expert and author.

She can be reached at kavita.wadhwa@yahoo.co.in