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Green Tea: The all-rounder beverage

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 17:00 IST

What fascinates me about green tea is that it seems to help every condition from low immunity to cancer. If you want to stay young drink tea. It is an extraordinary drink and probably the most widely consumed beverage in the world. It is made from the leaves of Camellia Sinesis which is blessed with unique antioxidants that get infused into the hot water when you make tea.

It contains more phytochemicals (plant chemicals) than other beverages in the world.

If you are a regular tea drinker you have much to cheer about. Both black tea and green tea contain powerful antioxidants that have many useful health benefits that include anti-cancer, anti-heart disease properties, the ability to lower cholesterol levels and reduce clotting tendencies in the blood.

Tea consumption also safeguards the liver and the brain against oxidised fatty acids and promotes anti-bacterial and anti-viral activities.

From amongst the 3,000 varieties of tea found worldwide, the most commonly consumed variety is Camellia Sinesis.

Green tea refers to the unfermented leaves of this plant, simply picked and dried which gives it a higher content of cathechins, polyphenols and bioflavinoids as compared to the fermented variety.

The same plant in its semi-fermented state yields oolong tea which is a cross between green and black tea and further fermentation leads to the commonly consumed black tea.

Green tea is as abundant in antioxidants as fruits and vegetables and antioxidants delay the onset of aging.

Though the Asian variety of green tea is richer in antioxidants as compared to oolong or black tea, when it comes to protection against free radicals, they’re all equally effective.

Green tea and cancer: The low incidence of cancer amongst the Japanese is now being attributed to their high consumption of green tea because the antioxidants present in green tea help in cancer prevention. We now have enough evidence to suggest that the cancer blocking properties of tea impede practically every type of cancer including skin cancer and breast cancer in animals.

Green tea and your heart: Drinking tea could shield you against heart disease because tea defends your arteries against factors which promote bloodclotting. The catechins present in green tea contains blood thinning and heart protecting properties and the polyphenols present lower the blood’s triglyceride levels and prevent oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol which arrests the progress of arteriosclerosis.

What makes green tea most beneficial for heart care as compared to other teas is its high catechins content — while black tea contains 3-10 percent oolong tea contains 8-20 percent and green tea contains 30-42 percent. Some of the flavinoids in green tea are 100 times more powerful than Vitamin C in their ability to quench free radicals.

The perfect cuppa: If you want to derive maximum health benefits, make tea a part of your daily diet. The preferred way of making green tea is by dropping the leaves in boiling water and letting the brew stand for a few minutes before straining.

If you like, you could add a teaspoon of honey. If you don’t already drink tea, why not make this amazing beverage a part of your life? Not only will it enhance your chances of preventing major degenerative diseases, but you’ll also be healthier in your old age.

(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counseling centre).

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