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The wonders of green tea

More often than not, a cup of tea is all that what your body needs 

Faben Getachew

‘Tea is a cup of life,’ so goes an ancient saying.  It indeed is. The Chinese knew all too well about the health benefits of tea since ancient times, and have used it to treat many diseases ranging from headaches to depression. Nowadays tea consumption has markedly increased all over the world.

Tea is obtained from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant but we can find many varieties of it depending on growing conditions, harvesting time and the way the leaves are processed. Currently all teas fall under three big categories: Oolong, Black, and Green tea. Oolong tea is partially fermented and black tea is fully fermented. Green tea, on the other hand, is the least processed and thus rich in health promoting antioxidants.

Health benefits

The secret behind the health benefit of green tea is its richness in catechin polyphenols and particularly in the powerful antioxidant EGCG. This antioxidant has been given credit for the protection of the human body against various types of cancers. In fact green tea kills cancer cells without harming healthy ones and prevents different types of cancers including colon, breast, lung, skin, cervical, prostate and gastric cancers. It is also used in the fight against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is responsible for genital warts and Herpes.

Green tea also improves mental alertness and is very effective in lowering bad cholesterol levels, and slowing down the abnormal formation of blood clots and therefore heart attacks. Green tea also helps us minimize the risk of exposure to other diseases such as kidney disease, skin damage, low blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Chron’s. One can also apply green tea bags to decrease puffiness under tired eyes or to the skin to soothe sunburn.

Not all that healthy

Health benefits from green tea definitely outweigh the harmful effects. However, it is also necessary to be aware of any possible side effect from excessive consumption of it. Even though the amount of caffeine in green tea is far less than in coffee, most of the side effects are associated to it and these effects are sensed strongly by caffeine sensitive people. Caffeine in green tea may cause heart burn and upset stomach usually as a result of steeping tea in water that is too hot. Pregnant women should avoid drinking more than 2 cups of green tea per day, especially in the first trimester because it may lead to birth defects or miscarriage. Breastfeeding women should also be careful as caffeine may be passed to the baby trough breast milk. Drinking green tea may also worsen diarrhea, anxiety and bleeding disorders. Perhaps the most important side effect of green tea is that it can interfere and interact with certain medications such as some antibiotics, stimulant drugs, birth control pills, depression medications, blood thinning drugs and anti diabetes drugs among others. It is therefore advisable to avoid drinking any tea beverages 2 hours after taking medications. Last but not least Green tea seems also to reduce the absorption of iron from food and it is thus important not to drink it immediately after meals.

 Brewing green tea

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It is always best to use loose leaves than teabags and the best-tasting green tea, according to green tea lovers, is steeped for under one minute with hot water that hasn’t reached the boiling point yet. Researches on the other hand suggest that steeping the tea for a longer period actually increases the antioxidants in green tea although it may give it a bitter flavor.

Faben Getachew holds an MSc in Food Science and Nutrition and is host of 60 minutes nutrition radio show on Afro FM 105.3.

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