The science is proving it: This particular type of tea is particularly rich in wellness-promoting flavanoids, and it is a potent antioxidant working in the body to prevent disease.
Here in the U.S. coffee is the caffeinated beverage of choice. In fact billions of my contemporaries refuse to participate in a morning conversation until they’ve gotten their hands around that first steaming mug of joe.
But coffee has mixed reviews: at best it has a neutral effect on wellness, but only for those that can tolerate it well. At worst it is dehydrating, damaging to the liver, stressful to the adrenals, causes insomnia, can make you jittery and more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my daily cup of strong, organic coffee. I love the taste, the aroma and – as someone who spends a lot of time sitting at the computer – I most of all love the way it gets my brain neurons firing and keeps me alert and thinking clearly – despite the fact that my body is stuck motionless in a chair.
But because I know that daily coffee consumption is doing my body a disfavor (is that a word??), I occasionally take a coffee “break” – abstaining from the beverage for a few weeks or longer. During those times I’ve favored green tea (along with yerba mate, but that’s another story), as a substitute beverage to keep those neurons firing and to prevent “head on the desk” syndrome.
More Than A Pick-Me-Up
At first, it was all about the small amounts of caffeine in the green tea. I just didn’t want to deal with a coffee-withdrawal headache, and by drinking green tea I was able to prevent that.
But then as I learned more and more about how daily consumption of green tea can prevent a myriad of diseases, help me lose fat, prevent Alzheimer’s and build bone density, I realized that I was getting a lot more than headache prevention.
The problem was this: I’m just not that crazy about the flavor of green tea. A hot cup of green tea to me is just kind of boring. More often than not, I find a half full cup of the tepid liquid an hour or two after I’ve brewed it.
But, shoot! Most of those studies that revealed that this barrage of preventative health benefits involved consuming two to four cups of the stuff per day. How to get that much in?
Try It Iced
Enter the elegant solution. Iced green tea! So easy to make, and so cheap!
I use a heaping teaspoon of loose green tea per quart of water. (You could also use a couple of tea bags.) I place the tea leaves in a tea infuser that drapes over the mouth of the jar. They could also be put into a large tea ball or just put loose in the jar, then strained out.
Green tea is finicky – it is best made with water that is not yet boiling (160-170°F; 79-85°C are the recommended temperatures if you are a perfectionist) and it should not be steeped for more than a few minutes, five at the most.
So I pour in the hot water, set a timer or hover around for a few moments, than strain it out.
Then (and here’s how I make it really palatable) I add a small amount of stevia powder. Stevia (sometimes called “sweet leaf” is a natural herb that is much sweeter than sugar but with zilcho negative effects. I buy it in little packets (looks just like one of those awful cancer-causing artificial sweetener packets) and add one packet per quart. But you can get it in jars too, or just buy the dried leaves.
Alternatively, you could sweeten with honey, agave nectar or even good old sugar. Whatever works and will get you drinking your iced green tea.
Add a few squeezes of fresh lemon, and you’ll have delicious iced green tea lemonade. And it’ll cost you just pennies rather than the three bucks they charge at Starbucks.
In fact you can experiment with all kinds of ways to make your iced green tea more exotic, mixing in other herbs, adding various juices, etc. But remember – your goal is to consume 2-3 cups of actual green tea per day. If you dilute it with other juices or teas you will want to drink more.
My personal favorite type of green tea is organic Sencha, but any variety will impart the benefits – even Trader Joe’s tea bags (use two per quart). It’s kind of fun to experiment with the different types of green tea and see which flavor works best for you, either cold or hot.
What About The Caffeine?
Oh – and if you’re sensitive to caffeine, but would like to enjoy the benefits of green tea, you have a couple of options. You could go for decaffeinated versions of the tea leaves (which still have most of the beneficial components). Or here’s another trick: Infuse the tea for 45-60 seconds. Then pour off that liquid and infuse again for another couple of minutes. Most of the caffeine will have been extracted in that first infusion and so will now be gone, but you’ll still get the good stuff.
Keep in mind though, the levels of caffeine in green tea are miniscule compared to coffee or even black tea. Additionally, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which actually works to calm the body and promote a state of relaxed awareness. This along with those health-promoting catechins will significantly lessen the impact from the caffeine that is naturally found in green tea.
What’s So Healthy About Green Tea Anyway?
Although all teas (black, oolong and green) are made from the same plant, Canellia sinsensis, green tea is the least processed and therefore has the most powerful antioxidant effects.
See, there’s these types of antioxidants known as catechins that are abundant in green tea leaves. The catechins (sometimes called catechin polyphenols) are part of the molecular family called flavanoids. Basically it’s these components of the green tea leaf that have been the main subject of scientific study over the past couple of decades.
And wow – what results this medical research as uncovered!
You can read detailed results and methodology of some of the studies here and here, just for a start. In fact you could literally spend all day reading up on studies about green tea, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.
Just know that if you want to reduce your risks for many types of cancer, lessen the chances of dropping dead from a heart attack, minimize the brain damage that could be caused from a stroke, build bone thus preventing osteoporosis and periodontal disease, promote fat loss and increase your endurance for exercise, protect yourself against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and increase your liver’s ability to process alcohol and other toxic substances – I suggest you make your way to the nearest health food store, herb shop or supermarket and get yourself some green tea.
When you consider the potential health benefits in green tea and you may find yourself – like me – wanting to switch favorite beverages. I know I’m inspired to start brewing up those quarts of iced tea again – whether I’m on or off my morning cuppa joe.
Do you already drink green tea? What’s your favorite type and how do you like to drink it? Do you think green tea is effective in enhancing wellness?
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