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Green Tea and Your Health

There's quite a buzz these days surrounding green tea and its many health benefits, including weight loss. From books to magazines to the "Oprah," show, everyone is talking about green tea. So what exactly is green tea and what is so special about it?

Green tea is derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a powerful antioxidant. Although green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG from being oxidized. Black and oolong tea leaves are fermented, which means the EGCG is converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in fighting and preventing various diseases.

For approximately 4,000 years, green tea has been used by the Chinese as a medicine to treat everything from headaches to depression. Today, scientific research is providing hard scientific evidence for the health benefits of drinking green tea. A study published in 1994 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicated that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in both Chinese men and women by almost 60 percent. More recently, in 2004, Harvard Medical School researchers found that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth and reproduction of cancer cells associated with Barrett's esophagus (a condition caused by stomach acid rising up into the esophagus causing the cells lining the esophagus to change, raising the risk of esophageal cancer by 30 to 40 times). Also, research indicates that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL). A few other medical conditions in which drinking green tea is said to be helpful is cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, decreased risk of stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, infection, impaired immune function, fighting cavities, and slowing down potentially harmful blood clotting.

There is also scientific evidence showing that green tea also promotes weight loss. In the November 1999 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

There are a variety of green tea flavors, including apricot, cocomint, mandarin, ginseng, and many others. Green tea is also available in decaf, so no need to worry about caffeine, although regular green tea has less caffeine than coffee, with a 6-oz cup of coffee having 100 mg of caffeine compared to a 6-oz cup of green tea having only 30 mg. Also, you get the same benefits from the green tea no matter if it is hot or iced. You can even cook with green tea.

Pick up a sampler of green teas from Adagio Teas: Adagio Teas
Learn to cook with green tea: Cooking with Green Tea

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