Green Tea Isn’t the Elixir of Life, But It’s Close Nutritionist Dina Khader Explains the Benefits of Green Tea

In historical lore, alchemists sought the “elixir of life,” a magic potion that would keep those forever young looking and healthy. In this more skeptical era, most people don’t believe such a concoction exists. But in the case of green tea, drinkers of this may have something that keeps you younger-looking and healthier for longer according to nutritionist, Dina Khader, MS, RD, CDN from The Khader Center.  In general, tea and herbal infusions have health benefits, but when we’re talking about specifics, it is necessary to be precise about what the plant in question actually is.

REAL TEA

Real tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant and from no other. Chamomile and yerba mate are terrific for your health, but they are not, technically speaking, tea but rather herbal infusions. They come from different plants that have different chemistries.

There are five varieties of genuine tea: white, green, oolong, black (which the Chinese refer to as “red tea”) and pu-ehr (hong cha, which is sometimes translated as “dark tea” although “black tea” is accurate – it is also confusing). The leaves picked from the tea plant are the same, it is their processing afterwards that makes them different.

White tea is minimally processed, allowed to wither and dry in the sun. Green tea is quickly heated either by steaming or pan firing to halt oxidation.

Oolong is a lot more work. “First the leaves are withered in direct sunlight and then shaken gently in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges of the leaves. Next the leaves are air-dried in the shade until the surface of the leaf turns slightly yellow. The process of shaking and drying the leaves is repeated several times.”

Black tea processing is a four-step procedure consists of withering as with other teas, it is then rolled, allowed to oxidize and then dried.

Pu-erh is processed like black tea, but then it is fermented (or ripen if you translate it differently), caused by wetting the leaves, covering them and allowing the bacteria present to do the ripening. Then, the tea is dried.

PROCESSING AFFECTS HEALTH BENEFITS

According to Khader, “In general, the more processed the tea, the fewer antioxidants and other good compounds are present. That is not to say that pu-ehr and black tea don’t have benefits to our health, but rather that white and green tea retain more of them,”

White and green teas are high in catechins, which are superior antioxidants and a type of polyphenol. They are particularly high in Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), also known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Interestingly, a study of both white and green showed:

Total catechins content for white teas ranged from 14.40 to 369.60 mg/g of dry plant material for water extracts and 47.16 to 163.94 mg/g for methanol extracts.

Total catechins content for green teas ranged from 21.38 to 228.20 mg/g of dry plant material for water extracts and from 32.23 to 141.24 mg/g for methanol extracts.

Certain white teas have levels of total catechins similar to those in some green teas, but lesser antioxidant capacity, which suggests white teas have fewer non-catechin antioxidants.”

In any case, EGCG has a broad range of potential health benefits. EGCG and other beneficial compounds found in green tea make it an easy, tasty and healthy addition to your diet. Research has shown its effects on a number of conditions

Cancer: People drinking four to six cups of green tea a day have a much lower incidence of bladder, kidney, liver, prostate, colorectal, pancreatic and stomach cancer as well as breast, lung, esophageal and skin cancers than people who drink less green tea or none.

Cardiovascular Disease: Many heart attacks are caused by the aggregation of blood platelets, which form blood clots that accumulate as plaque on artery walls and block the flow of blood through coronary arteries. Green tea inhibits the production of platelet activity factors, a cause of blood ‘clumping’.

Blood Sugar: Green tea has been shown to help maintain blood sugar at moderate levels. Human studies have shown that green tea can lower and maintain blood sugar levels in patients living with Type 2 diabetes.

Viruses:  Green tea and its active constituents are prescribed by doctors in the East to treat flus and colds. Japanese studies show that green tea keeps the influenza virus in check.

Weight Loss: Research has shown that drinking green tea twice a day can reduce the growth of fat cells. Drinking green tea twenty to thirty minutes before meals may help to stave off hunger pangs and suppress the appetite.

BREWING MATTERS

How you make the tea also can affect the health benefits. Rule one is to start with leaf tea. Usually that rules out supermarket mass produced tea bags. That is why Khader recommends Japanese Sencha Loose Green tea: http://shop.dinakhader.com/japanese-sencha-green-tea-p/21.htm

Then, use boiling water (not merely hot) and pour it directly onto the leaves. In his essay on how to brew tea British literary giant George Orwell advised bring the pot to the kettle rather than the other way around to ensure the water is as close to the boiling point as possible.

Once the water and tea have met, let the leaves steep. Keep your eyes on temperature. However, a 2-minute steep is leaving some of the goodies in the leaf rather than in the drink. Below is a handy guide from Japanese master tea expert, Sara Kadowaki:

Teas Temperature and Infusion Time
 
Sencha regular 155 – 170F for 45 seconds to 1 minute
makes up to 2 infusions
Sencha deep steamed 155 – 170F for 45 seconds to 1 minute
makes up to 3 infusions
Kukicha 175F for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes
Hojicha 190F to boiling for 30 to 45 seconds
Genmai Hojicha 190F to boiling for 30 seconds
Tama Ryoku Cha 190F to boiling for 30 seconds
Gyokuro 120 – 140F for 2 minutes
Put generous amounts of tea in a small tea pot. Do not submerge tea leaves completely inside the pot allowing for some breathing space.
Genmaicha 175 – 195F for 45 seconds to 1 minute
higher quality requires slightly lower temperature similar to the technique used in Sencha
Maccha Genmaicha 180 – 195F for 45 seconds to 1 minute
Maccha 190F – boiling
Put a teaspoon of Maccha (2g) in a larger tea bowl. Pour hot water (60cc) into the tea bowl and stir quickly with a bamboo whisk until fine small bubbles appear.
Japanese Black Tea 190F to boiling for 3 to 5 minutes
Japanese Dark Tea ( Pu- Er) 195F to boiling for 5 to 7 minutes

Finally, to get the most out of the tea and into your body, you should drink your green tea without food to achieve maximum absorption, advises Khader.

About The Khader Center
Founded in 2009 by registered dietitian and author, Dina Khader, MS, RD, CDN, MIFHI, The Khader Center is Westchester County’s premier nutrition center offering an integrative approach to nutrition and health. The Khader Center offers a wealth of safe, natural, and cutting-edge health solutions. The center is a warm, friendly place to achieve optimal health.  The Khader Center has a full online shop with an array of nutritional tools such as supplements, foods,  healthy organic chocolates and holistic skin care products.

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