The many benefits of green tea have been widely discussed in medical and consumer circles and more and more research is being done into the active ingredients in green tea that provide the health benefits. Work to identify the different chemicals in the tea plant and how processing helps bring out (or diminish) their benefits will help us understand how to get the most out of these interesting phytochemicals.
One of the more novel and unexpected benefits of green tea for people trying to manage their weight is its’ assistance in fat burning and impacts on weight loss. You can now include green tea as part of a diet adjustment and weight loss and exercise plan, to help get you over those weight loss “plateaus”.
Why is green tea different?
There are so many varieties of tea. They include black, oolong, white, green and herbal. There are an even greater number of tea leaf varieties. (Green tea can actually be made from the same leaves as black, but via a different process). The varieties green, black, white and oolong are all derived from the same Camellia sinensis bush.
During manufacturing, steaming the leaves to make green tea results in a different outcome. Many of the health-giving properties are preserved by this gentler process. One special compound in particular, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is a potent antioxidant. It’s the main reason why green tea seems to have so many protective benefits to the body.
There are both Japanese and Chinese forms of green tea. Some of the widely consumed Japanese varieties are: Bancha, Sencha, Gyokurocha and Mat'cha.
In China, there is an even larger choice of green teas to select from, including: Long Ding, Qing Ding, Hua Ding, Dragon Well (also called Long Jing or Lung Ching), Gunpowder and Hui Ming.
Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka also make fine green teas that are widely appreciated and consumed.
Weight loss and green tea studies
Having a soothing cup of tea is a relaxing ritual, whether it be Earl Grey or Japanese green. The ingredients in the tea itself can also have some medicinal and therapeutic benefits. One of the benefits of green tea may be weight loss, as studies seem to show that green tea can help increase our metabolic rate and also support the body’s ability to burn fat (called “fat oxidation”). It’s not just because it contains caffeine, as coffee, which has much more caffeine, doesn’t do the same job. There is something special about the active ingredients in green tea, plus the caffeine, that make the difference.
Some of the reported benefits of green tea include: fat oxidation, lowering cholesterol levels, managing rheumatoid arthritis, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and strengthening the stomach to reduce the likelihood of food poisoning. It may also have a heart protective effect and help cells live longer, which can slow ageing.
There are many ways to consume green tea, not just as a hot beverage. If you don’t like tea or hot drinks, you can try green tea supplements, green tea ice cream, chilled “ice tea” drinks made with green tea and fruit, or even sweets. Some of the tea forms start as powders anyway, so now the manufacturers are getting creative with this potent ingredient and finding new ways to make use of this very versatile plant.
Katherine West is a health freak and freelance writer who in 2003 studied for a Diploma of Nutrition. She is also into yoga and pilates.