With fitness and health, a prime concern for many, the term green tea has become mainstream with the advent of packaged products and publications. But what exactly is green tea and why is it posing a stiff competition for the good old cutting chai?
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is a type of tea that originated in China, but its production has spread to many Asian countries since. All types of tea (barring herbal) are made from leaves of a certain plant species called Camellia Sinensis. Green tea is derived from the same plant, with the difference being that they do not undergo the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong (traditional Chinese tea) and black tea, and thus contains more antioxidants (polyphenols) compared to normal black tea.
What are the different types of green tea available?
Green tea is grown in higher altitudes in East Asian countries. Several varieties of green tea exist due to the difference in picking process (hand-picked leaves are said to be less bitter), climate, soil, production process and harvest time. Some of its popular varieties include Hojicha (light taste and pleasant aroma) and Sencha from Japan (sweet and grassy flavor).
Matcha is another popular variety, which is made from green tea leaves grown in the shade and its history goes back over a hundred years. With a light and sweet flavor, it is used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and even in Japanese recipes.
How to make green tea?
Making a refreshing cup of green tea is easy and the best way to drink green tea for health benefits is to opt for fresh leaves. Heat water until just before it boils and then pour it over the green tea leaves (hot water increases the antioxidant properties of green tea!). Let the tea steep for 3-4 minutes and your perfect zero-calorie drink is ready. Optionally, you can add a few drops of lemon juice (which aids in weight loss) and honey (for its medicinal properties). Ideally, 2-3 cups of green tea a day is recommended for good health.
When to have Green tea?
Green tea should not be taken as the first cup of beverage in the morning on an empty stomach but could be taken in between meals to have the best effects on your body. 2-3 cups per day is the healthy limit for green tea and must be used with caution by people on medication. Avoid green tea few hours prior to bedtime.
Does Green Tea contain caffeine?
Yes, Green tea does contain caffeine, but less than the average cup of coffee. It is healthier than black tea as it is unprocessed. However, it does contain enough caffeine to act as a stimulant and disrupt sleep patterns if taken excessively.
Iced green tea v/s Hot green tea
There is no apparent difference between hot and iced green tea, though iced green tea will be tastier (due to added sugars) and also more diluted with lesser health benefits.
Click here to try a matcha green tea smoothie recipe.
Green tea extract
Green tea extracts which are concentrated versions and available in liquid, powder or tablets (supplement) form and depending on the concentration 1 ml of green tea extract can equal the benefits of drinking 8-10 cups of antioxidant-rich green tea.
Benefits of green tea
The list of benefits of green tea is endless. To name a few – It is rich in antioxidants, aids weight loss, speed up metabolism, stimulates health; contains antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidants, and catechins; regulates diabetes and blood pressure, protects against cardiovascular diseases, prevents tooth decay, beneficial against depression, reduces cholesterol and much more. While there are is no conclusive evidence to support the claims on cardiovascular disease or prevention of cancer, it definitely is healthier than your average cup of black tea or coffee, owing to its higher content of antioxidants. So, should we have it regularly? Are there no side effects? This might be a shock to all the fitness freaks who bet on green tea and believe it is all good because green tea just like other teas is not a herbal tea and has few side effects which should always be kept in mind.
Side effects of green Tea
In spite of all its benefits, Green tea does have certain side effects that habitual drinkers should always bear in mind. Here are a few of them:
- Acidity: Due to the high amount of tannins and caffeine, green tea increases acidity levels. Hence it should never be taken empty stomach and avoided by people with peptic ulcers and chronic acid reflux. Even using excessively hot water for brewing green tea can aggravate this issue.
- Iron deficiency: Because of the high tannin content, green tea hinders absorption of iron from food (including plant iron) and makes it less available for your body. This can be a problem for people with an iron deficiency and anaemia. This can be prevented to a certain degree by including vitamin C rich food in your diet and adding a dash of lime to your green tea would be beneficial. Ideally, you should avoid green tea along with meals high in iron content.
- Headaches: Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, green tea may induce headaches. It is off the diet for many chronic headache patients. Since caffeine is a risk factor in such cases and though green tea contains less caffeine than certain teas and coffee, still it is best avoided.
- Diarrhoea: Caffeine being a laxative stimulates the colon muscles to contract and relax, may result in an increased need to move your bowels.
- Interaction with medicines: People on any kind of medication for any disease should consult with their doctors before taking green tea. Green tea may cause harmful interactions with certain stimulants, hormones, antibiotics, blood thinners, certain asthma medications or any drug that poses a risk of liver damage and can lead to increased problems.
- Liver problems: Green tea extract supplements are being related to liver damage and accelerate liver disease. Certain components like EGCG can cause toxicity in the liver, kidneys, and intestines. The green tea extract side effects in such cases included high levels of toxicity, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea.
- Osteoporosis: Green tea increases the amount of calcium flushed out through urine and can lead to problems in bone health and osteoporosis. This situation is aggravated in those who are already predisposed to deteriorating bone health. Calcium supplements can be taken to make up for the loss, and green tea should be taken in low quantities (1-2 cups daily).
- Irregular sleep: Caffeine in green tea (though very less) can block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline production. It causes effects on anxiety and sleep, which vary person to person.
To sum it all up, green tea certainly has many health benefits (at least when compared to traditional black tea), but it also has some side effects. People should bear in mind that excess consumption of anything can lead to health hazards, even the healthiest drink out there. Limit drinking green tea to 2-3 cups daily, use fresh leaves and proper brewing techniques to stay on the safer side and benefit from the many good properties of green tea. If you have a medical condition, always check with your doctor, naturopath or physician before the consumption of green tea or any other tea for that matter.