The benefits of drinking green tea have been understood for centuries, since it was first discovered in China approximately 4700 years ago. According to legend, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong, who was an herbalist as well, discovered tea when the leaves from twigs that were being used for a fire flew up and landed in a pot of boiling water. Shen Nong, an avid researcher, extensively tested the concoction and found tea to be the antidote to more than 70 different poisonous herbs. In addition, he believed it was useful for treating other ailments such as bladder problems, tumors, lethargy and abscesses.
As Japan and China top the list of countries with the highest life expectancy (82.6 and 82.2 years, respectively), and are also the highest in green tea consumption, there may be some truth to the beverage’s benefits. Both green and black tea come from the leaves of the same plant (Camellia sinensis), however, green tea is very minimally processed, while black tea is made through a fermenting of the leaves. Due to the minimal processing involved, green tea retains more of the healthy antioxidant polyphenols. The antioxidants particular to tea are called catechins, which are thought to be the main source of green tea’s health benefits.
According to an article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch, catechins are better at stopping oxidative damage to cells from free radicals than both vitamin C and vitamin E, and several studies have found a link between the consumption of green tea and a reduced rate of cancer and heart disease. It has been found to be particularly effective against cancer of the bladder, breast, ovary, pancreas, lung, colon, prostate, skin and esophagus. In addition, green tea has been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and improve the function of the arteries. Drinking green tea has also been shown to have a protective effect against stroke, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, and reduces the incidence of bacterial and viral infections. It helps control blood sugar levels, reducing your chance of contracting diabetes, and reduces the inflammation associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It also helps to boost metabolism, helping to burn fat.
A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 reported that drinking green tea was even more beneficial than drinking water, as the tea provides not only hydration on a level with that of water, but it also contains healthy polyphenols. Another 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that drinking green tea reduces the risk of death from all causes, which is not the case with black tea. Drinking an average of three cups of green tea per day (as they do in Japan and China) confers the greatest amount of health benefits, providing you with 240-320 mg of polyphenols.
Using one teaspoon per 5 oz. cup, pour water that is hot, but less than boiling, over the leaves and let it steep for two to three minutes. Using water that is too hot will make the tea taste bitter and astringent. The thousands of studies on the positive effects of drinking green tea amount to a substantial body of literature in favor of giving it a try.
Perhaps the most well-known vitamin, and one that is frequently cited as vital to good health, but what is Vitamin C exactly? Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is a key nutrient and antioxidant essential to our diet. When our bodies contain more free radicals than antioxidants, our bodies are said to be under oxidative stress. Health issues that can arise from oxidative stress include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory disease and diabetes. Vitamin C can help to protect the body against oxidative stress, by raising the levels of antioxidants in the body.
Many animals can synthesize Vitamin C in their bodies; however, humans have lost the ability to do so. One possible reason is that rapid evolutionary changes in humans caused us to lose the capability to produce our own Vitamin C supply, so we must stock up on the Vitamin through the consumption of fruits, vegetables and meats. Because our bodies can only store certain quantities of Vitamin C, it needs to be consumed on a regular basis, or diseases associated with Vitamin C deficiency such as scurvy may develop. However, scurvy is no longer a health issue associated with modern day Western society, since sufficient quantities of Vitamin C are consumed in a diet rich with vegetables and fruits.
If this is the case, then why is Vitamin C still so important? There are other chronic diseases associated with low consumption of Vitamin C such as cancer, heart disease and cataracts. One study found that in order to protect the body against these diseases, a daily intake of 90-100mg is required, higher than the 45mg prescribed against scurvy.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, Vitamin C has been found in high concentration in immune cells and it is consumed quickly during infections. It is also a natural antihistamine, preventing histamine release in the body and also detoxifying histamines already present in the body. This process can be helpful to people who suffer allergies or asthma. One study found that 2g of Vitamin C per day reduced levels of histamine in the blood.
The National American Dietary Reference Intake recommends a daily consumption of 90mg-1g per day. The most effective method of keeping our Vitamin C levels high is through a healthy diet. Most fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits and rose hips, are very high in Vitamin C, and some meats, such as liver, also contain a good quantity. The extra intake of Vitamin C through supplements is not necessary for healthy adults who eat a balanced diet; however it is recommended for pregnant women, smokers and those under stress.
We seem to hear different things from the medical community every few years about either the positive or negative effect that coffee has on our health. So what is the most current information? Is coffee good or bad for your health? The answer, in short, is that it’s a little of both.
Too much coffee can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure, anxiety and upset stomach, in addition to its ability to become addictive. And don’t forget that added cream and sugar contribute to weight gain. For example, a 24-ounce Starbucks venti double chocolate chip frappucino contains a mind-boggling 520 calories!
Despite these drawbacks, moderate coffee consumption can actually have a protective effect, helping to reduce your risk of many problems, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, gallstones and Type 2 diabetes, to name a few. It can also lower the risk of stroke in women.
Current research has indicated that there is no increased risk of heart disease or cancer from moderate coffee drinking. The studies done earlier that reached that conclusion were flawed in that they did not take into consideration other lifestyle habits that went along with increased coffee drinking, such as smoking and lack of exercise, two major causes of these diseases. In fact, coffee has been shown to protect against many kinds of cancer.
A recent study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that there was a 25 percent reduction in cases of endometrial cancer in women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day. Scientists believe this may be due to the fact that coffee has the ability to lower concentrations of free estradiol and insulin, in addition to the cancer-fighting effect of coffee’s antioxidant phenols.
Even a few cups of coffee every day can cut men’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 30 percent, with those consuming six cups of coffee a day reducing their risk of a dangerous form of the cancer by a whopping 60 percent.
Coffee also reduces your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by up to 20 percent, according to scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drink coffee (four cups per day) have a 20 percent lower risk of depression than those who drink no coffee at all.
It is recommended that you get no more than 500-600 mg of caffeine intake per day, the equivalent of about 6 to 8 cups of brewed coffee. Obviously, the amount of caffeine in a cup of espresso will be more than that in the equivalent amount drip coffee.
The key point to keep in mind is to consume coffee in moderate amounts, especially if you are pregnant. But all in all, the benefits of coffee consumption far outweigh the risks for most people, so grab a caf