The leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, native to South East Asia, are what we know to be green tea. This refreshing beverage that’s custom to Japan has a number of proposed health benefits; below, we explore what these are and just why there might be some weight to them.
It’s a reported health tonic
Green tea is believed to aid in protecting cells against oxidative damage. This is thought to help slow down the aging process, strengthen the immune system, and possibly fend against certain cancers. Could this be one of the reasons behind the higher life expectancy of Japan, coupled with a low incidence of chronic disease?
It can help to accelerate fat loss
Green tea leaves are rich in polyphenols – naturally occurring plant compounds, scientifically known as catechins. In particular, they contain concentrated levels of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (or EGCG) which has been associated with elevated fat burning. EGCG has been shown to increase thermogenesis: the body’s mechanism of burning calories to generate heat. It’s also said to suppress the effects of catechol-O-methyltranferase – an enzyme that destroys the hormone norepinephrine, which plays an important role in fat metabolism. Therefore, green tea can help maintain levels of norepinephrine, leading to a greater fat-burning potential (and... breathe)!
Did you get all that?
It contains caffeine
Green tea contains caffeine, which is thought to work in harmony with EGCG. This is because of the stimulant effect of caffeine, which can increase the body’s ability to burn calories. Combined with EGCG, green tea is viewed as a powerful metabolism-booster; moreover, this is thought to work even during periods of rest. Green tea may help you to burn calories long after you finish exercising, so that your resting metabolic rate remains elevated for up to 24 hours! It also makes a great, natural ‘pick-me-up,’ so you feel more motivated to exercise in the first place.
Interestingly, black tea is derived from the same plant, but harvested at a different stage. To make black tea, leaves undergo a process of fermentation, which destroys the majority of the polyphenols. This is why green tea is viewed as somewhat superior to its more widely consumed cousin.
You don’t have to drink it
It’s difficult to determine just how much green tea is necessary to drink in order to reap its rewards. Plus, western culture hasn’t exactly mastered the art of brewing this ancient cuppa (no, black tea with milk, sugar and a digestive doesn’t count; see above). Ingeniously, many health and sports nutrition brands stock green tea in capsule format. These are not only convenient, but thought to deliver a potent source of EGCG and other polyphenols. Just one serving is said to have the same strength as 3-4 cups of brew!
Alternatively, you can get a product known as matcha, which is a finely ground, powdered green tea (also traditional to Japan, tea bag version here). You can mix a scoop of this with water, and knock it back in a single, virtuous shot; that’s your consumption covered for the day!