It is widely accepted that green tea is a great addition to any healthy diet. From reducing the risk of cancer to lowering cholesterol, it is clear that this tea has a unique ability to aid in the treatment and prevention of a number of life-threatening illnesses. Despite being calorie-free, the true benefits that green tea provides come from something called catechin polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants can be found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but are also present in green tea in particularly large amounts. These antioxidants help prevent cancer by removing harmful substances called free radicals from the body. Left intact, these free radicals are irregular molecules with unpaired electrons. They attempt to steal electrons from nearby cells to make up for this shortage, and in doing so the nearby cells are then transformed into free radicals as well. It is this ability to spread irregular molecules that leads to cancer. By removing free radicals from the body, cells can remain healthy and function normally.
One specific polyphenol that can be found in green tea in large quantities is called epigallocatechin gallate. This antioxidant has the ability to both prevent the formation of cancer by removing free radicals from the system, and to kill existing cancer cells without harming healthy tissues. This means that not only can cancer be prevented, but through the consumption of green tea cancer cells can also be eliminated from the body. This is not to say that simply drinking green tea alone is enough to effectively treat cancer, only that used in combination with other treatments, this beverage can improve chances of success.
In addition to its anti-cancerous properties, green tea is also known to lower the amount of harmful (LDL) cholesterol in the body. This type of cholesterol is needed in small amounts to repair the walls of arteries, but with too much in the blood LDL cholesterol can form blood clots and even cause heart attacks. While it is not exactly clear why, researchers seem to believe that green tea acts to inhibit the absorption of LDL cholesterol in the digestive tract, which increases the amount that will be excreted while decreasing the amount that will remain in the body. Additionally, studies have shown that this tea also has the effect of reducing the conversion of LDL cholesterol into a more dangerous oxidized form. Once this cholesterol is oxidized it becomes extremely sticky and begins to cling to the walls of the arteries. This is what generally causes blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke. By preventing this conversion green tea actually helps keep the arteries clean so that they can deliver blood throughout the body effectively.
Another relatively small benefit that green tea can provide comes through its ability to cause a temporary boost in metabolism. Due to the relatively low presence of caffeine, this ability to increase metabolism actually comes from the thermogenic effect of the tea. This means that the tea temporarily causes the body to use 3-4 percent more energy to generate heat. The body must then increase its metabolism to meet these higher energy requirements. With an increased metabolism excess fat will be burned which makes green tea an excellent supplement for any weight loss program.
Through its high content of powerful antioxidants and its ability to lower harmful cholesterol and increase metabolism, green tea packs a very healthy punch. It is believed to benefit many diseases and infections, and is an easy way to contribute to a healthy lifestyle.