Tea has been considered a wonder drink since ancient times. It is the world's most popular drink after water. Tea originates from Camellia sinensis, a native of East and South Asia. Green tea has become the most popular variety of teas today owing to its health benefits. The beverage adds to several physical and psychological benefits. A new study published in 'The Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging' reveals regular tea consumption improves global cognition, executive function and information processing speed.
Components of Tea
Tea contains various components such as flavonoids, polyphenol, L-theanine, catechins, caffeine, theobromine and theophyllin.
Flavonoids in Tea
They are a group of plant pigments that possess antioxidant effects and provide health benefits through cell signalling pathways. These molecules provide anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-allergic benefits. United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) indicates, a cup of freshly brewed tea can provide over 133mg of flavonoid per 100ml.
Importance of Other Components in Tea
► Concentration of Polyphenols: 8-10 times higher in tea than in vegetables, fruits
► Polyphenols: Prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetics, high blood pressure, increases good cholesterol (HDL)
► Catechins: Supports healthy metabolism; Prevents effects of stress
► Theanine: Has psychoactive properties; Reduces mental and physical stress
► Caffeine: 30 to 40 mg caffeine per cup of tea, much lesser than coffee
There are more than 1500 varieties of tea; apart from an array of herbal teas. They are all from the same plant, but each of these teas has a unique method of preparation.
Green Tea: The leaves are steamed or roasted directly instead of being oxidised. It is rich in anti-oxidants.
Black Tea: The tealeaves are fully oxidised. They lose moisture and colour.
White Tea: This is the least processed and purest form of tea. The immature tealeaves are picked and left to wither for three days.
Oolong Tea: The leaves are roasted over charcoal and extremely energizing.
Herbal Tea: It is made from an infusion of herbs, spices, plants and usually caffeine free. It has medicinal benefits.
Guidelines for Brewing Tea
Tea brewing is an art. Each tea has an ideal steep time and may vary from 1-10 minutes. Steep time refers to the submerging of tea in hot water. The perfect steep time allows the tea's character, ingredients, antioxidants, flavour and colour to be infused into water.
Some Tips: It is best to use fresh water for boiling and pour the water directly over the tea bag. Never squeeze the teabags after steeping. It is good to keep the cup covered with a lid when steeping. Remove tea bag immediately after steeping. Consume the tea when it is warm.
The Excellence of Green Tea
A study among 40,530 people in Japan revealed that people who consumed green tea had lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. It estimated about 31% lower risk in women and 22% lower risk in men. Catechins in green tea produce free radicals in the lining of arteries. It also helps in prevention of blood clots, improves bone strength and bone mineral density. Many other studies conclude that green tea helps lower bad cholesterol, protects lungs and reduces body fat and dental plaque. Green tea lowers stress levels and boosts brainpower.
Best Time to Have Tea
Certain times during the day are the best to have tea.
Healing teas are usually best to have in between meals. If had along with meals, it can dilute gastric fluid in the stomach thus hampering easy digestion. Strong teas also cause a similar effect on digestion.
Green Tea: Avoid having green tea when going to bed. It will keep you awake. Green teas also cause stomach problems for some people. If you are over-weight or obese, it is good to drink tea around mealtime. This will block the absorption of nutrition.
Oolong Tea: Oolong tea increases fat excretion. Hence, it can be had with meals.
Tea and Weight Loss
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about tea and weight loss. Any natural, unsweetened tea can support weight loss. It is better to avoid "diet tea". They may act as a fat-blocker or a laxative. However, laxatives help clean out the colon and may help loose a bit of water weight initially. It helps having tea without milk, cream and sugar as these add to the body weight.
A cold glass of tea just before dinner will help for better rest. The stomach craves for lesser food. Moreover, cold tea needs to be heated up by the body so as to be metabolized. This expends extra calories, which lead to loss in weight.
Psychological Effects of Tea
There are certain psychological benefits of tea. An interview with Dr.K.Vijayan, a psychologist, provided us with some insights.
► Tea stimulates confidence and alertnes
► Tea makes a person more brisk
► Tea promotes better interaction with peers
► It is ideal to have four cups of tea in a day
► Tea decrease stress levels and irritability
► Tea can help with temporary increase of short term memory loss.
Some Interesting Facts about Tea
► China is the largest producer of tea in the world with 1,924,000 tonnes a year
► 5 Countries Topping Tea Consumption: Turkey, Morocco, Ireland, Mauritania and United Kingdom
► During hot weather, tea increases body temperature momentarily which helps perspiration and creates a cooling effect
► Frequent consumption of green or oolong tea, say about 2.5 cups a day, lowers the risk of hypertension by 46 percent
► For those who drink more than 2.5 cups of green tea a day, the risk of hypertension is 65 percent less
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