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By Ernesta Stripeikaite
Green tea is touted as a health drink and rightly so, as it has numerous health and beauty benefits.
The three main varieties of tea - green, oolong and black, all come from the same plant, called Camellia Sinensis. The difference is in the level of fermentation. Green tea is not fermented at all, only steamed, which makes it the most health promoting of the three. Oolong tea is partly fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. Fermentation reduces the antioxidant content in tea and increases caffeine concentration. Green tea contains the most antioxidants, while black tea has 2-3 times more caffeine than green tea.
The main bioactive compounds in green tea can help improve your health and wellbeing, as well as make you feel and look younger. The antioxidant polyphenols, such as flavonoids and catechins in green tea help to scavenge free radicals, which can damage our cells and cause havoc in the body. Free radicals have been admitted as one of the main players in ageing, having an active role in the development of chronic illnesses and also in the ageing of the skin. The antioxidants in green tea help to neutralise the free radical compounds and have an important role in improving wellbeing. An average cup of green tea will provide 50 to 150 mg of polyphenols.
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) is the most potent active antioxidant component in green tea, that prevents oxidative damage to body cells and tissues. Most importantly, it is exclusively found only in green tea as there is no fermentation which affects the compound. Oolong and black teas do not contain this powerful antioxidant.
Green tea contains caffeine and an amino acid L-theanine, which have synergistic effects for improving the brain function by either inhibiting or increasing certain neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are messengers in our brains that convey information from one neuron to another. They can either carry the message over or stop its action. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that stops some activities in the brain and thus it can induce sleep and relaxation. Caffeine blocks adenosine’s action, which results in increased concentration of other neurotransmitters – dopamine and noradrenaline. Both of these are classed as excitatory and are important for alertness and help us to take action, while dopamine is also responsible for the feelings of award and pleasure.
L-theanine helps to increase dopamine as well, but it also boosts GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and alpha waves in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and induces feelings of relaxation, while alpha waves help to increase focus and concentration.
All these effects of caffeine and L-theanine combined create relaxed, stable energy and increased productivity without the jitteriness of coffee.
Weight loss and performance
Green tea has been known and used as a weight loss aid for a while now. While there are no magic pills that can melt the excess padding away, combined with a nutritious diet and an effective exercise programme, green tea can help to speed up the process of weight loss. It does this by mobilizing fatty acids from the stored fat tissues, which makes them available for use as energy. This also results in improved physical performance and higher metabolic rate.
Other tips for weight loss
Successful and long term weight loss can only be achieved by changing the diet and lifestyle for good. Implementing these small steps daily will soon add up and change how you look and feel.
Protein with every meal
Many people do not realise that they are actually not eating enough protein. The general aim is to have 1g of protein per 1kg of lean body mass daily. For example, if you weigh 60kg, you need about 60g of protein per day. Divide this into 3 meals and you have a goal of consuming 20g of protein with breakfast, lunch and dinner. For instance, 1 large egg will give you about 6g of protein and 100g of chicken breast – approx. 20g protein. Alternate and rotate between different kinds of meats, fish, dairy, pulses and nuts to get a variety of other nutrients as well as protein.
3 regular meals a day
Having regular wholesome meals that consist of vegetables, protein, fat and carbohydrates helps to aid weight loss in many ways. Balanced blood sugar provides stable energy throughout the day and will lessen cravings. This can increase motivation to exercise, which in turn gives even more energy and boosts mood and wellbeing. It is a healthy cycle, and the domino effects can really be created with sustainable breakfast, lunch and dinner. Aim for half a plate of colourful veggies, palm size portion of protein, a small fist size of carbs and a good serving of healthy fats.
Slow down, breathe and chew
Choosing healthy meals is one important step towards weight loss and better life quality, but digesting and absorbing the nutrients is also very important. In fact, you are not what you eat – you are what you absorb. To make the most of every bite you put in your mouth, try to find a quite space to sit down at meal times. Otherwise if in a rush, try to take a few deep breaths before eating and consciously tune into your body and relax. Stress shuts digestion down so you won’t be getting much for your buck by not absorbing all that expensive protein you have invested in.