The benefits of a nice cup of tea
Posted on 26th January 2018 at 16:59
Put your feet up and enjoy a nice healthy cup of tea
In my practice I often recommend green tea to clients. That isn’t to say that other teas don’t have their merits, they do, but green tea is an affordable ‘tonic’ that most people will derive many benefits from. It has anti-aging properties in that it has been found to improve brain function and prevent age-related memory issues.
Some years ago, having been a long time green tea drinker of the teabag variety I came across Hampstead Biodynamic Green Leaf Tea, which was quite a revelation. I am fascinated by biodynamic farming and its benefits to people, animals and the environment. My first experience of it was in the early 1990s when I was working in the wine trade. A perk of that existence was the tasting of some of the world’s finest wines and one comparative tasting pitted a White Burgundy produced in the classic way of the region against another which was made biodynamically. The complicated French laws of inheritance deem that a proportion of assets must be left to each child in equal shares, and in regions such as Burgundy this can mean that vineyards are divided into smaller sections and siblings can end up owning parcels of land adjacent to each other. These smaller vineyards share the same aspect, the same soil type and vines of the same age so should produce very similar wines. Both wines in our tasting were stunning but the biodynamic one had a depth and clarity that marked it superior to the other and my fascination with biodynamics began.
Biodynamic products which can be wines, fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and crops (and products derived from them) are certified by a body known as Demeter. The premise of biodynamic farming is that more is put into the land than taken out, all inputs are totally natural and the people, plants, animals and soil all work together to create a self-sustaining and living environment, forever. Moon phases are taken into account when it comes to planting, harvesting and tending the crops, the principles are organic and a whole lot more besides. Biodynamic agriculture is good for the planet and the resultant harvests are packed full of life-enhancing nutrients.
Hampstead Biodynamic Green Tea is produced at the Makaibari Tea estate in Darjeeling, the first ever Demeter certified estate in the world. It is delicate and fresh tasting and valued for its detoxifying and revitalising properties.
While both black and green teas are made from the same plant, green tea leaves are younger and undergo minimal processing; they are simply lightly steamed before being dried. Black tea goes through an oxidation process, called fermentation - both types of tea can make a healthful addition to the diet, but, because of the variation in their nutrient content, black and green tea offer slightly different health benefits.
Both support healthy bones and teeth, due to their natural fluoride content, but black tea provides more fluoride per serving than green. It is also higher in caffeine – around 42-72mgs per cup. Green tea contains between 9-50mgs. Caffeine can temporarily increase mental alertness, promote productivity and is said to even aid in weight loss. Certain genes determine each individual’s ability to metabolise caffeine so some of us can do it more efficiently than others. Caffeine per se can be beneficial to health but you do need to be guided by you own body – never drink so much caffeine that you feel ‘high’ or shaky and because it is a stimulant keep the majority of consumption to the earlier part of the day. The better the quality green tea the lower its caffeine content and I can drink Hampstead green tea late at night and still sleep soundly but this may not be the same experience for everyone. Caffeine is usually only a problem if consumed in excess and in green tea it combines with the natural relaxant theanine to improve concentration and productivity.
An ancient Chinese medicinal classic states that ‘drinking tea for a long time makes one thin’ and this long-held wisdom has been scientifically proven today. The key to using tea as a helpful weight loss tool is choosing the right kind, and the right kind is a high quality green tea. Weight loss supplements containing green tea extracts should be avoided.
Research also shows that regular green tea consumption can increase endurance levels by up to 24% which is great news because it means that exercise can be sustained for longer without fatigue setting in. More exercise equals increased metabolism and lean muscle mass which is important as we age.
What sets green tea apart from black tea in the health stakes are its higher levels of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant (see Credit in your health bank). These have been proven to improve dental and oral health, boost immunity, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and have a beneficial influence on gut bacteria.
Both black and green tea can offer cardiovascular benefits. Green tea helps control blood cholesterol levels, boosting the amount of beneficial cholesterol in your bloodstream while reducing the amount of harmful cholesterol, while black tea improves blood vessel function in those with coronary artery disease.
The higher the quality of the green tea the more potent it’s benefits and Hampstead Biodynamic Green Tea is one of the best. There are some precautions in regards to tea drinking however which need to be bourn in mind. Tea contains tannin that blocks the absorption of iron from food and supplements when consumed in excess amounts. Adding fresh lemon or drinking tea between meals counteracts this problem and although drinking green tea does slow down the absorption of iron, studies have shown no relationship between drinking moderate amounts and iron depletion. The caffeine component of green tea has a diuretic effect which can result in more frequent urination which in turn can lead to water soluble vitamins such as B12 being excreted at a faster rate.
All in all, organic green tea is a healthy product when consumed in moderate amounts – 3 to 5 cups a day are considered beneficial. Current evidence however does suggest that green tea should be avoided by pregnant and breast feeding women and that it may react with certain medications including those prescribed for lowering blood pressure. Teeth can be stained by the tannins in tea but I have found in practice that this is usually only an issue with lower quality tea and those with added flavourings.
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