- Listed: March 10, 2014 4:14 pm
The Health Benefits of Green and White Tea
As an acupuncturist, I am often asked to offer dietary and lifestyle recommendations. I try to steer people towards a simple diet and healthy habits that are suited to their particular body type and constitution. In this regard, drinking green or white tea provides a number of definite health benefits for most people.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and current global production exceeds 4.3 million metric tons per year. Regardless of the variety, all tea is an infusion made from the leaves from the plant, Camellia Sinensis.
In making black and Oolong teas, the leaves are slightly bruised and then allowed to oxidize, which gives the tea a dark appearance and a stronger, distinctive taste. Oxidation also allows the caffeine to infuse more easily and as a result, black tea is the most caffeinated of teas. Green teas are subject to steaming or light roasting in order to prevent oxidation and preserve the natural color. As a result, green tea has a vegetal, slightly bitter taste and less caffeine. By contrast, white tea refers to tea in its raw, natural state. After picking, the leaves are simply arranged and allowed to dry, without processing. White and green teas both contain antioxidants and other valuable nutrients, some of which are diminished during the oxidation process involved in making black teas.
Another important nutrient in tea, particularly in green and white tea, is L-Theanine, an amino acid which produces a feeling of calmness together with increased mental alertness. Theanine content is highest in young, tender leaves and diminishes as the tea leaves mature.
Green and white teas are delicate. Excessive water temperature (above 170 degrees, 76 C) or over brewing will cook the leaves, producing a bitter flavor with excessive caffeine and bitter tannins. This diminishes the experience of calmness and clarity produced by a properly brewed cup of tea. So the secret of getting the benefits of green or white tea, along with a delicious taste and calming experience, is to brew your tea with cooler water, ideally between 160 and 170 degrees.
Here are a few of the health benefits of drinking green and white tea.
Antioxidants – The antioxidants in green and white tea help to protect cells from damage linked to cancer, as well as aging.
Brain Function – Green and white tea help to boost memory and slow the decline of acetylcholine in the brain, which is a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s. In addition, the antioxidants and the L-Theanine in green and white tea can prevent cell damage in the brain and increase dopamine production. Both of these factors can protect against Parkinson’s disease, or help to reduce symptoms for those who have it.
Heart Health – Green and white tea reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by helping to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and clean out the arteries.
Hydration – Poor hydration of body tissues can lead to many health problems, particularly in warm climates like Kauai. Drinking several cups of green or white tea every day will help to keep the body well hydrated.
Immune Function – There is evidence that the polyphenols and flavenoids in green and white tea help to regulate the immune system, thus increasing resistance to viruses and infections, as well as calming an overactive immune systems.
Mental Health – L-Theanine, an amino acid in green and white tea, produces a calming effect, which can reduce stress and anxiety.
Oral Hygene – Green and white tea reduce bacteria in the mouth, which contribute to many dental diseases as well as bad breath.
Reduced Sugar Consumption – Green and white tea help reduce sugar cravings. As a result, people who drink green and white tea tend to consume less sugar.
Weight Loss – Green tea promotes weight loss. Four cups a day can help you burn 70 to 150 extra calories per day. That’s 7 to 15 pounds in a year. If you maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and drink green tea, it’s unlikely you’ll be overweight.
For loose leaf green teas, I recommend high quality Dragon Well (Long Jing) or Japanese Sencha. For loose leaf white teas, I recommend Silver Needle or White Peony. If you prefer to use tea bags, I recommend the following brands: Celestial Seasonings, Numi, Prince of Peace or Tazo, all of which are organic.
Basic Brewing Guidelines: For most green and white teas, I suggest water temperature around 170 degrees (76 C). For green tea, place one bag, or a level teaspoon of loose tea, in a 10 oz mug and add about 9 oz of hot water. Cover the mug and let stand for 2 to 5 minutes. This is where trial and error comes in. Every tea is different and everyone has different taste. But in general, longer brewing time will increase the bitterness and caffeine content. For white teas, use a rounded teaspoon of loose tea, 170 degree water and brew for 5 to 7 minutes.
After the first brewing, don’t throw away those tealeaves! For both green and white teas, you can make 2 or even 3 infusions, each with their own qualities of taste and health benefits. For the second brewing, use slightly hotter and less water.
Bart Walton, L.Ac.
Licensed Acupuncture & Shiatsu
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