Whether hot or iced, tea made from real tealeaves provides more than just great taste. Tea cleanses the body, lifts mood, eases anxiety and restores our sense of well being. Scientific studies suggest abundant health benefits and disease-fighting properties from a daily cup.
WHAT MAKES TEA SO HEALTHY?
What makes tea so healthy? Researchers are working around the globe trying to answer this very question! Although we do not have all the answers, we do know that tea contains potent antioxidants that are many times stronger than antioxidant-powerhouses vitamins C and E. Tea also contains soothing, stress-relieving properties and has no fat, carbs or sodium and virtually no calories. Tea is also the only source for a remarkable amino acid called Theanine, which can reduce anxiety and improve mood.
You may have noticed that drinking a cup of tea feels nurturing and comforting. This is not your imagination! Scientists have discovered that theanine, a rare amino acid found exclusively in high-quality tea, acts as a natural anti-depressant and has many beneficial and calming effects on the body.
IMPROVE MOOD, REDUCE ANXIETY
Theanine is known to promote mental and physical relaxation, improve mood and reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness. Its consumption stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, which create a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation. Theanine also positively affects neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, creating a relaxed, happy feeling. Coupled with caffeine, the theanine-induced alpha brainwaves lead to an uplifted mental mood, often described as a state of calm alertness. An ancient, Chinese Tang Dynasty poet refers to this effect as “Tea Drunk.”
In addition to reducing stress and lifting mood, scientists believe that theanine may also increase concentration and memory, combat PMS, and regulate blood pressure.
Tea is one of the richest sources of dietary antioxidants. In fact, a single cup of tea may have the antioxidant equivalent of over 10 servings of fruits or vegetables. Antioxidants play an important role in maintaining health by preventing free radicals (unstable molecules) from causing damage to cells, which may otherwise lead to disease, aging, and cancer.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
Spawning from environmental pollution, toxins, pesticides, sunlight, food and natural metabolic activity in the body, free radicals are vicious, unstable molecules missing an electron in their outer shell. Free radicals destroy living tissue by stealing electrons from healthy cells, damaging them in the process. If not for our body’s defenses, free radicals would rapidly accelerate the aging process and severely damage the ability of the immune system to battle infection. Oxidative stress on a cellular level can damage DNA and has been linked to the onset of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants prevent free radicals, the unstable molecules that result from oxidation, from damaging cells.
Many experts believe that the best way to provide the body with the most complete protection against free radicals is to consume a large variety of antioxidants. Tea contains some of nature’s most potent antioxidants. Regular tea drinking is recommended to protect and heal the body, as well as to keep our cells young and healthy.
Tea’s health benefits are often attributed to its robust antioxidant and theanine content. Let’s take a closer look at some of the important components of tea:
Tea contains high concentrations of polyphenols (antioxidants), which are a class of phytochemicals associated with heart disease and cancer prevention.
Flavonoids are a specific class of polyphenols present in fruits, vegetables, tea, grape juice and red wine. Over 4,000 different flavonoids have been identified. Flavonoids possess strong antioxidant properties and may protect cells and tissue against free radicals. Flavonoids may also offer non-antioxidant properties (such as regulating complex cell processes) associated with a variety of health benefits. During the meeting of the American Dietetic Association in May 2005, tea was identified as the most significant source of flavonoids in the US diet.
Catechins are the primary flavonoids produced by the Camellia sinensis plant. Because green and white tealeaves undergo minimal processing, they retain the leaf’s naturally high level of catechins. EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) is the main catechin in green tea and appears to be the most powerful—with antioxidant activity about 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. Catechins are believed to fight aging and cancer and are responsible for the slightly astringent, bitter flavor often associated with green tea.
THEAFLAVINS AND THEARUBIGINS
When green tealeaves are oxidized to create black tea, the leaf undergoes an enzymatic reaction, which changes the color of the leaves and results in the polymerization of catechins into theaflavins and thearubigins. Theaflavins and thearubigins are believed to prevent heart disease and promote cardiovascular health. Because it is partially oxidized, oolong tea contains both green tea’s catechins and black tea’s theaflavins and thearubigins.
Theanine is a rare amino acid (found almost exclusively in high quality tea--especially white and green teas) that produces a calming, mood-enhancing effect in the brain, acting as a natural anti-depressant and stress reliever. Theanine is highly concentrated in the young tealeaves early in the growing season, and is converted into catechins as the leaf matures. Therefore, tea that comes from early harvests and teas that are shade-grown contain the highest levels of theanine because the extra production of catechin is restricted. (Early-harvest and shade-grown teas also contain a high percentage of catechins because the leaves are young and nutrient-dense). Theanine provides an elegant, gentle, sweet taste to the tealeaves.