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Benefits of Eating Green Tea

Common sense would dictate that eating green tea leaves is more beneficial than drinking the tea brewed from the leaves. If the hot water that has been soaking in the leaves contains flavor and nutrients from the leaves, then logically the leaves themselves should contain higher concentrations of these nutrients. Research shows that drinking green tea in regular quantities can protect against heart disease [1], cancer [2] [3] [4], HIV [5], obesity [6] and liver disease.[7] Green tea leaves can also boost exercise endurance.[8] According to medical science, green tea leaves contain an antioxidant called epigallocatechin (EGCG), which is responsible for this vigilant goodness.

Green tea leaves also contain proteins, fibers, vitamins and carbohydrates. (All of these elements and more are documented in “Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea”, Takehiko Yamamoto, CRC Press Limited, 1997.) These elements never make it into the brew, however, as they are insoluble in water. This is certainly another good reason to eat green tea leaves directly; the nutrients will be absorbed into the body after ingestion and not left in the tea leaves that are brewed. Japanese scientists publishing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology actually state that “simply drinking green tea would not offer people protection from the [AIDS] virus”. [9] But the higher concentrations of EGCG and other water insoluble nutrients in green tea leaves would be better suited for ingestion if any real benefit is wanted from the tea.

The only water soluble parts of green tea leaves are the compounds that we in fact brew and drink them for: catechin, caffeine and theanine. These nutrients are full of flavor and substance. So what in essence is happening with the tea brewing process is that we are separating these substances from the tea leaves and leaving the remaining nutrients behind.

An issue often brought up against ingesting green tea leaves is that most commercially produced and packaged plants will at some stage be contaminated with chemicals (either as fertilizer or pesticides). [10] These apparently are not water soluble in their current state, but can become a problem if ingested along with the leaves, because they are in fact soluble in fat. The answer to this is to consume organically grown and produced “bio” green tea leaves which will not be affected by this issue at all. [11]

Taking all the above into account, if one wants to see the larger picture, then eating green tea leaves directly is obviously the more beneficial way of consuming green tea. There is no purpose in separating some nutrients from the substances we drink tea for. Green tea leaves can be eaten as is or processed into food or pills.

Preparation of green tea leaves for consumption can be simple or complicated. First, you can simply flavor your stir fries or soups with the leaves and cook them into the mix as you would with any other herb or spice. The cooking effect in oil, butter or lard will release the soluble nutrients into the added fat and also keep the insoluble nutrients for physical consumption.

You can make things a little bit more interesting as well – some people bake tea leaves into muffins and cookies. The process is not too complicated. What you need to do is crush the tea leaves into a paste along with some butter using a mortar and pestle, or a garlic press. This crushing process can release the beneficial, soluble nutrients in the butter, which you can then use in your baking mix. The flavor and aroma will be more detectible this way as well. Some ideas for recipes you can try out are green tea t-bars, chocolate tea bars or honey toasted oat cereal.

While green tea leaves are considered nice to drink when brewed, all of the above shows that they are more beneficial to the body if ingested as is or prepared to be eaten whole with food. The natural chemicals found in green tea leaves are soluble in the water, but there is no reason to separate them from those nutrients that are soluble only in the human body. Not eating tea leaves results in discarding much of the nutritional value of the plant. Vitamins found in green tea leaves are A, B1, B2, Niacin and C. [12] Most of these vitamins are discarded in the tea brewing process. Furthermore, the anti-oxidant catechin found in green tea leaves have the same properties as vitamins E and C. [13] [14] All of these factors contribute to green tea leaves being extremely good for health as their natural minerals and chemicals help to prevent degenerative diseases of the body and improve overall health and fitness.

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[1] “Tea leaves and health”, http://www.betterhealthchannel.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Tea_leaves_and_health?open. Victoria, Australia government health website refers to research by Japanese scholars where green tea is supposed to reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), a blood cholesterol which can block the arteries.
[2] “Cancer hope for green tea extract”, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4348059.stm. The EGCG taken from green tea leaves inhibits cancer cell growth, according to a study by Spanish and UK researchers published in the Cancer Research journal. “The EGCG binds to a key enzyme (dihydrofolate reductase), which is used in established anti-cancer drugs.” Apparently, green tea leaves work almost the same way as the popular methotrexate anti-cancer drug.
[3] Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer on Chinese women” (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121428129/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0), “Mushroom, green tea cut breast cancer risk by 89 percent” (http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Nutrition/Food/mushroom_and_green_tea_together_cut_breast_cancer_risk_by_89_per.html) and “Cancer protection from mushrooms” (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/03March/Pages/Cancerprotectionfrommushrooms.aspx). The study, performed on about a thousand female patients aged 20-87, showed that they are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not consume mushrooms and green tea on a regular basis.
[4] “Green tea extract may boost cancer-fighting enzymes”, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSFOR06645620070820
[5] “Green tea extract may fight HIV”, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3257237.stm. Japanese scientists have investigated and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that EGCG in green tea “could lead to new treatments to fight” HIV. Similarly as with cancer cells, “EGCG prevents HIV infected cells from binding with CD4 molecules and T cells”, thus slowing the spread of the disease in the body and the destruction of the immune system.
[6] “Green Tea Extract Boosts Exercise Endurance 8-24%, Utilizing Fat As Energy Source”, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050128221248.htm. Japanese scientists “recently demonstrated that the long-term consumption of tea catechins was beneficial in counteracting the obesity-inducing effects of a high-fat diet”. Specifically, fat oxidation is promoted by the natural chemicals found in green tea leaves.
[7] “Tea leaves and health”, http://www.betterhealthchannel.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/. Catechin is one of the most powerful antioxidants. Polyphenol, also contained in green tea, can fight inflammation of the liver.
[8] “Green Tea Extract Boosts Exercise Endurance 8-24%, Utilizing Fat As Energy Source”, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050128221248.htm. The green tea extract used in the experiments had equivalent EGCG quantities as would be found in 4 cups of tea per day. Specifically, the study shows that long term consumption of green tea can increase endurance by a significant amount – helping the human body stay longer in exercise or sport sessions.
[9] “Green tea extract may fight HIV”, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3257237.stm.
[10] “Leaching of Pesticides in Tea Brew”, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf010436d
[11] “Green Your Green Tea: Keep it Loose, Organic and Fair Trade”, http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/green-tea-loose.html. “Choose organic”, suggests the article, as they are “processed without toxic chemicals and harvest ecosystems in a protective way”, as well as not exposing anyone to “harmful pesticides and herbicides”.
[12] “Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea”, Takehiko Yamamoto, CRC Press Limited, 1997
[13] Randall J. Ruch, Shu-jun Cheng and James E. Klaunig, “Prevention of cytotoxicity and inhibition of intercellular communication by antioxidant catechins isolated from Chinese green tea”, Oxford University Press, 1989
[14] “Green Your Green Tea: Keep it Loose, Organic and Fair Trade”, http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/green-tea-loose.html. Green tea leaves also provide “greater antioxidant protection than vitamins C and E”. This is reinforced by the study: Rice-Evans CA, Miller NJ, Bolwell PG, Bramley P, Pridham JB, “The relative antioxidant activities of plant-derived polyphenolic flavonoids”, Free Radic Res 22: 375-383, 1995.

We invite you to re-post this recipe on your own web site with the following hyper-linked attribution
“Republished with permission from EatGreenTea.com, the original edible green tea.”

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