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Sunday, 18 July 2010





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The great green tea!

The Chinese have been hooked on it since the first brew was accidentally discovered by the emperor Shen Nung, when some tea leaves fell into a cup of steaming water he was about to drink. Since then, the story of the humble tea plant has been the stuff of legend. Contrary to popular belief, it does not come from a special ‘green tea tree’. Instead, it’s derived from the same Camellia sinensis plant that gives us our traditional black tea. The only difference is that it is heated as soon as its plucked, leaving it green and saving its healthy properties.

The secret of the tea lies in the flavour. The catchy sounding ‘catchetins’ are the flavonoids in green tea that gives it its astringent and sometimes bitter flavour and it’s also the element in green tea that is rich in the exotic sounding anti-oxidants. The Chinese may have discovered the secret to a healthy life eras ago but modern day doctors are also enthusiastic about the benefits of this verdant brew. Here Janani Amarasekera finds out the benefits of this “new coffee of the world.”

One day while going through the food stock at home, I found an unopened mysterious packet. I, being inquisitive as always, opened it to find green tea brought down from Japan. I was delighted and fascinated by the taste and the smell of those tea leaves.

As a result, I drank many cups a day regularly. It took some time for me to realise that I was becoming weaker and sleeping less. It was then that I assumed that it was because I was working too much, and never suspected green tea had something to do with that, until a colleague of mine told me about it. Later, I learnt that too much green tea and too little sleep will make you feel like a zombie.

Green tea is considered one of the best herbals that prevents many diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, and cancer. It also helps minimise damage and speeds recovery after a heart attack.

Most importantly, it is one of the best ways to melt away those unwanted fat layers in our body. Then how could our friend of ours be our enemy?

According to the ancient sayings, take any health food excessively, and it is likely to turn into a poison. Many researchers in Asia recommend having three cups of green tea a day.

However, due to mineral overdose, caffeine intolerance, and side effects, some people might have adverse effects.

Caffeine intolerance

The most common complain of green tea is caffeine intolerance. The amount of caffeine that ends up in your cup of green tea will vary according to the amount of tea used, the length of time the leaves are infused, and if you drink the first or second infusion.

Usually, the caffeine content in green tea is half the amount found in coffee. Therefore, moderate consumption does not cause much problem to many. If you are sensitive to caffeine, be on the alert about symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, heart palpitation, restlessness, sleeping problems, irritability, tremor, and skin rash, convulsions, ringing in the ears, confusion and frequent urination. Those suffering with anxiety should be extremely cautious as it can be worse. In addition to this, if a diabetes patient is in the habit of drinking green tea, they have to monitor their blood sugar carefully.

Nutrition Overdose

The tea plant collects aluminum, fluoride and manganese from the soil. If consumed for many years, these minerals can also be harmful. According to a research, a middle-aged woman who drank 17 to 33 cups of double-strength a day and was diagnosed with skeletal fluorosis. Though this is a very unusual example, it does highlight the dangers of drinking too much green tea.

Side effects

Those who have sensitive stomachs should take some extra care when drinking green tea as it can cause indigestion. It also causes problems in absorption of non-haeme iron, which makes an anaemic person’s problems worse. Green tea is also a factor that increases eye pressure. This can happen during the first 30 minutes to 90 minutes after drinking. Pregnant women shouldn’t take green tea in their first trimester.

Avoiding bad effects

Green tea was used as a valuable herbal for more than 2000 years. Therefore, even though it has some side effects, we shouldn’t give up drinking green tea. What we should know is how best to drink tea.

Do not drink the tea in full strength - Usually one cup contains maximum of three grams of tea leaves. However, some people might brew as much as 15 grams in a cup. This is not at all a good idea for those who have a sensitive stomach. When you drink tea in full strength, the caffeine content also goes up, which causes insomnia and polyphenols that can over-stimulate the production of gastric acids and cause stomach upset.

Do not drink tea on an empty stomach or with meals - Drinking green tea around meal times or while you are having the meal can cause indigestion, reduces the absorption of iron, and reduces absorption of Vitamin B (which is the main cause for beriberi). The alkaline nature of green tea tends to conflict with the acids produced by the stomach. It is best to drink green in-between meals or about two hours after you have eaten to avoid complexities. Drinking green tea after a meal prevents the absorption of nutrients helping you to lose weight but you should be careful as it stops all nutrition from going in.

Don’t drink tea with medications or when suffering from fever as green tea can interact with some medicines - Therefore, as a safety precaution, avoid drinking tea for at least two hours after taking medications.

Some of the best green tea around is the Lipton Green Tea range that is available in supermarkets and stores so grab your dose of green heaven but remember that too much green tea and too little sleep can make you feel like a zombie!

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