Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Green tea, weight loss, diabetes, and caffeine

I recently received an email asking about the health benefits of green tea, so I am posting my replies here.


Weight loss. To answer your question on weight loss, Commandment Number 2 in diet guru Charles Stuart Platkin's "five-pound panic" diet is:

Thou shalt drink green tea every day. It sounds crazy but it's true: Green tea helps burn fat. Two recent studies showed a 4 percent increase in metabolism in subjects who consumed green tea (rich in catechins, a type of antioxidant) at each meal versus a placebo. This may seem insignificant, but a woman who requires 1,800 calories a day could burn an extra 500 calories per week just by making this small change. That's an average of seven lost pounds per year!


And if you're a coffee drinker, switching to green tea can help you lose weight by avoiding the acids in coffee that increase your levels of insulin, which locks in fat, as Nicholas Perricone said on the Oprah show:

Oprah: Now I've read in your book that you said if I just replaced coffee with green tea instead, that I could lose 10 pounds in six weeks.

Dr. Perricone: Absolutely.

Oprah: Now really. How could that -- what is the big deal about this?

Dr Perricone: Coffee has organic acids that raise your blood sugar, raise insulin. Insulin puts a lock on body fat. When you switch over to green tea, you get your caffeine, you're all set, but you will drop your insulin levels and body fat will fall very rapidly. So 10 pounds in six weeks, I will guarantee it.


Green tea also contains theanine, which naturally enhances your feeling of well-being (thereby cutting down on stress-related snacking).


Why small-farm green tea is better. As for why our tea is better than what you'd find at the local grocery store, there are at least two main reasons: (1) Our tea is grown in a location where the tea plant thrives naturally (not where land and labor are cheapest), so it grows hearty without the use of chemical fertilizers. (2) At harvest time, our small-scale family farms harvest only what they can process into tea right away, thus locking in all the antioxidants before they're broken down by oxidation or fermentation.


A good book on green-tea basics. The best introductory book on green tea I've come across is Nadine Taylor's "Green Tea." This concise, well-written book covers everything -- the history of tea, how it's made, how green tea is different from other types of tea, and what it's health benefits are. I highly recommend it.


Green tea and caffeine. A problem with decaf green tea is that it usually contains less EGCG (one of green tea's most powerful antioxidants) than ordinary green tea.


Green tea already has about two-thirds less caffeine than coffee does. What's more, the polyphenols in green tea smooth your body's uptake of caffeine, so you get less jolt and no crash later on. Here is a somewhat lengthy article I wrote on green tea and caffeine.


Green tea and diabetes. Diabetes is no laughing matter. My own grandmother has it and my mother is working on it, so I'm trying to keep my own numbers in check naturally, and one of the "tools" I've been using is green tea. There's more on green tea and diabetes here.


How to "spice up" green tea. As for the flavor of green tea, I recommend starting out with our Genmaicha, which is green tea mixed with roasted brown rice. The rice imparts a nice nutty flavor that covers up the grassy aroma that can, I admit, take some getting used to. But the roasted brown rice doesn't chemically interfere with any of the tea's good stuff.


Other things you can add to green tea on your own include honey, pieces of fruit, and vanilla extract (just a couple of drops!), just to name a few. As for fruit, research has recently been announced that citrus fruit can boost the health benefits of green tea by allowing more of the tea's antioxidant molecules to be absorbed into the bloodstream from the body's digestive system. This is a new finding which I haven't blogged on yet, but here is an article on it.


So a way to get citrus juice into you tea would be to brew a pot of tea with a couple of pieces of dried orange peel (which is actually an Asian custom that goes back hundreds of years) or squeeze a couple of drops of citric acid from a fresh orange peel into your brewed tea, or just drop an orange or lemon wedge right into your tea.


Thanks for all your inquiries!

A scene in Aso, Japan, where our small-farm tea is grown.


—Mellow Monk


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