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What Does Green Tea Do for the Body?

By Tamara Moffett

Second only to water, tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world. Green, black and oolong teas all come from the same source. The leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are steamed, rather than using other methods, to produce green tea. Consume green tea to enhance alertness and prevent chronic disease. Check with your doctor first, though, as it does have side effects.

Protect Your Cells

Polyphenols are plant chemicals that exhibit powerful antioxidant activity. Antioxidants help destroy harmful free radicals, molecules that can damage your cells and alter DNA. One 1 cup of green tea contains between 80 and 100 milligrams of polyphenols, according to the National Institutes of Health. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, is the most common polyphenol found in green tea and is responsible for the tea’s health benefits.

Fight Cancer

The polyphenols in green tea may obstruct new tumor growth, destroy existing cancer cells and prevent free radicals from damaging your cells. Animal studies show that green tea is helpful in preventing cancers of the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. More human research needs to be conducted before making recommendations on green tea and cancer prevention, maintains the National Cancer Institute.

Prevent Heart Disease

Drinking green tea may lower your risk of heart disease by reducing total cholesterol levels and increasing the levels of HDL, or the good cholesterol, in your blood. Polyphenols may actually block absorption of cholesterol in your gastrointestinal tract. Green tea antioxidants may also protect against atherosclerosis, or the plaque buildup in your arteries that can cause heart attack or stroke, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Stay Alert

If you’ve got a long day ahead of you and you need to concentrate, have some green tea. With around 50 milligrams of caffeine per cup, green tea may improve mental alertness. Caffeine produces a stimulating effect on the nervous system.

Buyer Beware

Talk to your doctor before making green tea a regular part of your health regimen. Limit green tea intake if you have diabetes or severe liver disease, or if you are sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine may cause anxiety, irritability, insomnia, upset stomach, skin rashes, frequent urination, nausea or diarrhea. Be wary of concentrated green tea supplements, which may not list caffeine content. Vitamin K in green tea may interact with some medications, including antidepressants, proton pump inhibitors and blood thinners.

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