Got tea? Compounds found in the healthy beverage keep your heart strong

Green tea is, without a doubt, one of the most popular beverages today. If you want an excellent reason to drink more of it, then you’d be pleased to know that it can help keep your heart strong and healthy.

Green tea is made from the same leaves as traditional black tea, but unlike in the latter where the leaves have been oxidized (it is part of what gives black tea its characteristic color), the leaves used in green tea have merely been withered before they are steamed. There are plenty of very good reasons green tea is good for the heart.

For one, it is very rich in antioxidants. These are compounds that fight free radicals in your body, reducing the levels of oxidative stress that damages your cells, including those in your heart and blood vessels. High levels of oxidative stress are linked to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

One such antioxidant, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is noted for its ability to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. This is a condition wherein plaque builds up in the arteries, stifling the flow of blood and forcing the heart to pump harder just to get nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body. Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of heart attacks.

EGCG can also improve your metabolism. Increasing your intake of green tea may thus help you maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial in lowering your risk of heart disease.

Green tea also helps lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, according to several studies. High levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are known to increase your risk of cardiovascular conditions. This is supported by a study published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology involving 90,000 Japanese participants — the study associated the regular consumption of green tea with a lower risk of dying from either heart attack or stroke.

Another heart-related benefit of green tea has to do with the function of the endothelial cells. These make up the lining in your blood vessels and are essential to maintaining healthy blood pressure. Hypertension or abnormally high blood pressure is dangerous to your heart.

A study published in the Journal of Hypertension found that even the short-term treatment of hypertension with green tea can help improve cardiovascular function. The researchers associated this beneficial effect with green tea’s potent antioxidant content.

Like black tea, green tea contains caffeine, a stimulant. High levels of caffeine are known to be bad for the heart, but fortunately, green tea doesn’t contain a lot of the compound.

Other health benefits of drinking green tea

The health benefits of green tea are not limited to just a healthy heart. Here are other benefits you can gain from it:

  • It improves brain function – The caffeine in green tea helps keep your brain alert and ready to face challenges. In small doses, it is known to improve mood, memory, and reaction time. Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier. It enhances the function of the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine. Together, these two neurotransmitters help suppress feelings of depression.
  • It lowers the risk of cancer – Free radicals are linked to certain types of cancer. The antioxidant activity of green tea helps lower the risk of you developing certain types of cancer. These include colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer in men.
  • It lowers the risk of neurodegenerative diseases – The brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress, among the effects of which are neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The antioxidants in green tea help protect the brain from the damaging effects of oxidative stress, making you less likely to develop these conditions.
  • It has antibacterial effects – Green tea contains compounds called catechins. Some studies revealed that these compounds could inhibit viruses, such as the influenza virus. Catechins have also been found to help against Streptococcus mutans, a bacterial species linked to dental problems. This way, green tea can help fight bad breath.
  • It lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes – Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not respond to the insulin that your pancreas produces. This results in abnormally high blood glucose levels. Some studies have linked green tea to increased insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control.

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