Despite what the marketers may tell you, there really aren't that many “super foods.” But green tea is in that very select company.
Green tea is made from a species of evergreen shrub, and its use dates back at least over 4,000 years. Although it won't cure or prevent your cancer as some of its more fanatical proponents tout, it contains such a quantity and quality of nutrients that it's easily one of the best foods you can consume regularly that you probably already aren't enjoying.
Green tea's main muscle stems predominantly from the high concentration of polyphenols it contains. These nutrients, which include flavonoids and catechins, function as powerful antioxidants. Oxidation, biologically speaking, is a chemical reaction that generates free radicals, which in turn cause reactions that can damage cells. Antioxidants, as you might expect, reduce the number of oxidation reactions, diminishing the amount of free radicals in your body, and so protecting your cells from damage. Green tea is not processed much before you pour it into your cup, so it's chock full of catechins.
The wonder tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has anti-anxiety effects through its production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. It even increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain.
Green tea contains caffeine, although not as much as coffee. The buzz it generates is milder, and its interaction with L-theanine makes for overall improved brain function. In one study, MRIs revealed that people who drank green tea had greater activity in the working-memory area of their brains. Analyses have also shown that green tea helps block the formation of the plaques linked to Alzheimer's disease.
In people with diabetes, green tea assists in keeping blood sugar stable. And because catechins lower cholesterol and blood pressure, green tea should be the go-to drink for anyone trying to combat the effects of a high-fat diet. You may have heard that green tea actually helps you lose weight, by “melting” or “metabolizing” fat. That, unfortunately, is a myth.
Green tea has been shown to improve blood flow and lower cholesterol. A 2013 review of many studies found green tea helped prevent a range of heart-related issues, from high blood pressure to congestive heart failure.
Heard enough? Make yourself a cup! Just don't make the common American mistake of boiling the water for the tea, as it is bad for the catechins. Try to achieve a water temperature range between 160 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to read the labels on your teas, as they are not all created equal – the cans of green tea “drink” are notoriously low in the nutrients you are drinking green tea for in the first place. Your best bet will likely be the more expensive “boutique” brands often found in Asian foods specialty stores.