What’s Really in Your Cup of Green Tea?

What’s Really in Your Cup of Green Tea?

The benefits of a cup of green tea are indisputable–it lowers your risk of disease from simple infections to chronic, degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis. But athough this 5,000-year-old remedy is incredibly good for you, not all green teas are created equal.

The most healthful ingredient in green tea are flavonoids in the form of catechins–the most important of which is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). It plays an essential role in green tea’s anticancer and antioxidant impact. But the way that green tea is produced has a lot to do with the amount of EGCG found in the product.

Read more about the health benefits of green tea

EGCG Content Varies in Green Tea

For example, bottled green tea has an average of 12 mg EGCG, flavored, brewable green tea has 43 mg, decaffeinated green tea has 56 mg, and regular green tea has 127 mg. This is based on three cup per day consumption from the USDA’s database on flavonoid content.

Green tea doesn’t have a very long shelf life. The typical shelf life from the date of packaging is 6 months–so when you drink your tea matters. It expires and loses its healthful impact. Loose leaf teas are the best because they have the most catechins, which detoxify your body. Bottled green teas not only have the lowest EGCG content, they often have added sugar, which adds calories to the product.

Lead in Your Tea

A report from ConsumerLab.com also found that many of the tea bags, especially those sourced from China, contain lead. The lead is likely a result of the excessive industrial pollution in China which ends up in the soil. According to the study, “Our tests of brewable teas also revealed lead contamination in the tea leaves of several products — although, fortunately, most of this lead stays in the leaves rather than going into the tea.”

“Lead can occur in many botanical products because it is taken up from the ground,” said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com to The New York Times. “The green tea plant is known to absorb lead at a higher rate than other plants from the environment, and lead also can build up on the surface of the leaves.”

Read more about the dangers of lead poisoning

What to Look For in Green Tea:

•  Loose leaf

•  Organic

•  Hasn’t been on the shelf too long

•  Not sourced from China

What to Avoid:

•  Don’t boil the water, it will damage the antioxidants, especially EGCG

•  Skip bottled teas, especially those with added sugars and opt for a cup of green tea you brew yourself

•  Watch your caffeine levels, some teas have nearly as much caffeine as a cup of coffee

Photo Credit: Kinchan1

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Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger, HowStuffWorks.com, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.