Let's start out by answering the question what are antioxidants? How do antioxidants work and why are antioxidants good for you?
To define antioxidants, they are best described as molecules that slow the pace of oxidation reactions, and hinder damaging effects of oxygen in tissues. Although this is the technical definition, they have also been described as molecules that provide protection from a free radical in the body (or a molecule with a damaged electron).
Antioxidants work in your body to fight off damage caused by damaged molecules trying to attack the healthy molecules in your body.
Antioxidants are good for you because the only way you can fight off free radical damage is through your immune system, or antioxidants.
Certainly getting enough exercise and changing your diet to include foods rich in antioxidants are great ways to make sure you're getting enough protection, but another very easy thing to do is to drink tea everyday.
One cup won't do the job. It is recommended that you drink 4 or more cups a day to make a difference. But think about it, a cup in the morning, during a morning break, afternoon break and at dinnertime and you've got it. A very easy way to give yourself all the benefits that only antioxidants can give you.
Tea Antioxidant Levels
Again, we've all heard about green tea, but did you know it isn't #1 on the antioxidant list? Here is the list, in order of highest antioxidant levels:
- White tea
- Green Rooibos tea
- Green tea
- Red Rooibos tea
- Oolong tea
- Black tea
Surprised? A lot of people swear by black tea, and there are certainly many benefits of black tea, however, green tea has an antioxidant level 5x higher than black tea. White tea has even more than that.
The reason for this is that unlike black and Oolong tea, white and green tea leaves are not are not allowed to ferment before the leaves are dried. It is during this time that if the leaves are left to ferment, they will oxidize during processing, and oxidizing decreases the amount of EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), a flavonoid with powerful antioxidant properties.
Why are antioxidants so important?
First of all, your body needs antioxidants to fight back against free radical damage. Free radicals are produced naturally by your body while metabolizing food, a by-product of that process, if you will. Also generated from toxins entering your body like smoke, pollution and damaging UV rays from the sun.
Free radicals, if left unchecked, can cause damage to your cells, lipids, DNA, etc., which may cause diseases to develop in the body.
What kind of damage are we talking about here?
Free radicals are believed to responsible for causing illnesses and diseases such as cancer, development of cancer cells, tumors, heart disease, cognitive impairment, eye disorders (i.e.; macular degeneration), diabetes, and accelerate the onset of physical aging and age-related conditions and diseases. Free radicals are extremely toxic and can damage to important cell fragments like DNA, which can cause harm to tissues and even the brain.
Back to the Antioxidant Activity of Tea
The very powerful antioxidant properties of tea cannot be ignored. Tea is 100x more effective than vitamin C at containing damage caused by free radicals, and 25x more so than vitamin E.
As for green tea specifically, it seems to have the highest concentrated levels of the catechin EGCG, which is believed to prevent viruses from attaching themselves to cell walls in the body and causing damage.
The antioxidants in tea have been found to reduce tumors and cancers, slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells, lower "bad" cholesterol, help digestion, even protect against virus that causes the common cold. Antioxidants work well to boost your immune system, which needs to be healthy to fight back against the free radical damage.
Even if these statistics cannot be proven 100%, increasing your level of antioxidants certainly cannot hurt you. There is no unsafe level of antioxidants.
A cup of green tea delivers approximately 10-40 mg of polyphenols, which are substances found in plants (i.e.; tea leaves). The only concern with tea may be the caffeine levels, which may adversely affect those who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Caffeine levels are listed below (based on a serving size of 8 oz)
White tea (30-55 mg)
Green tea (35-70 mg)
Oolong tea (50-75 mg)
Black tea (60-90 mg)
Black gold or Texas tea (just a joke...)
Compare those numbers to an 8-oz cup of coffee coming in at 150-200 mg. I still love my coffee though!
Decaffeinated tea is an option, but again, would require additional processing and the more the tea leaves are "processed," the less antioxidants you will get. During the fermentation process, tea leaves may be subjected to oxidation (like black and Oolong). The oxidation inactivates catechins, thereby lowering the antioxidant levels of the tea.
I hope you can see how important it is to get lots of antioxidants into your body everyday. An easy way to do this is to take advantage of the antioxidants in tea.
So grab yourself a steaming cup of your tea of choice, and relax knowing you are fighting age-related illnesses and diseases with every sip!