It doesn’t take much convincing to show that tea is healthier than other beverages. Tea is an all-natural drink derived from plants, which are packed with nutrients your body needs. The drink is much better for you than soda or coffee, but few stop to wonder what secret ingredient makes tea so healthy. Well, the secret is out: it’s catechins.
What are catechins?
Catechins are a type of compound derived from tea leaves. They belong in the antioxidant family and provide many similar health benefits. You might’ve heard that tea is good for you because it’s packed with antioxidants. Tons of whole foods contain antioxidants, but tea is special because it specifically contains catechins: one of the best antioxidants you can get in food.
Catechins are categorized into various types, some of which are only found in tea. In fact, tea is the only source for the most beneficial catechins. What makes catechins even more unique is the drinker has to prepare the tea leaves a special way. Tea leaves only release their catechins when they’re steeped in hot water. That’s easy enough to do—simply boil some water on the stove, then dunk that tea bag!
Teas with the highest prevalence of catechins
There are four types of tea: green, black, white and oolong tea. Catechins are found in all these types, except black. Out of the remaining three, green tea takes the cake. Green tea has by far the highest concentration of catechins. Not only that, green tea contains various different kinds of catechins that help boost its health benefits. One of the catechins is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is only found in green tea.
Some teas aren’t actually tea. Just because the word “tea” is on the packaging doesn’t mean your beverage will have catechins in it. Many tea bags hold dried fruit, herbs and spices without a trace of true tea. That raspberry passionfruit blend might contain antioxidants, but not catechins! Some fruits and herbs contain traces of catechins, but they’re not nearly as concentrated as the levels in green tea.
The secret health benefits of catechins
Many drink tea for its taste. There’s no better way to relax than sipping earthy, subtle aromas and cupping your hands around a warm mug. But tea doesn’t just taste good—it’s good for your body, too. The health benefits held within those tea leaves are all thanks to catechins.
Here’s why every person could use a cup of tea in their life:
- Weight loss. Tea catechins help individuals lose weight by speeding up their metabolism. The increased metabolism means your body is burning through energy a lot faster. This triggers adipose tissue to release fat stores for energy. As a result, people who combine tea with regular exercise will develop leaner mass and shrink their waist circumference.
- Cognitive health. Catechins block the free radicals that cause oxidative damage in cells. The compounds help preserve a cell’s normal functions, especially in the brain. Tea catechins can prevent or slow the progression of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. People who sustain traumatic brain injuries can also benefit from catechins’ healing properties. Catechins decrease inflammation and preserve motor and cognitive functioning.
- Heart health. Catechins’ anti-inflammatory powers can protect your heart, too. These compounds lower the risk of heart disease by regulating blood pressure and reducing the amount of platelet clumps. People who drink tea with catechins on a regular basis are less likely to develop hypertension, congestive heart failure or a heart attack.
- Cancer fighting. The antioxidant properties of catechins can lower the risk of certain cancers. They prevent cancer by protecting DNA strands against mutation. Cancer patients who take large doses of tea catechins have successfully suppressed tumor growth. Catechins might even be able to kill off cancer cells.
- Energy boost. Ditch your pre-workout energy drink and grab a cup of green tea instead! Catechins increase endurance during strenuous activity by supplying muscles with more oxygen. Also, catechins train the body to burn fat stores rather than glycogen. This helps you feel less exhausted, allowing you to crank out longer sessions in the gym.
Make tea part of your daily routine
Catechins are what your health regimen has been missing all along. You can reap amazing benefits just by adding a cup of green tea to your routine. Switch out that midafternoon coffee with some tea, or enjoy your favorite green tea blend right before bedtime. Drinking tea is a simple habit you can start right away—one that pays off down the road.