– by Michelle, “The Tea Nutritionist”
A dear friend and tea colleague of mine recently asked me about oligomeric proanthocyanidins, as she had read an article that boasted these as among the most powerful antioxidants only available in green tea. The article, by XPOSE Entertainment, went on to boast other properties of green tea, namely antibacterial properties, vitamin K, anti-aging, and more. Sounded really good, and my friend was particularly impressed by the description of this long-named super antioxidant that she hadn’t heard of before.
Here’s the trouble I have with these kinds of articles: they are written from the position of a single type of tea, as if health benefits are unique to just one kind or attributable to isolated nutrients. While the information they provide is positive and even perhaps even true, they paint a narrow view of tea’s health benefits that creates unfortunate misconceptions. Readers are often left with the impression that green tea has more antioxidants and/or more health benefits than other types of teas, and that just isn’t true. Allow me to explain….
All tea types (white, yellow, green, oolong, black, pu-erh), come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and therefore all contain a very similar concert of nutrients that when consumed as a whole food, (as we do when we drink an infusion of the leaves), has the potential to benefit virtually every system in the body by becoming biologically active in our gut and/or the large intestine (Henning, Susanne, et al. “Bioavailability of Green and Black Tea.” 2012 Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health). In terms of antioxidants specifically, the types a given tea will contain will vary by its level of oxidation, since oxidation will convert catechin type antioxidants to theaflavins and thearubigins; however, they are all antioxidants none-the-less, and as such they all fight free radicals. The amount of antioxidants in a tea will vary not by tea type or oxidation level, but by a number of other factors including region, elevation, season, climate, plant cultivar, agricultural practices, and more.
The XPOSE article notes a specific type of antioxidant: oligomeric proanthocyanidins. These are types of flavan-3-ols and they are wonderful but there are so many others also at play, like the catechins, including EGCG, ECG, etc. – the antioxidants most indicated in studies showing anti-cancer benefit. Let us not forget, however, that if flavan-3-ols antioxidant types are being singled out in this green tea article, black tea also has flavan-3-ol polyphenol types of antioxidants – theaflavins and thearubigins, which contribute an array of amazing benefits to semi-oxidized oolongs and black teas.
My point is – don’t get hung up on fancy science language and let’s just go back to the basics that tea – all tea, contains an abundance of antioxidants and other nutrients. In my opinion, it isn’t very useful to try to dissect single nutrients or single antioxidants as a case for drinking a specific tea type because this causes us to miss the most important point and frankly, stray from good nutrition common sense. When we consume tea as a natural beverage, it’s about the whole food and the power of all nutrients in concert. It’s much like boasting the function of the liver in your body without mentioning the concert functions of the pancreas and other organs – it is how they work together that are important and powerful as a system and all are needed in that system. All tea has an abundance of antioxidants, and while different antioxidants will have different specific roles – these and other nutrients present work together to promote healthy tissue and fight off damaging oxidative stress.
To touch on one more point made in the XPOSE article regarding green tea’s vitamin K content. In truth, dry weight green tea leaf does have good vitamin K content, but unfortunately, the infusion we drink ends up providing very little dietary K – not likely enough to meaningfully support the elimination of dark circles and puffy eyes as the article suggests. One gets much more/sufficient vitamin K from eating a daily abundance leafy greens – which is just good dietary practice for a whole bunch of other reasons than combating dark circles! So I go back to overall healthy eating of live, natural foods, including drinking whichever teas you like best. In your natural food diet, as well as your tea selections, it is best to incorporate a variety of types and colours so you get the array of nutritional benefits from your foods and your tea. So no matter what you read, please remember that whether white, yellow green, oolong, black or pu-erh – their leaves originate from the same species of plant, and beneficial antioxidants and other nutrients abound in ALL of them!
Click here to view the XPOSE Entertainment article.