“I’m going to quit drinking coffee and only drink green tea”.
That’s what I frequently tell myself, at least.
But why all the buzz around green tea? Is it because green tea comes from Asia, and therefore has to be good for you?
Well, obviously not. Although one research scientist, Dr. Christopher Ochner, said on WebMD that “it’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink”.
Now, I’m not saying that all you have to do is drink green tea and all of your health concerns will suddenly melt away, but it would be nice to know how green tea is so good for you, and more importantly, why.
There’s a lot of literature and studies out there on green tea, so I’ve siphoned through a number of them and come up with some key takeaways.
Let’s get into some details here, so next time you grab that iced-green tea, you can feel extra good about yourself (hold the sweetener)!
1. Chock Full of Antioxidants
Antioxidants, why are they good for us anyway?
Well, when we eat, our bodies have to turn food into energy. As a result, this generates some byproducts within our bodies called free radicals. These chemicals are pretty awful, and can severely damage our bodies through a process called oxidation. Free radicals are also, theoretically, the main driver in aging.
But have no fear, we can combat the negative effect of free radicals by consuming antioxidants, and one great way to do this is by drinking green tea.
In clinical trials published by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, scientists found that numerous studies suggested that the consumption of tea may bring positive health effects. The hypothesis behind these benefits stems from the high levels of flavonoids, antioxidants that scavenge free radicals.
Benefits of flavonoids include, but are not limited to:
- Fighting Viruses
- Helping Prevent Cancer
- Preventing Inflammation
- Helping with Allergies
2. Cancer Fighter
A cup of tea keeps the doctor at bay? According to cancer.gov, definitely possible!
Green tea has been shown to activate our internal detoxification enzymes which may hinder tumor growth. Many teas are packed with antioxidants, but the direct mechanism of cancer prevention hasn’t yet been fully established. The good news is there is a relationship between cancer prevention and tea consumption.
According to livescience.com, an ongoing study of women with breast cancer showed that polyphenols in green tea may slow down proteins that are part of tumor cell growth.
Dr. Katherine Crew, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, also conducted a study in men with prostate cancer and found that green tea drinkers had markedly lower prostate-specific antigen, which is linked to prostate tumor growth.
Evidence suggests that both sexes can enjoy the cancer fighting benefits of green tea.
3. Brain Enhancement
Drink tea and be smarter! Sound too good to be true?
Well according to a study from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Basel Switzerland, sipping on green tea enhances memory. Until last year, the effects of green tea on cognitive function were speculative, but with the improvements in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Dr. Stefan Borgwardt could view the increased connectivity in the cortices of the brain after consumption of green tea. Specifically, green tea drinkers showed increased connectivity in key parts of the brain associated with memory.
The study used healthy male volunteers and found that when given a soft drink containing green tea extract, those consuming green tea extract not only showed increased connectivity in parts of the brain, but improved performance on working memory tasks as well.
Let me go brew a mug real quick before I finish the rest here!
4. Anti-Anxiety and Relaxation
I have a buddy who swears by l-theanine, an amino acid found almost solely in tea. He suffers from mild chronic anxiety, and situations like hangovers can bring up flares. Now I’m not suggesting to get a hangover and try this out of course. I’m just saying that green tea comes packed with l-theanine, and l-theanine may help you to relax and avoid anxiety.
A study published in the Journal of Trends in Food Science & Technology by Dr. Juneja and team states that theanine acts as a neurotransmitter that increases alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are considered to be an indicator of relaxation. Human volunteers were given 50-200 mg of l-theanine and were shown to have increased alpha waves without drowsiness.
So it appears you can drink green tea to help mellow you out, without falling asleep. I better gift some to my buddy.
5. Heart Health
I’m sure you’ve heard that caffeine isn’t recommend for those with heart issues. And I’m no doctor, but a bunch of studies suggest green tea may lower your risk of heart disease.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, Japanese adults who drank more than five cups daily were at 26% lower risk of heart attack or stroke. While research around mechanisms of action is limited, there were no red flags, so it can’t hurt.
In another study, Athens Medical School took 14 volunteers and had them either drink green tea or caffeinated hot water. Using blood pressure cuffs and ultrasound to check whether arteries were widened or not, the doctors found that those that drank green tea had significantly wider arteries, meaning lower risk in heart diseases like atherosclerosis.
6. Fat Burner
“Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se”. That’s what Dr. Abdul G. Dulloo, author of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said to WebMD.
While caffeine has been shown to help burn fat and increase metabolism, it’s good to know the effect of green tea on metabolism is much more than that, because simply ramping up caffeine intake will definitely give you the jitters.
Another piece in the Journal of Advances in Nutrition mentioned that a number of studies have witnessed how green tea can improve fat burning.
While overall research is still limited, given the health benefits of green tea, if it is a fat burner to boot, why not?
We already know that green tea is full of antioxidants, is good for both the heart and brain, and can help fight cancer, so why shouldn’t we drink it?
Get sick, and the doctor gives you antibiotics. We’ve all been there, but are prescribed antibiotics the way to go? I think not! What about a natural remedy? Now I’m not saying green tea will cure you once you’re already infected (probably not), but it certainly can’t hurt.
Green tea contains other antioxidants called catechins. According to a study published in the Food Science Technology Bulletin, these catechins, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG), can hinder development of many bacterial species. These catechins can stick themselves into the films that cover the bacteria. By lodging into the outside layers of bacteria, EGCG and ECG may upset the bacteria from doing what it is supposed to, which is make you ill.
8. Cholesterol Control
High cholesterol is pretty common, 73.5 million adults have high LDL cholesterol, which I mentioned in my article on coconut oil. So odds may be that many of us are looking for ways to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Not only is green tea basically amazing so far, but it can also help us with cholesterol levels.
According to healthaliciousness.com (sweet name), research shows that drinking up to 10 cups of green tea a day has a large effect on cholesterol.
Granted, 10 cups is a whole lot, but no worries, each cup you drink may reduce your cholesterol! So coupled with eating healthy and exercising, you’ll be in the lower cholesterol range in no time.
9. Oral Health
We all love food right? Why else are we here reading nutrition secrets?
Well, I love food. The problem is when you eat food (which is all of us), we may introduce substances like bacteria into our mouths that may cause cavities. Oh, and if we eat sugar, that’s a whole different ball game because some bacteria use sugar to multiply, and this may potentially increase cavities.
Ok, so cavities are no fun but how can green tea help keep the inside of our mouths healthy?
Here’s a quick synopsis of items listed by besthealthmag.ca:
- Cavities – Green tea is anti-bacterial, as mentioned above. It may help reduce bacteria and acid in the mouth.
- Gums – Green tea’s antioxidants are anti-inflammatory. As such they may aid in controlling gum disease.
- Tooth Loss – A study in the Journal of Periodontology showed that green tea may markedly reduce enamel loss.
- Oral Cancer – Not only can green tea help prevent breast and prostate cancer as mentioned above, but may slow the progression of oral cancer as well.
- Stinky Mouth – Bacteria and other microbes make our breath smell, and green tea’s anti-bacterial properties fight stinky bacteria too!
10. Stomach Health
Stomach issues are very common. If I could have a dime for every time someone told me they have inflammatory bowel disease or heart burn, I’d have…well I guess I’d have a couple bucks.
But according to Medscape, the CDC posted in 2012 that about 20% of people have either ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. And according to Florida Hospital, more than 40% of Americans suffer from heart burn at least once a month. Youch.
The anti-inflammatory effects of green tea mentioned above may also help with stomach issues like colitis. A study at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine found that EGCG found in green tea may help both colitis and Crohn’s disease. Not to mention that green tea’s anti-cancer properties also apply to colon cancer.
11. Nectar of Youth
As I mentioned earlier, green tea is packed with antioxidants, and one major cause of aging is oxidation by free radicals. According to the San Francisco Gate, a study from the University of Campbell found that Japanese practitioners of a green tea ceremony showed longer life spans.
Not only this, but the anti-inflammatory and fat burning aspects mentioned above, and resultant better health, would likely improve life span as well.
Free radicals also affect our skin, and the antioxidants in green tea may help inhibit free radicals from breaking down collagen, the protein in our skin that keeps us looking young.
One thing I’ve noticed about green tea, is that when I drink it in the morning without eating anything, it gives me a little upset stomach. So what I do now is I put a little creamer or milk into it after it has steeped.
Do you have any tips for me?
I mentioned at the start that green tea might be the healthiest thing you can drink. I’m sure you have some opinions by now, so let me know!