Green tea is such a healthy drink that experts think it’s even better for you than water! One noted nutritional researcher has called it “the healthiest thing I can think of to drink.” The reason for all the passion for green tea lies in its remarkably high level of antioxidants, which are nutrients that prevent and fight damage to our cells.
What Is Green Tea?
Green tea is one of many varieties of tea, all of which come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Though most people assume that black tea and green tea come from different sources, the actual difference lies in more than its deep green color. The difference is in the way that the leaves are processed. Where black tea goes through the process of fermentation, green tea leaves keep their original color because they do not go through that type of process. At the same time that they keep their hue, they also hold on to far more of their natural antioxidants, and that is where the tea gets its healing power.
There are several different types of green tea grown around the world, including:
- Fukamushi Sencha
The most popular green tea is called Sencha. Its test is fresh and grassy with a slightly sweet essence. When it is brewed it is clear and has a light yellowish green color. One of the most potent forms of green tea is known as matcha. It is made from special leaves that are grown in the shade. Matcha leaves have a deeper green color than other green teas because it has a much higher chlorophyll content. Though most green teas are brewed from leaves or in tea bags, matcha is sold as a powder that has been ground from the leaves. The powder is then mixed with boiling water, or it can be added to smoothies or other drinks.
People have been drinking green tea for centuries. There are records of the healthy drink dating back to China in the year 2737 B.C., and it has been enjoyed throughout Asia ever since. It has only recently become popular throughout the rest of the world. Much of the interest in green tea has been driven by scientific research into claims that it can help people live longer, healthier lives.
1. Green Tea’s Nutritional Power Comes from its Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds found in different foods. Some are vitamins and some are minerals, and plant-based foods also contain antioxidants called flavanols. All antioxidants protect us from damage caused by free radicals, which can come from pollution and normal body processes, and green tea contains some of the most powerful antioxidants found in plants. There are 6 times more antioxidants in black tea than in green tea.
The antioxidants in green tea include polyphenols called flavonoids. The most powerful flavonoids in green tea are catechins, which fight and prevent cell damage. Green tea also contains several other important elements that provide health benefits, including:
- Linoleic acid – a compound that helps with weight loss, builds muscle and bone, and may fight cancer
- Quercetin – a flavonoid that is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial
- Proteins, amino acids and enzymes
- Trace amounts of minerals, including copper, zinc, magnesium and calcium
Green tea does contain caffeine, though it has less than you’d find in a same-sized cup of coffee.
2. Green Tea Is a Heart Healthy Drink
Drinking tea gives your health a boost in nearly every area that affects your heart health. It has multiple compounds that lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, including beta-blocking compounds, diuretic compounds, and calcium channel blockers. All these compounds are contained in green tea’s flavanols, as well as other antioxidants that are lowering inflammation that can cause heart damage. Those compounds also help to lower the risk of developing blood clots and strengthen the cells that make up the heart’s blood vessels. One study showed that people who drink just one or two cups of green tea a day have a 46% lower risk of their arteries being blocked by plaque. The same study showed that if they have three cups or more a day their risk of having a heart attack drops by 43% and their risk of dying from a heart attack drops by 70%. Another study showed that when people who had already been treated for heart attack drank at least two cups of green tea a day, their risk of dying of heart attack was 44% lower than that of people who did not drink green tea.
Bottom Line: Drinking two or three cups of green tea per day can lower your risk of having a heart attack, and if you’ve already had a heart attack it can lower your risk of having another or of dying of a heart attack.
3. Green Tea Contains Compounds That Ease Arthritis Pain
Green tea contains quercetin, an antioxidant that’s been shown to ease arthritis pain, and possibly even to prevent it from developing. Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory, and so is another polyphenol found in green tea called EGCG. EGCG is said to be 100 times more potent than Vitamins C and E when it comes to fighting inflammation that causes joint pain.
Bottom Line: Drinking 4 cups of green tea a day is recommended for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, as well as for those who are at risk for developing.
4. Green Tea is Good for Boosting Alertness and Attention and Preserving Memory
Green tea has multiple benefits for brain health. Studies have shown that it helps to minimize the impact of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing the breakdown of a substance linked with memory and stopping plaques from depositing in the brain. The flavonoids found in green tea also protect against brain cell damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition to protecting memory, studies have also shown that both the caffeine and other compounds found in green tea boost your mental alertness.
Bottom Line: People who drink green tea get the benefit of increased mental energy, as well as protection from mental decline.
5. Green Tea May Help Fight and Prevent Cancer
There have been and continue to be many studies on green tea’s role in cancer prevention. Though there is no definitive proof that the polyphenols in the tea will stop cancer from spreading or kill its cells, numerous studies’ results have point in that direction, including research showing:
- There was less spread of the disease and less recurrence of the disease among breast cancer patients who drank at least 5 cups of green tea per day. (472 involved in study)
- Women who drank two or more cups of green tea a day were 30% less likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer. (35,000 involved in study)
- Men who drank three or more cups of tea a day were 70% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- Men diagnosed with prostate cancer who drank 6 cups of green tea a day showed reduced levels of the protein that indicates the presence of the cancer, as well as lower levels of inflammation linked to cancer growth. (79 involved in study)
Bottom Line: There are numerous studies that suggest that green tea may boost the body’s cancer-fighting abilities.
6. Green Tea’s Anti-Inflammatory Actions Can Bring Relief for Multiple Symptoms
Many of the most uncomfortable symptoms of illnesses are a result of inflammation. Studies have shown that the antioxidants found in green tea can provide real relief of these symptoms because they ease inflammation. A few ways that you can use green tea to feel better include:
- Green tea can help reduce bladder inflammation and reduce your risk of getting a urinary tract infection. Studies have shown that people who drink green tea have a 40% lower rate of UTIs than people who do not drink green tea.
- Green tea can help reduce the symptoms of allergies. The antioxidants in the leaves help reduce sinus inflammation.
- Asthma sufferers can reduce the inflammation that makes their symptoms worse by drinking two to three cups of green tea a day.
Bottom Line: If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, drinking green tea can reduce the severity of your symptoms.
7. Green Tea Can Help with A Weight Loss Plan
Green tea contains EGCG, which has been shown to prevent weight gain when combined with other weight loss efforts. It also contains flavonoids and caffeine, which can help boost your metabolism. One study showed that drinking green tea increases calorie burn by about 100 calories per day. Drinking hot liquids can also cut down on your appetite, making it less likely that you will overeat or snack between meals. Plus, the caffeine in green tea gives you a boost of energy that can help you stick to your exercise plan.
Bottom Line: If you’re trying to lose weight, two or three cups of green tea per day can help boost your efforts.
What You Need to Know About Brewing Green Tea
The compounds in green tea’s leaves are strongest when they are not overheated. Instead of pouring boiling water over your tea bag or leaves as you would with other teas, allow the water to rest for a few minutes first. Once the water has cooled a bit, pour it over the tea leaves. This is the best way to preserve the healthy antioxidants and polyphenols.
Green tea is especially delicious when combined with other herbs. Try adding a few slices of fresh ginger to your tea as it steeps, or some fresh mint.