Green tea has been used as a health-promoting drink by various cultures around the world for thousands of years. Its high antioxidant and nutrient levels make it beneficial to the body in many ways and research is now showing that it can help reduce the risk of some cancers, promote a healthy weight, and support the brain.
Green Tea Benefits
Green tea is made from the unfermented leaves of the tea plant. Because it is not fermented like black teas, it has a higher concentration of antioxidants (called polyphenols). Research suggests that these antioxidants can have a beneficial effect on the body by neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation. This benefits the body in many ways:
The rich antioxidant content makes this gentle tea beneficial to the brain, heart and other organs. Research has uncovered that antioxidants may be helpful in slowing the effects of aging and helping protect the body against diseases linked to free radical damage (cancers, diabetes, arthritis and others). From the University of Maryland Medical Center:
Polyphenols contained in teas are classified as catechins. Green tea contains six primary catechin compounds: catechin, gallaogatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and apigallocatechin gallate (also known as EGCG). EGCG is the most studied polyphenol component in green tea and the most active.
Green tea also contains alkaloids including caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. They provide green tea’s stimulant effects. L-theanine, an amino acid compound found in green tea, has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system. (1)
Due to its free radical reducing ability, it has also been studied for its role in avoiding cancers:
- One study of 472 women with breast cancer found that those who had consumed the most green tea before cancer and after diagnosis saw the lowest spread of cancer and were less likely to have cancer return after treatment.(2)
- A study found that people who consumed more were less likely to get pancreatic cancer. The group of men in the study who drank the most green tea had a 37% less chance of getting pancreatic cancer.
- Studies have also shown that it can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In fact, one Chinese study found that men who drank 3+ cups of green tea a day were 70% less likely to get prostate cancer.
- The Iowa Women’s Health Study of over 35,000 women found that those who drank this tea were 30% less likely to develop colon cancer.
- In testing on lab animals, those who received green tea had 1/10 the number of skin cancer occurrences as those who did not.
Heart Health and Weight Loss
Green tea also shines in the area of heart health and supporting healthy weight since it contains flavonoids, antioxidants that are said to help promote healthy circulation and cholesterol levels and lower the risk of atherosclerosis.
In a study of 1,900 people who had recently had heart attacks, the death rate in patients who drank at least two cups of green tea a day was 44% less than in those who didn’t drink tea. Other studies have a shown a 40-70% reduced risk of heart attack in tea drinkers over non-drinkers. (3,4)
For the Mind
Thanks to a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, green tea may also be good for the mind and for slowing aging. This compound not only protects against UV related damage but may also help halt skin aging caused by free radicals.
This same compound makes it protective of neurons and brain cells and initial research suggests that regular green tea consumption can help protect the mind and delay deterioration from Alzheimers and Parkinsons. (8,9) Other compounds in tea, L-theanine and caffeine, can help support the brain and improve alertness and focus.
Cautions & Fluoride content
Tea plants are known as fluorine accumulators, meaning that they can absorb and store fluoride. Those with thyroid conditions or other disorders should ask a doctor and exercise caution with green tea consumption for this reason. (10)
Research has found that higher quality green teas have less fluoride and lesser quality teas are more likely to contain high levels of fluoride. I buy bulk organic green tea from a trusted source and consume in moderation.
Green tea is not studied in children and not recommended during pregnancy. Due to its high antioxidant content, it can interact with some medications so check with your doctor before consuming green tea, especially in large amounts.
How to Make Green Tea
Green tea is slightly more difficult to brew than other teas since it is more delicate and can easily become bitter. I follow these rules to ensure a non-bitter tea:
- Start with a high quality organic green tea. I buy in bulk here and my favorite varieties are Dao Ren and Green Sencha.
- Use water between 175-180°F
- Ideally, use a tea kettle and place the tea leaves in the kettle before adding the water. I use 2 teaspoons of tea per cup (8 ounces) of water.
- Steep for only 1-2 minutes before pouring into a cup. Some tea kettles have a built in strainer, or else tea can be poured through a strainer.
- To make iced tea, use the same amounts and pour over a cup of ice before consuming.
Are you a green tea drinker? What varieties do you like?