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Green tea is my favorite tea, that’s it, I said it.
I, however, do drink other teas, especially herbal, but when it comes to both taste and health benefits, I vote for green tea. Every time someone asks me why I drink tea, I usually quote famous Chinese proverb: “Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary”.
Green tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but the difference in taste and aroma depends on how the leaves are produced and where the leaves are grown.
That’s why we have many varieties of green tea, Matcha, for instance, a fine powder made from leaves, or Dragon Well, the most popular yellowish-green tea in China, used in cooking, or Sencha, the most popular variety in Japan, mild and slightly sweet tea of bright green color.
The list can go on (Gunpowder, Hojicha, Kukicha, and more) but the question is – Why is green tea healthy?
Why is green tea healthy?
In the book Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, by Nadine Taylor, green tea is said to have been used as a medicine in China for 4,000 years.
Green tea is the healthiest tea on the planet due to antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful, health-boosting effects.
How antioxidants work?
Oxidation is a natural process, which occurs when oxygen interacts with cells of any type, changing those cells, and some percent of those cells will be damaged in the process and turned into free radicals. Free radicals are missing a critical molecule, thus they are “in search” for the missing part, damaging the DNA, which results in creating “an atmosphere” for a disease. Thousands of different antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains; our body needs antioxidants to stop the damaging effect, or to prevent the chain reaction. Thus, vitamin C is there to stop the reaction before it starts, while vitamin E breaks the reaction, for instance.
Antioxidants are the key compounds in green tea, making it a powerful health-protective drink.
How can green tea boost our health?
#1 Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Heart disease and stroke are the biggest causes of death in the world. When it comes to risk factors, studies have showed that green tea can improve some of the main risks, which are total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. How? Green tea increases the antioxidant capability, which protects the LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation. It appears that people who drink green tea have up to a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
#2 Improve brain function and memory
The key ingredient that improves brain function and memory is caffeine, which is a stimulant. Green tea contains enough caffeine to increase the concentration of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Caffeine can improve mood, reaction time and memory.
Moreover, another important compound in green tea contributes to improved brain functions, the amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid increases the neurotransmitter GABA that has anti-anxiety effects.
One recent study revealed that green tea could enhance brain’s cognitive functions, which is brain’s working memory.
#3 May lower the risk of Type II Diabetes
According to some studies, green tea can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the blood sugar levels, one study in particular found that people who drank the most green tea had a 42% lower risk of developing type II diabetes. According to data from eighteen studies, people who drank tea had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetics.
#4 Lower the risk of various types of cancer
Antioxidants in green tea are the reason green tea can contribute to lower risk of some types of cancer, because oxidative damage contributes to the development of uncontrolled growth of cells, and antioxidants have a protective effect. One observational study showed that women who drank green tea had a 22% lower risk of developing breast cancer. Men who drank green tea had a 48% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, and women had a 57% lower risk of colorectal cancer, showed another study.
The amount of tea one should be drinking for cancer-preventive effects varies (from 2 to 10 cups per day) while milk in tea can reduce the antioxidants benefits in it.
#5 Lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Catechin compounds in green tea have protective effects on neurons, and had a potential for lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
However, despite numerous studies, the understanding of the green tea benefits is still limited, especially because many of the studies involve animal models and test tubes.
Green tea can improve brain function, but the ability to protect the brain in old age needs more research.
#6 Protect the skin from ultraviolet
Polyphenols in green tea protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation (photoaging of the skin) and improve the elastic tissues.
#7 Protect bones, prevents tooth decay and help with arthritis
Green tea may increase bone mineral density, Australian researches reported that people who drank green tea had 2.8% greater bone mineral density that those who didn’t drink it.
Green tea has strong antibacterial properties, thus, it can prevent tooth decay because it kills the bacteria that cause dental plaques and bad breath. By reducing inflammation, green tea may help people with arthritis.
#8 Help with weight loss
First, studies on green tea benefits for weight loss differ, there is, on one hand, a strong evidence that green tea has fat-burning properties (especially when in combination with exercising and a healthy diet), on the other hand, some studies point out that green tea isn’t so important for weight loss and metabolism.
Some studies confirmed that green tea polyphenols increase metabolism and provide a feeling of satiety and fullness, and several studies confirmed that green tea leads to decrease in body fat (especially in the abdominal area).
As you can see, studies on weight loss benefits are still limited, and any increase in metabolism very often depends on the individual.
How to drink green tea?
The exact dose of green tea is not established, however, 2 to 3 cups a day is recommended in order to stay under the limits of caffeine intake (don’t exceed 12 to 16 8-ounce cups a day).
Side effects of caffeine include insomnia, increased heart rate, nausea and sometimes anxiety.
Green tea interacts with certain medications, thus consult your doctor.
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Devine A, Hodgson JM, Dick IM, Prince RL. Tea drinking is associated with benefits on bone density in older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):1243-7.
You SQ. Feasibility of Chinese green tea polyphenols (CTP) for preventing dental caries. Zhonghua Kou Qiang Yi Xue Za Zhi. 1993 Jul;28(4):197-9, 254.
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Last article update: 4/26/2019