Green tea is a popular beverage consumed by millions of people around the world. It has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any tea, it is naturally low in calories and contains less caffeine than black tea and coffee.
Green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which undergo minimal processing, thus retaining its natural antioxidants and nutrients. Green tea has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, particularly in Asian countries like China, Japan, and India, where it is believed to have a wide range of health benefits. In recent years, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the health-promoting properties of green tea. Below we will discuss the various health benefits of green tea.
Contains healthy bioactive compounds
Green tea is a beverage that is loaded with beneficial bioactive compounds. The tea leaves are packed with polyphenols, which are natural plant compounds known for their anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Among the polyphenols present in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) stands out as a potent antioxidant that helps protect cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals.
The consumption of EGCG-rich green tea has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Additionally, green tea contains various minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and manganese, that are essential for maintaining good health.
It is worth noting that the quality of green tea varies, and some cheaper brands may contain excessive amounts of fluoride, which can be harmful to health if consumed in large amounts. Therefore, choosing a high-quality brand of green tea is advisable to reap the benefits of this healthful beverage.
Improve brain function
Green tea may not only help keep you alert but also improve brain function. While the key active ingredient is caffeine, it doesn't contain as much as coffee, but enough to produce a response without causing jittery effects. Caffeine affects the brain by blocking an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine, which increases the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Research has consistently shown that caffeine can improve various aspects of brain function, including mood, vigilance, reaction time, and memory.
However, green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier. L-theanine increases the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects, and it also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain. Studies have shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine can have synergistic effects, particularly in improving brain function.
Compared to coffee, green tea may give you a milder and different kind of buzz due to the L-theanine and the small dose of caffeine. Many people report feeling more productive and having more stable energy when they drink green tea.
Improve cardiovascular health
Green tea consumption may play a protective role in cardiovascular health by lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. A review of 31 research studies indicates that green tea is linked to significant reductions in total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Green tea contains anti-inflammatory compounds such as EGCG, which can relax blood vessels and reduce vascular inflammation. Regular consumption of green tea, alongside a healthy diet, has been associated with a 41% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The optimal daily amount of green tea intake for heart health benefits is currently unclear. However, drinking three to five cups of green tea per day appears to confer cardiovascular benefits.
Increases fat burning
To enhance the process of fat burning, it is common for fat-burning supplements to include green tea as an ingredient. This is because research has shown that green tea can potentially boost metabolic rate and increase fat burning.
For instance, a study conducted on 10 healthy men revealed that taking green tea extract led to a 4% increase in the number of calories burned. In another study involving 12 healthy men, green tea extract was shown to increase fat oxidation by 17% in comparison to those who took a placebo.
However, it is essential to note that some studies have not shown any increase in metabolism due to green tea. Therefore, the impact of green tea may vary among individuals and the study's methodology.
Additionally, caffeine may also play a role in improving physical performance by mobilizing fatty acids from fat tissue and making them available for use as energy. Two separate review studies found that caffeine could potentially enhance physical performance by approximately 11-12%.
Antioxidants may lower the risk of some cancers
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and is caused by uncontrolled cell growth. Chronic inflammation resulting from oxidative damage can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases. However, antioxidants can help protect against oxidative damage and lower the risk of cancer.
Green tea is an excellent source of potent antioxidants, and many studies have linked its consumption to a reduced risk of several types of cancer. For example, a review of observational studies found that women who drank the most green tea had a 20-30% lower risk of developing breast cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Additionally, one study observed that men who drank green tea had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, while an analysis of 29 studies showed that those who drank green tea were about 42% less likely to develop colorectal cancer.
While observational studies suggest that green tea drinkers are less likely to develop cancer, more high-quality research is needed to confirm these effects. It's important to note that adding milk to your tea may reduce its antioxidant value, so it's best to avoid it for the most health benefits.
May protect the brain from aging
Green tea has been shown to have potential neuroprotective effects that may help prevent age-related cognitive decline. In addition to improving brain function in the short term, research suggests that green tea's catechin compounds may help protect neurons from damage, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Studies conducted in test tubes and animal models have found that green tea's catechins can protect neurons from oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. While more research is needed to determine the extent of green tea's protective effects in humans, these findings suggest that incorporating green tea into one's diet may be a beneficial strategy for maintaining cognitive health as we age.
Other potential benefits:
Green tea has been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. The bioactive components in green tea may help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation and suppressing lipoxygenase activity.
Improved insulin sensitivity
Green tea consumption has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity. Recent studies have suggested that green tea extract can lower fasting plasma concentrations of glucose and insulin in lab settings, as well as reduce fasting insulin concentrations.
Inhibition of oral bacteria
The catechins in green tea have been found to inhibit the growth of bacteria associated with periodontal diseases, including the Streptococcus mutans bacterium that causes plaque and contributes to tooth decay.
In conclusion, green tea is a highly beneficial beverage that can help improve overall health and well-being. Its high concentration of antioxidants, weight loss properties, brain-boosting effects, anti-inflammatory properties, and dental health benefits make it an ideal beverage for those looking to improve their health. Regular consumption of green tea can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.
It is recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider before consuming green tea or green tea extracts if you fall under certain categories.
If you are pregnant, it is generally safe to consume up to six cups of green tea daily. However, it may increase the risk of congenital disorders in infants whose pregnant parent has a folic acid deficiency.
Individuals with liver disease should also exercise caution, as there have been reports of green tea causing liver injury. Symptoms of liver injury include abdominal pain, dark-coloured urine, and jaundice.
If you take beta-blockers, consuming high doses of green tea may reduce blood levels and inhibit the effectiveness of a prescription drug called Corgard (nadolol)—a beta-blocker prescribed to treat high blood pressure and some heart diseases.
If you are breastfeeding, it is safe to consume green tea but be aware that caffeine passes through breast milk and can affect your baby. Therefore, it is best to discuss your specific situation with your healthcare provider before consuming green tea or green tea extracts.