Tea is so famous and so deeply rooted in our culture that you can divide the entire world into tea lovers and others. Which one are you? This division probably wouldn’t exist if people knew all the amazing health benefits of tea.
In this article, we will focus on green tea and reveal what it’s good for. Hint: all of its benefits wouldn’t fit into a proper book, let alone one blog post. You’re also about to learn the optimal green tea drinking schedule and safety precautions.
Did you know? Tea production originated in China more than 3000 years ago and then moved to other Asian countries. Today, total world production reaches 2.5 million tons of tea leaves each year. Green tea accounts for 20% of it.
Still think nothing can replace your morning cup of coffee? Stick with me for a while and I’m sure you will give this energizing tea a chance!
Green Tea – Introduction
Tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) can give 4 different types of tea, depending on the production process: green, black, white, and oolong. They differ by antioxidant content, green tea being the richest (more details shortly). Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea and coffee, enabling a subtle energy boost with a lower risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Table 1: Coffee and Tea Caffeine Content
|Coffee drinks||Size – oz. (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Latte or mocha||8 (237)||63-126|
|Teas||Size – oz. (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Brewed black||8 (237)||25-48|
|Brewed green||8 (237)||25-29|
Source: Mayo Clinic
Green tea exists in many different varieties; the most popular one is called Sencha (or Ryokucha).
Of other varieties, Matcha green tea is getting the most attention nowadays. This variety is made of finely ground tea leaves that ‘dissolve’ in hot water. By consuming the leaves, you get even more antioxidants and other powerful nutrients.
Thanks to a special cultivation method, this variety tends to have more chlorophyll. Also, Matcha powder blends well into smoothies and other recipes.
Antioxidant and Nutritional Content of Green Tea
Unlike its black cousin, green tea doesn’t undergo fermentation and oxidation, maintaining a higher antioxidant content. Catechins are the strongest antioxidant weapon of green tea and they include:
- Gallate derivates
One compound in green tea leads the way with dozens of confirmed health benefits: epigallocatechin-3-gallate, widely known as EGCG. Most studies have been focusing on EGCG, although green tea contains a complex mixture of polyphenols and other phytonutrients, such as:
- Methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline, theobromine)
- Proteins and amino acids
- Complex carbs and fiber
- Minerals and trace elements (magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc, etc.)
- Volatile aromatic compounds
Health Benefits of Green Tea Antioxidants
Antioxidant polyphenols such as catechins account for 30% of green tea leaves dry weight. They support the body’s defence mechanism and fight cellular aging, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Researchers have confirmed their positive biological action and vast therapeutic potentials (1).
EGCG has been studied extensively in various fields. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology recently published a comprehensive review, pointing out some amazing therapeutic potentials of EGCG. It is able to fight and prevent the following processes in the body (2):
- Cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart muscle)
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Oxidative stress
These positive effects can help prevent countless health conditions. Let’s now dive into the benefits of green tea for different aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Benefits of Green Tea for Cognition and Mental Performance
Caffeine is the most popular and most widely consumed psychostimulant. It can bring a short-term improvement of cognitive function, alertness, and mood. In some cases, however, caffeine can provoke anxiety, headaches, and sleep problems (3). Many people have issues with caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms after long-term excessive consumption.
Then why is green tea so good for mental health and cognition?
- It contains much less caffeine than coffee (Table 1) but still enough to get you going.
- It has a secret weapon for mental health and relaxation: an amino acid called L-theanine.
L-theanine is able to reach your brain neurons and stimulate the production of a ‘relaxing’ GABA neurotransmitter (4). This way, green tea ensures a unique balance of calmness and alertness. Many people thus consider green tea a more stable and subtler source of energy and ‘mental buzz’ than coffee.
Benefits of Green Tea for Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s Diseases (PD)
Green tea polyphenols, mainly EGCG and theaflavins, have shown a huge neuroprotective potential in cellular and animal models. They are able to prevent inflammatory and oxidative damage in neurons, which leads to crippling neurodegenerative disorders such as AD and PD (5).
Some human epidemiology studies have confirmed that drinking tea may reduce the risk of dementia, AD, and PD. Scientists are now extensively researching EGCG and other green tea polyphenols as promising neuroprotective agents (6).
TIP: Make sure to choose high-quality tea brands. Tea plant can accumulate fluoride from the soil and low-quality tea brands can be contaminated with this potentially neurotoxic element (7).
Green Tea for Cancer Prevention
Among other beneficial effects, antioxidants play an important role in cancer prevention. This notion led scientists to examine the anticancer potential of green tea and they came up with astonishing results.
- Breast cancer
In 2010, a prominent breast cancer journal published a meta-analysis about green tea consumption and breast cancer risk. Observational studies indicate that women who drink more green tea (3+ cups/day) can reduce their risk by up to 30%. Case-control studies also indicate a protective role of green tea and an average reduction of 20% (8).
- Advanced prostate cancer
According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, frequent green tea drinkers have up to 50% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Green tea, however, doesn’t seem to prevent localized prostate cancer (9).
- Colorectal cancer
A 2017 study showed that drinking green tea may help prevent colorectal cancer. Although this type of cancer is primarily men’s concern, green tea seems to have a more beneficial effect on women. They were able to cut their risk by 32% thanks to green tea consumption (10).
TIP: To reap the full antioxidant benefits of tea, avoid adding milk to it because it can reduce the total antioxidant capacity. Skimmed milk has shown an even stronger negative effect (11).
Anti-Infective and Immune-Stimulating Effects of Green Tea
The list of positive effects of EGCG goes on and on… The British Journal of Pharmacology published a paper showing its strong antiviral action. Physiological concentrations of EGCG were able to kill different viruses, including HIV, influenza A, hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex, etc. It also showed some antibacterial and antifungal action, though less pronounced (12).
Green tea can boost your immunity and prevent a common cold. People who supplemented with green tea extract (2 capsules a day for 3 months) were 32% less likely to catch a cold. They also recovered much faster, compared with placebo (13).
Make green tea a part of your immune-boosting fall routine and you will keep the flu at bay. If you enjoy drinking it, there’s no reason to spend your money on capsules. Take it a step further by adding some lemon juice and raw honey.
Benefits of Green Tea for Weight Loss and Exercise Performance
Most weight loss supplements contain green tea extract — for a good reason! Tea catechins and caffeine make a powerful fat-burning cocktail.
Regardless of its caffeine content, green tea has the potential to boost thermogenesis (heat production) and fat oxidation (14). As a result, it can supply you with much-needed energy for the workout and help you burn fat.
A 2007 study confirmed that green tea can have “positive effects on body-weight management”. It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, making you burn more energy from fat stores (15).
A randomized trial on 240 subjects, published in the Obesity journal, confirmed this effect of green tea on weight control. Consequently, green tea extract was able to reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (16).
Truth be told, dietary changes and regular exercise play a much more important role, especially when it comes to weight management and cardiovascular health. Don’t expect green tea to magically fix your problems if you didn’t make an effort to eat healthier food and move more.
Benefits of Green Tea for Skin
Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action of green tea catechins can also protect your skin and improve its complexion. The cosmetic industry has recognized the amazing potential of green tea extract in this field and now it’s a common ingredient in anti-age products.
To reap the maximum benefits, you can both drink green tea and add it to your skincare. According to a study published in the Dermatological Surgery journal, this combination can improve the elasticity of your skin (17).
Green tea can fight cancerous changes in your skin and prevent photoaging. EGCG and other polyphenols accumulate in the skin and protect it against excessive UV radiation and DNA damage (18). To ensure a safe sun exposure, use green tea as your internal sunscreen.
This video sums up green tea health benefits and additional tips in a funny way:
What is Green Tea Good For? Health Benefits Summary
- Fights inflammation, oxidative stress, and aging
- Boosts your cognition and mental health
- Protects against dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s
- Helps prevent different types of cancer
- Wards off infections and stimulates your immunity
- Supports weight control and cardiovascular system
- Enhances exercise performance
- Improves skin complexion and prevents photoaging
Green Tea Drinking Schedule and Safety Precautions
There are no strict rules when it comes to green tea drinking schedule and the optimal amount you should aim at. Keeping in mind the following safety precautions, however, you can come up with a plan that suits you best.
- 2-3 cups of green tea per day work well for most people.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consider reducing the intake. On the other hand, you can drink up to 5 cups, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a routine. Keep in mind the risk of caffeine overconsumption.
- Avoid drinking it in the evening, especially if caffeine makes you alert.
- Mornings are perfect for green tea, due to its subtle push in energy and alertness.
- Don’t drink green tea with meals — wait at least 1-2 hours after eating.
Avoid drinking extremely hot green tea (or any other beverage) because this can increase your risk of oesophagal cancer in the long run (19). Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid green tea, or at least limit the intake, due to its caffeine content and impact on nutrient absorption.
Green Tea with Lemon in the Morning on Empty Stomach
I often get asked if drinking green tea with lemon in the morning on empty stomach is good for one’s health. As mentioned, green tea is a perfect morning drink to start your day healthy and energized. Lemon will add an extra punch of vitamin C, flavonoids, and other beneficial nutrients.
That said, some sensitive people may find green tea with lemon a bit harsh on empty stomach. If you’re one of them, try with a more diluted brew (more water or less tea). If this doesn’t work, it’s a better idea to have your first cup 1-2 hours after breakfast.
Even if you knew that green tea offers many perks for your health and wellbeing, I hope you learned something new from this article and got inspired.
Now it’s your turn! Are you a tea person? What do you find amazing about green tea? Anything you would like to add or suggest? Please hit a comment and join the discussion!
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Author’s bio — Aleksa Ristic, MPharm
Aleksa is a freelance health writer with a Master’s degree in Pharmacy, currently writing for Big Blue Waves health & wellness blog. His main fields of interest are nutrition, herbal medicine, and a healthy sustainable lifestyle.
He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. Ultimately, Aleksa’s mission is to inspire the readers to improve their wellbeing and live their lives to the fullest.
You can check out his portfolio here.