Exploring green tea to understand why its natural ingredients have long standing benefits.
Whilst you can’t enjoy the various latte art designs that come with coffee, green tea drinking has been linked to weight loss, longer lasting energy and helping reduce the risk of disease and developing cancers.
Green tea has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It was used historically in traditional Chinese and Indian medicines to help heal wounds, control bleeding and aid digestion. It is the second most consumed beverage globally after water. Green tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. These are dried and not fermented like other teas, leaving green tea rich in natural ingredients.
Benefits of drinking green tea
1. It is full of antioxidants.
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, more so than other teas and coffee due to its lack of fermentation. Importantly it contains polyphenol antioxidants, which have been linked to reducing risk of diseases and offer other health benefits such as reducing inflammation. Green tea contains a large amount of a natural antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a catechin which helps to prevent cell damage, and may play a role in preventing aging.
The bioactive compounds in green tea help improve health. There is evidence to suggest that it lowers the risk in developing many types cancers and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and helps to protect the brain from aging. Regular green tea consumption also helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease, leading to living a longer life. Research into green tea suggests it boasts a 31% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease. Evidence also suggests that the properties in green tea help to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and the risk of having a stroke.
2. Increases fat burning potential.
Green tea has been tested to show that it can help boost metabolic rate, which can accelerate fat burning. Like anything, this will depend on the individual and best results will be shown with a balanced diet and exercise, but green tea is often easier on the gut than coffee. Green tea may also be effective in reducing abdominal fat as it helps to reduce bloating and inflammation.
3. It may improve brain function oral health.
Due to the high level of antioxidants in green tea and the stimulant of caffeine, it can help improve one’s mood, reaction time and memory. Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can increase dopamine levels and has anti-anxiety effects. This works alongside caffeine to help improve brain function overall as they have synergistic effects, meaning they work well together. Regular green tea consumption boosts dental hygiene, ensuring the drinker has fresh breath and little chance of cavities. It has properties that help to kill bacteria, also lowering the risk of developing oral cancer.
What is in green tea?
An average cup has around 22-40mg, compared to coffee with 100-200mg per cup, and black tea with roughly 50mg per cup. Around 400mg of caffeine is the recommended daily limit. Switching to green tea from coffee could be a good alternative to cutting out caffeine cold turkey. Adding tea consumption into your diet will likely leave you less jittery than its popular caffeine alternative, as it offers a slower burn of energy lasting 4-6 hours whilst coffee’s hit will last for 1-3 hours in short, and often draining bursts.
Almost zero calories!
Standard cups have equal to or less than 2 calories. If you are a coffee lover for the taste, consider decaffeinated options, or limit your consumption to one or two small cups a day. With most coffee drinkers opting to add milk or sugar, the calorie intake exceeds green tea substantially.
Optimising green tea use
To maximise the benefits of green tea use, it is suggested to drink it:
- 3-5 cups daily if possible, to help detox
- After meals for best digestion
- Half an hour before exercise to increase fat burning potential
- Half an hour before bedtime, as it may help burn calories whilst sleeping. However, if you struggle to fall asleep it is recommended you stop consuming all types of caffeine before sleep.
Like other teas, just add hot water to either a tea bag or loose leaves and for the optimal cup of green tea leave the bag or leaves in for two to three minutes. Green tea comes in many varieties, including:
- Tea bags
- Loose leaf
- Bottled (often sweetened)
- Powder (think Matcha)
- Supplements, including capsules and liquid
Rare side effects
As with any substance, there are risks. For green tea, these are extremely rare and far outweighed by the known benefits. They might include:
- Caffeine sensitivity, a risk of insomnia.
- Liver damage (very rare).
- Green tea contains tannins which can interfere with the absorption of iron, so consuming large amounts is not recommended for those with iron deficiency or pregnancy.
There is a reason green tea has been consumed for centuries. It will continue to dominate the beverage market and leave its users with health benefits they didn’t know they needed.