The healing benefits of green tea have been recognised by the Chinese for over 5,000 years. In the west we have been slow to recognise these benefits. But widespread research has now verified the amazing role that green tea plays in protecting the body against a host of diseases. You too can benefit simply by drinking green tea each day.
I grew up a tea drinker. My mother was a great tea drinker and it almost seemed I was destined to join her in her love of tea, and she couldn’t wait for me to be old enough. Most of my memories of her involve her holding a cuppa in one hand. She would start her day with a mug of tea and end it the same way. She would even take a mug of tea with her when she went outside to garden or hang the washing out.
Back then tea was always varieties of black tea. Green tea was served at the local Chinese restaurant, but I never knew anyone who actually drank it. Since then green tea appeared on the Australian scene and its health benefits widely touted.
Difference Between Green Tea And Black Tea
Tea is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which are considered the most effective and protective of all the antioxidants. Green tea is particulary rich in one of these called catechins, with between fifteen and thirty percent catechin content. EGCG is the main active component of the polyphenol activity and is highest in green tea.
Green tea differs from black tea in that it is unfermented. It is made by steaming the leaves very quickly just before picking, rolling and drying. This prevents the breakdown, or oxidation, of the catechins.
Black tea undergoes more processing and the leaves are subjected to heat and light where they wither before they’re fermented. This results in the EGCG being converted into less effective compounds. Black tea has less far less beneficial properties.
Green Tea Tips
When my naturopath recommended I drink green tea I found it difficult initially to follow his advice as the taste put me off. But I decided to experiment with making the tea and learnt some interesting things.
- Strong green tea is very astringent.
- Green tea gets bitter as it cools down.
- Experts advise to not use boiling water in the preparation of green tea as it destroys the flavonoids which give the healing potential.
- Green tea marries well with other herbal and floral flavours.
I quickly came to enjoy green tea once I realised that unlike black teas, the strength and temperature of the brew was far more crucial to drinking pleasure. In fact I enjoyed it so much that eventually I had to watch how much I drank as I was drinking too much. This quickly lead to digestive problems. Now I stick to three or four cups a day.
Green tea is often combined with other ingredients. Jasmine is one of the more common ones. Recently I found a wonderful mix of green tea and berries. Not only is it delicious, it is also loaded with antioxidants.
Health Benefits Of Green Tea
Which brings me to the benefits of drinking green tea, and the good news just keep getting better. It’s often difficult for any black tea or coffee lover to see why they should make the change, whether it be a total change to green tea, or just to include it alongside their coffee or black tea. But green tea has many reasons why it is a vastly better choice.
Green tea is high in antioxidants (EGCG) to protect the cells from damage and inflammation caused by free radicals that lead to many chronic diseases.
Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Green Tea
Scientific research into the effects of green tea has been extensive. Here are some scientifically proven benefits
- Helps fight prostate cancer
- Dramatically reduces the risk of stroke
- Decreases the chance of developing oesophageal, stomach and colon cancers
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Five cups of green tea a day lowers the risk of disability and frailty, allowing the elderly to stay more agile and independent
- Prevents the progression of Alzheimers disease
- Can reduce sebum production and acne when applied to the skin
- Helps reduce blood sugar spikes, balancing blood sugar levels
- Allows clearer thinking, improves memory and improves spatial learning
- Builds stronger bones and helps prevent their breakdown
- Increases metabolism and burns up body fat, including belly fat, to assist with weight loss
- Suppresses autoimmune diseases including ALS
- Protects the eyes against glaucoma
- Slows the growth of breast cancer
- Helps to protect against UV damage
- May halt colorectal cancer
- Provides a natural antibiotic effect to kill bacteria in the mouth (unlike coffee which causes bad breath)
More Benefits Of Green Tea
Here are seven more benefits:
- May prevent skin wrinkling – EGCG seems to be 200 times more powerful than vitamin E at destroying free radicals
- Reduces some symptoms of PCOS (hair thinning, acne and facial hair)
- It is full of vitamins and minerals
- It boosts metabolism and helps the body to burn fat more efficiently.
- Helps protect against heart disease
- It helps to detoxify the body
- Helps to strengthen the immune system
Concerns About Green Tea
One side effect of drinking green tea can be upset stomach or nausea. However, it shouldn’t discourage you from drinking green tea altogether. I found it only occurred if I drank too much green tea. You may become nauseous if you drink green tea on an empty stomach. Nausea seems to be due to the tannins present which increase stomach acid secretion.
Another problem is the effect of caffeine. Whilst green tea does contain caffeine the amount is vastly lower than that found in coffee or black and oolong teas. Replacing your coffee with a green tea reduces the caffeine intake by about 70%. But this does vary from brew to brew. When you brew the tea for longer it has more caffeine.
If caffeine affects your health enough to completely avoid it, you also need to avoid green tea. But if you’d just like to cut back then it makes sense to switch to green tea which contains only 2-4 percent caffeine. Try replacing coffee with green tea after the middle of the day.
Tannins in all teas can reduce the absorption of vegetarian sources of iron which may be problematic if you have anaemia. Green tea has significantly less tannin than black tea. Drinking tea between meals helps prevent iron uptake problems. Or add lemon to your tea to increase iron absorption.
As always be careful with your choice of healthy natural products. Pre-packaged bottles of green tea drink are not such a healthy choice. They are usually pre-sweetened with large amounts of sweetener. Instead brew your own or order green tea that’s made on the spot. Be aware that green tea from Japan is often treated with fluoride so choose one that is not chemically treated. Drink organic green tea is you are not sure.
The Best Way To Drink Green Tea
- Don’t add milk as it makes it harder for the body to absorb the catechins
- Don’t use boiling water – it kills the catechins
- The vitamin C in lemon helps you absorb the chatechins
- More expensive teas usually have higher levels of healthy compounds and cheaper ones have less
- Aim for three to four cups a day as more seems to have negative effects.
- Drink it hot or iced
- Sweetening with stevia instead of sugar
- Try green tea combined with fruit or floral ingredients if you’re not crazy about the flavour or if you just love variety
The health benefits of green tea are extensive. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and is simply good for you.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.