Green tea: Celebrities drink it, models bathe in it and some of the oldest cultures in the world have drunk it for millenia. Proponents claim it speeds weight-loss, reduces signs of ageing, promotes detox and prevents cancer. But is green tea really one of nature’s superfoods, or is it just another hyped up health product? While it might not be a secret elixir for eternal life, it certainly seems green tea has some wonderful health benefits, with research to back it up as well.
This is a topic we get asked about a lot in clinic and it’s certainly true that green tea has been shown to promote weight loss. Although most studies on the topic to date have been small (or short term), it seems drinking green tea may result in a slight increase in fat loss, along with reductions in waist circumference. Overall, whilst green tea alone wont beat a healthy diet and regular exercise, it’s certainly worth adding to your regime for that extra boost. Furthermore, if you’re swapping sugary soft drinks, cordials or milky drinks for some green goodness, the impact on your weight loss goals will be even more apparent.
Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention
Green tea contains some potent antioxidants (such as epigallocatechin-gallate) which have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as breast, prostate, colorectal and ovarian cancers. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage, which may in part explain this anti-cancer effect. That said, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much green tea is required to exert these effects, with studies using anywhere between 2-10 cups per day! Either way, your body will certainly thank you for the wonderful antioxidants found in your morning cuppa.
Another benefit of the antioxidant content of green tea is that green tea consumption may improve your cardiovascular health, by reducing blood pressure, lowering triglycerides and improving your cholesterol profile. This corresponds with data that suggests individuals who drink five or more cups of green tea per day are likely to live longer, with a significantly reduced risk of dying from stroke or heart attack. Check out these two studies here and here for more info.
Anti-Viral Effects and Oral Hygiene
Catechins, one of the plant compounds found in green tea, are highly anti-viral, meaning they might be able to reduce your risk of catching a cold. Drinking green tea throughout the day is a great way to continuously expose the mucous membranes in your mouth and throat to these anti-viral properties, to help prevent a virus taking up residence. Research also suggests the anti-microbial properties of green tea might help prevent tooth decay, by inhibiting growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the main bacteria responsible for dental caries.
Green tea contains a compound called L-theanine, which promotes feelings of calm. L-theanine can help reduce anxiety by supporting production of one of the body’s main anxiolytic neurotransmitters, called GABA. Whilst this effect is mild, it’s certainly an added benefit of incorporating a few cups of green tea into your daily regime.
Epigallocatechin-gallate, that antioxidant I mentioned earlier, has been shown to have neuro-protective effects, meaning it may slow cognitive decline with age and reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Although this research (here and here) is still preliminary, it’s just another reason to turn on the kettle and pour yourself a cup.
If you’d like to take advantage of these wonderful health-giving properties of green tea, check out our top tips below to make the most of your cup:
Top Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Green Tea
- Don’t make your tea too hot: Green tea should be made with hot but not boiling water, typically around 70-90°C depending on the variety. Steeping your tea in boiling water will make the tea taste bitter and lower the nutritional value of the tea.
- Drink your green tea away from iron rich foods or iron supplements: Green tea contains tannins which can reduce iron absorption, so if you struggle to keep your iron up, it’s best to have green tea away from your meals.
- Avoid drinking green tea at night time: Whilst green tea contains less caffeine than coffee, it can still be mildly stimulating and may disrupt the depth and quality of your sleep.
- Choose good quality green tea, and opt for organic varieties if possible. Green tea that has been less heavily processed will typically contain a higher amount of the polyphenols that convey all those lovely health benefits.
- Avoid green tea with ‘natural’ flavours, such as ‘lemon flavour’. If you like your green tea with some flavour, add in some lemon juice, fresh mint leaves or some finely grated ginger during steeping.
- Avoid canned or bottled green tea drinks or ‘iced green teas’; these are usually high in sugar and other flavourings, and contain little (if any) of the health-giving antioxidants.