I am a practising nutritional therapist, and I am a firm believer that food is a vital part in optimising health and can also to be used to address underlying health issues. Green tea is one of the foods I recommend to my clients. Green Tea is so versatile; it has many health benefits and is also delicious!
It is one of the most popular drinks in the world and has a long history. Legend says that green tea was discovered in 2737 BC by the Emperor of China. It can be drunk hot or cold or taken as a supplement. Many supplement companies are adding green tea or the active polyphenol, Epigallocatchin Gallate (EGCG), to antioxidant and multi vitamin supplements for the health benefits.
Green tea, white tea, and black tea are all made from young leaves of the plant Camelia sinensis. There are two main varieties of green tea, which are the Chinese tea plant and Assam tea plant. Green tea is made by steaming and drying the leaves. Unlike black tea, it is not fermented. The green tea leaves are not oxidized and less processed; therefore, they are thought to contain higher levels of antioxidants than black tea.
The following are ten benefits of drinking green tea. This will also explain why green tea can be good to include in your everyday diet:
Because of its high content of antioxidants, green tea is considered one of the healthiest drinks in the world. Green tea has a very high content of a chemical called polyphenols classified as catechins. Green tea contain six main catechins compounds, including catechin, gallaogatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The bioactive polyphenol, EGCG, is the most studied and has been shown to be efficient in eliminating free radicals.
The antioxidants in green tea are believed to provide anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic effects , and many more benefits as you will see further on.
2. Brain function, stress, and anxiety
Green tea contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Caffeine acts on the brain and nervous system. In small doses in can help you feel refreshed and focused. It may enhance brain function, mood, vigilance, reaction time, and memory. The caffeine level in green tea is rather low in comparison with coffee.
Another component in green tea is an amino acid called L-theanine. Theanine has a relaxing effect and can be used for reducing anxiety. Green tea is used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to reduce stress and as a relaxant.
One study showed that the combination of caffeine with L-theanine had a positive effect on stress response; they found that tea reduced the platelet activation and cortisol levels in response to stress. It increased the ‘relaxation’ levels in comparison to the control group. The result in this study is particularly interesting since caffeine alone would increase the cortisol levels and induce stress as in coffee. It is presumed that the L-theanine compound in green tea counteracts the caffeine and hence the stress reducing effect.
3. Enhances physical performance and increase fat loss
Caffeine can help the body burn fat for energy rather than glycogen in the muscles. This would improve the athlete’s endurance and delay exhaustion, which normally happens when glycogen is depleted.
There are studies showing that green tea extracts used in weight loss programs combined with physical exercise had a positive impact on weight loss. One study in Japan from 2005 used mice and green tea extract to conclude that the mice grew stronger and performed better because they burned fat more efficiently. While this study is based on performance and mice, they believe that the same effect could occur with people with an intake of four cups of green tea per day.
As with all studies, some did not note any increased performance using green tea. Therefore, it’s inconclusive, but I think there are positive indications to use green tea if you would like to lose weight or improve your endurance when exercising.
There are many studies on green tea and the potential impact on cancer prevention or risk reduction. There are studies that show green tea may reduce the risk for certain cancers. However, Cancer Research UK concludes more studies are required and that using green tea as a cancer prevention remedy remains unproven. However, in countries where the consumption of green tea is high, cancer rates that are common in the Western world are lower, such as the low prevalence of breast cancer in Japan. The average green tea consumption in Japan is three cups per day. Obviously there may be many other reasons for this, such as the Japanese diet and lifestyle, but according to the National Cancer Institute, the polyphenols found in green tea have shown to reduce growing tumours.
Other studies have demonstrated that consumption of green tea may protect against prostate cancer. It is suggested thatt protection can be achieved by having 3 – 5 cups of green tea per day; however, this would not be enough for high risk individuals.
Even though some studies are inconclusive, I think there are indications that the consumption of green tea may be beneficial in cancer prevention. One study published in 2014 shows that EGCG changes the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells. The change of the metabolism may explain how green tea reduces the risk of cancer and slows the progression.
5. Liver detox
The antioxidant, polyphenol, in green tea can promote enzymes involved in liver detoxification. To have a well-functioning liver, it is important for the body to get rid of potentially toxic chemicals.
Green tea can be used as but as always with a “full on” detox, I recommend to follow a protocol supported by a professional.
6. Antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal
Green tea has been used traditionally for centuries for the antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
With the start of autumn and the cold and flu season, it may be a good idea to have three cups of green tea per day to help prevent these illnesses.
The use of NSAIDs to reduce inflammation long term is linked with a number of unwanted side effects. Due to these side effects, there is an increased interest to find natural alternatives. Green tea is traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory. One study compared the effects of NSAIDs with green and black tea. It concludes that green tea leaves possess marked anti-inflammatory effects; this is believed to be due to its high levels of catechins.
Other studies show that green tea may be beneficial in reducing the inflammation from Inflammatory Bowel Disease and concludes that tea drinking may be useful in the prevention of inflammation-related diseases.
8. Blood sugar balance
Green tea has been used traditionally to control blood sugar levels. The catechins in green tea may reduce plasma glucose and insulin levels in both healthy individuals and diabetics.
Some studies suggest that green tea may slow down the progression of diabetes type 1. Another study showed that EGCG in combination with starchy food reduced blood sugar spikes significantly. This may suggest that green tea would be a good drink to have with breakfast, which in a Western diet traditionally is starchy.
Green tea is delicious and can be recommended as replacement for sugary drinks, providing no sugar is added.
9. Cardiovascular Health
Green tea has been shown to have many positive effects on cardiovascular health. The many beneficial properties in green tea such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, anti-hypertensive, anti-proliferative, anti-thrombogenic, and lipid lowering effects all contribute to cardiovascular health.
One study shows that people who drink green tea have better blood vessel health just 30 minutes later. Blood vessel health plays an important role in cardiovascular health. The antioxidants in green tea may also reduce the risk for atherosclerosis. There are also indications that green tea may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
10. Obesity – metabolic syndrome
One study shows that four cups of green tea daily reduced weight and BMI significantly in 35 individuals with obesity and metabolic syndrome. The tea was taken for 8 weeks. It also showed decreased levels of LDL. This study suggests that green tea flavonoids can be used to reduce weight in obese people.
Another study had a similar result where 45 obese elderly individuals had three cups of green tea for 60 days. The study showed that green tea may be used to induce weight loss reduction in BMI and waist circumference.
The antioxidant levels in green tea are also helpful in individuals with metabolic syndrome, as metabolic syndrome is linked to a number of health issues related to inflammation. High intake of green tea increases the body’s glutathione levels. Glutathione is associated with the body’s detoxification process as well as the immune system; green tea will both induce weight loss and have a positive impact on the immune system.
There are no serious side effects associated with green tea taken in moderation . But if you are caffeine sensitive, you may choose . It is also best to check with your doctor if you are on any medication as there may be negative reactions.
Green tea has many more benefits than the above but I feel that these are pretty important. Although some studies are inconclusive and further studies are required, I believe that there are many indications that including green tea in your everyday diet can benefit your health. Aim to have at least three cups of delicious green tea per day.