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If you find yourself sipping on a cup of tea in the morning or whipping up a matcha latte mid-afternoon, you’re not alone.
It is estimated that over 159 million Americans consume tea every day. And, no doubt, some of those tea-drinkers are in it for more than just the delicate flavor.
There are four main kinds of tea: black, green, oolong, and white, not including herbal options.
And while they all offer certain health benefits, green tea is often the tea of choice for the health-conscious crowd.
Here, let’s break down how exactly green tea got its status as a veritable health hero and why.
Everyone knows that green tea is good for you, but why? What exactly can this bittersweet liquid do for you? Apparently, a lot.
The therapeutic properties1 of green tea have been known for thousands of years, and now, modern science has been confirming these properties and more.
Here are the top reasons you should be sipping green tea every day:
For green tea, fresh tea leaves are grown uncovered then harvested and steamed, which preserves most of its polyphenols2, a class of phytochemicals with strong antioxidant benefits.
The majority of polyphenols in green tea are flavonoids3. The type of flavonoids that confer the most health benefits are catechins and green tea is full of them.
You’ve probably heard of epigallocatechin gallate4 (EGCG), the most prominent and most studied catechin, and green tea’s claim to fame.
Many experts now believe that inflammation is at the root of almost all chronic diseases, from cardiovascular disease to cognitive decline.
The antioxidants in green tea may help relieve this inflammation. 5
Green tea has been shown to benefit those with arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammation-driven diseases6.
A study conducted on Japanese men and women found that those who drank green tea had a decrease in cardiovascular disease risks.
Research shows green tea can improve insulin sensitivity7, protect pancreatic cells from further damage, and decrease inflammation, all benefiting those at risk for or already diagnosed with diabetes.
Plus, green tea may even help prevent diabetes altogether. High carb diets, especially white rice8, have been linked to diabetes.
However, one study published in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate a high rice diet who also drank seven or more cups of green tea a day had a lower risk of diabetes9 than those who did not drink green tea, suggesting a protective effect.
Green tea has been shown to increase metabolism10, enhance fat burning11, and reduce body weight12.
These benefits extend to green tea extract as well. Two to six cups per day appear to offer the most benefits.
While there is still no cure, research confirms that green tea can improve cognitive scores13 among those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have found that the combination of polyphenols and caffeine in green tea can influence psychopathological symptoms and help reduce anxiety, improve alertness, and brain function14 in healthy adults.
While research has yielded mixed results, and thus, is still preliminary in nature, the antioxidants in green tea, specifically the catechin EGCG15, has shown benefits for reducing metastasis and improving outcomes for cancers of the breasts, lungs, colon, skin, and others.
One study found Japanese women who drank 10 or more 4-ounce cups of green tea a day had a 7-year delay in cancer onset16.
While much more research is needed in order to consider green tea a viable treatment, it might be beneficial to get brewing.
Tea contains fluoride and can improve bacterial populations17 in the mouth which can reduce the risk of periodontal disease, cavities, and possibly even oral cancer.
The small amounts of caffeine in green tea confer some benefits, too.
Similar to white and oolong tea, green tea has about 25 to 35 mg of caffeine per cup.
For reference, a cup of coffee contains around 95 mg caffeine or more depending on brewed strength. Which means you can get enough to improve mental and physical performance, without going overboard on caffeine.
One study found that over a period of 10 weeks, endurance exercise performance improved by 24% in individuals who took green tea extract.
Green tea is available as loose-leaf or bagged tea, as green tea extract in powder or capsules, or as Matcha powder.
Matcha is essentially green tea powder but differs from brewed green tea in that the tea leaves are covered prior to harvest, yielding a more concentrated flavor and higher caffeine and antioxidant levels.
In fact, one study found that matcha contained 137 times more EGCG than green tea18.
While there are tons of reasons to drink green tea, there are a few to avoid it, as well.
Those who are allergic or sensitive to caffeine may need to limit or avoid green tea consumption.
Also, the caffeine and tannins in coffee and tea can reduce iron absorption, especially plant-based iron. Therefore, those diagnosed with or at risk for anemia may need to reduce or avoid coffee and tea intake.
Always check the source of your tea. If not responsibly or organically grown, it can contain chemicals and metals from the soil it was grown in.
While there isn’t enough sufficient evidence on the exact number of cups to drink per day, 2-4 cups of green tea per day seems to be the optimal amount to reap the most benefits.
Always consult with your doctor if you are sensitive to large amounts of caffeine or are unsure how much tea you should consume daily.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 30, 2012. A previous version of this article indicated that green tea can improve mental clarity in individuals. We have since clarified that statement to indicate that green tea can influence psychopathological symptoms and help reduce anxiety, which, in turn can help improve mental clarity in healthy individuals.
Natalie is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion to help others live their best life through food, fitness, safer beauty and a healthy lifestyle. She has expertise with a variety of diets and diseases and believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for health. Natalie consults for various organizations, like Apple, Inc., healthline.com, Head Health, Inc., and others, providing medical review, recipe and video creation, program development and delivery, seminars, and other services. She has also advocated for personalized functional nutrition and nutrigenomics-based lifestyle changes through her private practice Nutrition By Natalie since 2007. Natalie graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics, and went on to pursue her graduate dietetic internship to become an RDN through Marywood University in Pennsylvania.
Natalie loves spending time with her husband and three children in the kitchen, garden and in nature. She is a foodie at heart and loves most cuisines, but especially spicy Indian and Thai.
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