How a cup of green tea per day can do wonders for your health
As we approach the time of year when New Year’s promises to lead a healthier lifestyle start to fade in the rearview mirror, it’s a good time to remember that it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or unpleasant to build healthy habits. Consider the gift that is green tea: it could not be easier to make, comes in a variety of flavors to suit most tastes, and is readily available in most grocery stores. Nothing that healthy, you might think, could ever be this easy to slip into my daily routine.
And yet, numerous studies on the health benefits of green tea have found strong associations between drinking green tea consistently and a wealth of positive health outcomes. People who drink green tea daily live longer, have reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, lose more weight when they exercise and burn calories faster generally, and their skin ages more slowly, among other green tea health benefits.
While you wait for your water to boil and your green tea to brew, take a deeper look into the health benefits of green tea.
The Health Benefits of Green Tea Antioxidants
Green tea has been called the healthiest drink on earth, largely due to the numerous healthy outcomes associated with the specific antioxidants it contains and their capacity to protect our cells from unstable molecules called free radicals.
Antioxidants help prevent free radicals from causing cell damage, which over time can lead to cancer and other diseases. Without going too deep into organic chemistry, free radicals are missing an electron and will take one from a healthy cell (thus causing damage) unless an antioxidant donates an electron to the free radical first. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, our bodies enter a state of compounding cell damage called oxidative stress, which increases the risk of developing chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.
The trick is to consume a variety of antioxidants from multiple sources to continuously balance out our count of free radicals and effectively block them from causing cell damage. Regularly supplementing our diet with the kinds of antioxidants our bodies can’t produce on their own, particularly from plant-based sources called polyphenol antioxidants, can go a long way to make sure we stay healthy with antioxidants outnumbering free radicals.
As it happens, the humble cup of green tea contains numerous polyphenol antioxidants, and in particular a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), that are highly effective at providing robust protection against free radicals, along with many other health benefits.
Green Tea May Help Prevent Cancer
Ample research has found a strong correlation between people who drink tea consistently and reduced cancer rates, suggesting that green tea may have a role in preventing cancer. One study found that women who drank more green tea had a 20-30% reduced risk of developing breast cancer, and similar effects have been observed in relation to prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
Though a direct causal link has yet to be isolated, it is likely that green tea’s observed preventative effects against cancer stem from its richness in polyphenol antioxidants and the free radical protection they provide.
Green Tea Promotes Heart Health
Green tea catechins are strongly correlated with reduced risk for heart disease for a number of reasons. As green tea antioxidants fight free radical damage, they also help prevent heart failure and hypertension by reducing oxidative stress. Meanwhile, green tea catechins help regulate blood pressure and lower risk of hypertension by reducing the inflammation that causes hardened arteries and high blood pressure. Catechins also reduce platelet clumping and lower cholesterol, thereby reducing risk of clots and heart attacks.
Green Tea May Help Regulate Symptoms of Diabetes
Because green tea catechins lower oxidative stress in the body, they also reduce risk for long-term complications of diabetes. Additionally, separate studies found that a catechin called epicatechin has an insulin-like effect in type 2 diabetic patients.
Green Tea Promotes Oral Health
Green tea’s catechin content may be responsible for the link between green tea and better oral health. Catechins kill the bacteria that cause bad breath, which translates to less plaque and a lower risk of cavities. Green tea catechins also reduce gum inflammation and gum disease.
Green Tea May Protect Against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Catechins also appear to reduce your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease, possibly by preventing plaque from developing in the brain. Green tea catechins also have neuroprotective properties that have been found to reduce damage from brain injury.
Green Tea Boosts Metabolism and Helps With Weight Loss
Catechins and polyphenols help boost your metabolism and raise body temperature, signaling your body to convert fat stores into energy more quickly, which may help speed weight loss whether you have a gym membership or not. If you do go to the gym, studies have also found that people who drink green tea and work out lose weight faster than those who skip the tea but still exercise.
Green Tea Boosts Focus and Cognition While Reducing Stress
Green tea contains about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee, but delivers it in combination with two powerful compounds that boost caffeine’s alertness-improving properties while enhancing brain function. As you’ve probably guessed, one is a catechin called EGCG which promotes better memory and learning. The other is called l-theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain without also causing drowsiness.
Combined, the result is increased cognitive performance and alertness, an improved ability to sustain attention and focus, and better memory— while keeping you relaxed and free of the jitters, anxiety, or energy crash that can come with coffee.
Green Tea May Help You Live Longer
Studies have found that drinking green tea at least three times a week consistently is associated with a longer life and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Green Tea Is Good for Your Skin
Green tea catechins have been found to protect skin from sun damage caused by harmful UV radiation and improve overall skin quality. Green tea’s anti-inflammatory properties also reduce wrinkles.
Get the Most Out of Every Cup
For best results, buy high-quality green tea
Green tea supplements are no substitute for green tea itself and do not provide the same health benefits. Cheap green tea will have fewer of the healthy compounds than high-quality green tea.
Consistency is key
Research suggests that consistent habitual green tea consumption leads to the best health outcomes, likely because our bodies don’t stock antioxidants so we have to resupply often. Find a green tea habit that works for you, ideally somewhere between 3 cups a week to a cup per day consistently.
Maximize your antioxidant intake
You’ll get the most nutritional benefits out of every cup if you steep your green tea just below boiling (160-170 degrees). You can also boost the benefits by pairing green tea and lemon: adding a splash of lemon helps your body absorb the nutrients.
For more health-related topics, tips, and recipes, make sure to follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog. We’ve recently covered other antioxidant-rich foods in “4 Health Benefits of Cranberries” and “Health Benefits of Eating Apples.” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.