Health Benefits of Green Tea

Healthy Swaps in the New Year

While I am 100% NOT giving up coffee — couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it — I am trying to break a bit of my afternoon caffeine habit. Since it’s a new year, why not start now? Lately, instead of going for an afternoon coffee or Diet Coke, I’ve been turning my sights towards green tea, again. I’ve always loved green tea, but sometimes I fall out of the habit of drinking it. This can be because I’m into some other kind of tea — IE: darjeeling! — or because I fall out of the habit of drinking tea entirely. While I hardly need a push to drink it besides the flavor, I’ve often heard about the health benefits of green tea, so I decided to do a bit of a deep dive into the drink.

Dry green sencha tea, photo by Christine Csencsitz

Please note, I’m not a medical professional at all. I’m just an avid tea drinker and curious internet researcher. So, with that in mind, here’s what I found:

Green Tea is Rich in Polyphenol Macronutrients

Polyphenols, a plant-based macronutrient, help to reduce inflammation in the body. Some claim these macronutrients even help fight cancer. All tea has polyphenols, but green tea, as the least processed type of tea leaf, has about 30% polyphenols by weight, along with a bunch of natural antioxidants called catechin or EGCG.

The evidence of green tea’s impact on cancer have been mixed, but since green tea is known to aid healthy cell growth in all ages, there’s hope that it might help destroy cancer cells. This research is promising but still in early stages. WebMD cites the National Cancer Institute as saying “it does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer.”

Dry green sencha tea, photo by Christine Csencsitz

Green Tea Can Help You Focus and Protect Your Brain

While green tea does contain caffeine, it doesn’t contain nearly as much as coffee; so, green tea can give you a bit of an afternoon boost without making you feel shaky afterwards. Beyond the caffeine, though, green tea has L-theanine, an amino acid that is thought to work with caffeine to improve brain function. The natural L-theanine in green tea is also believed to produce a calming effect. So, if you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon, green tea might do more to perk you up than you would think!

Relatedly, like with crafting, green tea is thought to protect the brain against diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. Bioactive compounds in green tea are thought to be able to protect neurons in the brain, making these diseases less likely. So, maybe have some green tea while you’re working on your next artistic pursuit.

Green Tea May Increase Fat Burning, Boost Metabolisms, Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and Generally Promote Better Health

In controlled human trials, evidence has found that green tea can boost energy expenditure, as well as fat oxidation. It’s unclear if these benefits are there for everyone, or if it’s based on a particular person’s metabolism, but I can dream.

As for Type 2 Diabetes, studies have shown that green tea can help to reduce blood sugar levels and improve the body’s insulin sensitivity. According to this article, a review of 7 studies (with a total of 286,701 individuals), “green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic.”

Relatedly, green tea is thought to reduce some of the main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Green tea has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, as well as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Green tea increases the blood’s carrying capacity for antioxidants, which is related to LDL cholesterol.

Green Tea Can Help Protect Your Teeth

The antioxidant catechins in green tea that I referenced earlier are thought to kill bacteria in the mouth, lowering one’s risk of infection. Catechins are particularly thought to inhibit viruses like the flu. Relatedly, catechins have been found to inhibit the growth of streptococcus mutans, harmful bacteria in the mouth that can result in cavities and tooth decay. Lastly, green tea is thought to reduce bad breath.

Resources & Further Reading

My Favorite Green Tea

If I’ve sufficiently piqued your interest in green tea, I recommend checking out my all time favorite green tea: Whittard’s Sencha Green Tea (No. 780). Loose leaf tea is the best, since you bypass any issue of whether or not the teabag contains plastic, and it’s typically much fresher. Plus, to benefit from the health benefits of green tea, it’s important to have a high quality tea leaf. Whittard’s teas are just amazing, and the Sencha green tea is sourced from China, “where the technique of steaming the leaves to stop the oxidation process first originated.”

Green tea information from the Whittard of Chelsea website