You most likely have heard all types of claims about green tea and how it is beneficial for you. It is in every fitness blog, Youtubers are raving about it and you probably even see it in some news sites like MSN or Yahoo.
There are so many health claims about green tea that people almost see it as a magic potion! ‘Green Tea can reduce your risk of cancer’, ‘Green Tea can help you shed body fat’, ‘Green Tea can help reduce blood pressure and anxiety’ are some of the numerous claims made about Green Tea. As with any piece of information about healthy food, there are so many contradictory information out there and it is hard to separate fact from fiction.
One thing we do know for sure though is that green tea is healthier than black tea due to its unprocessed nature.
The problem is that there are certain types of food that are hailed in the dieting world and a lot of hype is created around it. This means countless blog posts, articles, and videos will be dedicated to it.
Sifting through all this information and trying to find evidence-backed health claims can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack!
Reviews of research studies that have been published in reputed medical journals have so far shown that:
Green tea has potent antioxidants called catechins that have amazing protective, anti-inflammatory properties.
High green tea consumption has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, and with reduced mortality rates arising from cardiovascular diseases. This is most likely due to the strong antioxidants present in green tea.
Green tea consumption has also shown to improve the cognitive function of participants in some studies, helping them form better memories.
Studies which investigated the health benefits of green tea for cancer prevention and weight loss have been inconclusive.
Green Tea and its Origins
Green tea is simply a variant of regular tea. Both green, white and black teas originate from the Carmelis sinesis species. Green tea is thought to have originated in Eastern Asia almost 5,000 years ago and spread across the continent due to its perceived health benefits.
The key difference between green tea and black tea is that black tea has been processed and fermented, whereas green tea has not.
The processing and fermentation process give a stronger, richer taste that black tea is famous for. Green tea is also grown under different environmental conditions. Most green tea plantations are set up at a higher elevation than black tea plantations.
One of the most famous types of green tea is Matcha green tea. It has become versatile that it is now used in desserts such as cheesecake and chocolates.
Matcha is derived from green tea leaves that have grown in a sheltered environment and are later crushed into a powder. It has a rich, bright green colour thanks to its high levels of chlorophyll.
Both green tea and black tea contain caffeine. However, black tea has a slightly higher caffeine content (about 50 mg compared to green tea’s 45 mg).
Health Benefits of Green Tea
The most significant health benefit from green tea comes from its high polyphenol content. Flavonoids are a family of polyphenols. The most potent flavonoids present in green tea are catechins and epigallocatechin gallate. Catechins are highly effective and protective antioxidants. They act by reducing damage in the body’s cells.
Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, and hence it can reduce the risk of numerous health issues. Inflammation is a serious issue in many people and is the leading trigger in the development of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease because inflammation encourages the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Most of the research-backed health benefits of green tea concern serious health conditions that are aggravated as a result of increased inflammation in the body.
Improved Heart Health
Green tea has been shown to improve cardiovascular health. A study was published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Medical Association which studied a sample of 4,000 Japanese people who were between the ages of 40 and 79.
The subjects were monitored for over 11 years to see if there was a link between green tea consumption and longevity.
The study concluded that people who consumed several servings of green tea a day had a significantly lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases than those who consumed less than one serving.
This finding is thought to be due to the protective, anti-inflammatory properties of the flavonoid catechin.
Inflammation is most often caused by a poor diet that is high in LDL cholesterol and saturated or trans fats. Due to the high antioxidant content in green tea, drinking it could alleviate some of the health issues caused by modern day high-fat diets.
A review of published research studies done in 2011 concluded that high green tea consumption led to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol, which is one of the biggest culprits of heart disease and heart attacks.
Improved Cognitive Function
A study done on Swiss participants in 2013 examined the subjects’ MRI images to see how increasing green tea consumption affects cognitive function. The study revealed that areas of the brain that form memories were more active in subjects that consumed more green tea than those who didn’t.
There is also some evidence to suggest that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of green tea can prevent the development of plaques which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduced Risk of Strokes
In another research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, higher consumption of green tea or coffee seemed to reduce the risk of developing a stroke.
Improved mood and mental health
A compound found in green tea called L-theanine is able to permeate the blood-brain barrier which can trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine to boost mood and reduce anxiety levels.
Because of the combined effect of L-theanine and the small amounts of caffeine, green tea is the perfect beverage for reducing anxiety and improving focus.
The small amount of caffeine is stimulating enough to increase your energy levels but low enough to not make you feel jittery or restless like coffee.