Top 5 Health Benefits Of Green Tea
People have been consuming green tea both for its delicious flavor, and positive effect on their health for eons. There are many different varieties of green tea, but all come from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a small evergreen tree or shrub native to Southeast Asia, including China, India, and Tibet. The distinctions in flavor, aroma, color and texture arise from different growing regions and farming techniques, harvest time, and production or crafting methods. Some of the most popular green teas include Bancha, Sencha, and Matcha, but all of them provide a host of health benefits.
These are the top five reasons I drink green tea every day.
- Heart health and the prevention of heart disease
- Improved memory, focused concentration and brain health
- Cancer prevention
- Bone health
- Healthy skin
No wonder green tea is described as an “anti-aging” beverage. While I think the term “anti-aging,” is misleading, I do believe drinking green tea every day is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind if you want to be healthy and age well. Here’s what the research shows.
Green Tea for Heart + Cardiovascular Health
Green tea has a wide range of benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system. Its ability to promote cardiovascular health as we age is derived from important compounds in green tea known as catechins. Tea catechins exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-thrombotic and hypo-cholesterolemic effects. In other words, these compounds in green tea help protect and maintain the health of our blood vessels, inhibiting inflammation and other risk factors that can lead to stroke or heart attack. They have a positive impact on cholesterol levels, help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of abnormal blood clots.
Some of the most interesting evidence on the heart healthy benefits of green tea comes from population studies in Japan. One study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the association between green tea consumption and causes of death in over 40,000 individuals over an eleven-year period. The study found that participants who consumed higher amounts of green tea had a lower risk of death due to all causes and a 26% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke.
Green Tea for Memory Loss, Focus + Brain Health
Think of green tea as brain food! Green tea contains compounds that promote focused concentration, and improve memory and brain health. Green tea contains an amino acid known as L-theanine, which stimulates alpha brain waves responsible for mental clarity and focus. L-theanine is also available as a supplement used to relieve anxiety and promote feelings of tranquility and calm. Japanese green tea like Sencha, and especially Matcha, have high concentrations of L-theanine. Compounds in green tea also increase a protein in the body called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a critical role in brain health and even brain growth, or neurogenesis. Research also shows that green tea enhances memory, both by improving connectivity within the brain and increased brain cell production. Green tea’s potential to combat degenerative brain diseases and memory loss continue to be the subject of much research. In the meantime, I’ll continue to drink green tea every day.
Green Tea for Cancer Prevention
Green tea acts as a potent antioxidant to help protect us from cancer. You may be familiar with the terms free radical and antioxidant. Free radicals are very unstable molecules that steal electrons from healthy cells causing cellular damage or cellular death. Free radical (or oxidative) damage is what makes us age. Antioxidants help protect against free radical damage. In addition to a diet rich in high quality, organic fruits and vegetables, drinking green tea every day is a good way to boost your antioxidant intake.
When it comes to specific cancers, research shows that green tea has a positive effect on breast, cervical, prostate and stomach cancer. Population studies suggest that green tea consumption may be one of the reasons cancer rates are lower in Japan where people typically drink about three cups of green tea per day.
Green Tea for Bone Health
Drinking green tea may also offer significant protection against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone” and is associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and falls. Women are most at risk for osteoporosis after menopause. Tea catechins as well as vitamin K1 in green tea may account for this protective effect. Vitamin K1 assists the transport of calcium through the body, improves bone density, reduces bone loss, and decreases the risk of fractures.
Green Tea for Healthy Skin
Green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties provide the same protective effects for the skin as they do for the rest of the body. Skin damage occurs because of free radical damage. Sun is the worst culprit when it comes to skin damage, but poor diet and environmental toxins play a role too.
Green tea is a common ingredient in many skincare products for good reason! Compounds in green tea have been shown to protect the skin from sun damage and inhibit skin cancer cells when applied both topically and taken orally. You can incorporate green tea in your DIY skincare products and reap the rewards. In this recipe for Green Goddess Green Tea lotion, I incorporated a strong green tea. Matcha green tea powder works well combined with cosmetic clay for facial masks and scrubs.
Even if you drink green tea daily, it’s still important to keep your sun exposure to healthy levels and use protection when necessary. Still, it’s comforting to know you’re doing something good for your skin when you start your day with a delicious cup of green tea.
For Maximal Health Benefits, Drink Green Tea Everyday
For the many health benefits of green tea, at least three cups per day is optimal. If you’re not a fan of the flavor, keep at it. For some, it is an acquired taste. Green tea is also available in supplement form in which the therapeutic compounds are concentrated. These concentrated supplements may even be the best option for individuals using green tea to combat specific conditions.
I’d love to hear about your experience with green tea, whether you’re new to green tea or a tea aficionado. Take a picture of yourself with a cup of green tea and tag it #nectarherbandtea on Instagram. I love seeing what you’re up to!
Wishing you health and happiness,
Green Tea and Bone Metabolism, Chwan-Li Shen, et al., Nutrition Research, 2009, 29 (7): 437-456.
Green Tea Catechins and Cardiovascular Health: An Update, Velayutham P, et al., Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2008, 15(18): 1840–1850.
Green Tea Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk or Recurrence: A Meta-Analysis. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Ogunleye AA, et al., Jan 2010, 119(2): 477-484.
Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan: the Ohsaki Study, Kuriyama S, et al., JAMA, Sep 13 2006, 296(10): 1255-1265.
Green Tea Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) Promotes Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation and Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Activation During Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis, Wang Y, et al., Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2012 Aug 56(8):1292-1303.
Green Tea Extract Enhances Parieto-frontal Connectivity During Working Memory Processing, Schmidt A, et al., Psychopharmacology, October 2014, 231(19): 3879–3888.
L-theanine, a Natural Constituent in Tea, and its Effect on Mental State, Nobre AC, et al., Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008, 17 Suppl 1:167-168.
Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care, Stallings A, MD, et al., Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Jan 2009, 2(1):36–40.
Protective Effect of Green Tea on the Risks of Chronic Gastritis and Stomach Cancer, Setiwan VW, et al. International Journal of Cancer, 2001, 92:600-604.
Protective Effects of Green Tea Extracts on Human Cervical Lesions, Ahn WS, et al., European Journal of Cancer, Oct 2003, 12(5):383-390.
Regular Consumption of Green Tea and the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence: Follow-up Study from the Hospital-based Epidemiologic Research Program at Aichi Cancer Center, Japan, Inoue M, et al., Cancer Letters, 2001, 167:175-182.
Review: Green Tea Polyphenols in Chemoprevention of Prostate Cancer: Preclinical and Clinical Studies, Khan N, et al., Nutrition and Cancer, 2009, 621(6):836-841.