Green tea: 5 health benefits of drinking it every day

The VITL Nutrition Team / Jan 8, 2015

Take a look around any supermarket or health food store and you will be faced with an impressively wide and exotic array of teas. Luckily, many popular teas, including green tea, have impressive health benefits - some that you may not realise even if you are already a big tea drinker.

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For thousands of years, many cultures - especially those in Asia - have used tea as a traditional herbal remedy to treat a variety of ailments. Green tea originated in China but today its benefits are widely recognised.

5 Reasons Why We’re Drinking Green Tea:

1. Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, auto-immune disease, and more. The polyphenols in green tea help to combat inflammation by moderating the inflammatory response in our body and lowering stress hormones. They also have the ability to restore healthy cholesterol levels, including lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

2. Rich in Antioxidants

Green tea is one of the best sources of antioxidants - in fact it contains more than blueberries, red wine, dark chocolate, or apples. One cup of green tea contains as many polyphenols as 8 apples. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals in the body and are thought to play a role in preventing disease and slowing the ageing process.

3. Can Improve Brain Function

EGCG, a polyphenol found in green tea, has been shown to be helpful in fighting degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Green tea is particularly powerful in protecting a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for processing and remembering information. The amino acid L-theanine is also found in green tea and this is said to have a beneficial effect on mood and cognitive performance. Therefore green tea may help us to focus and retain more information. In fact, Zen Buddhist monks drink green tea to improve their focus during meditation.

4. Boost Your Metabolism

Green tea helps the metabolism to work at a faster speed, therefore burning more calories. It has also been shown to help reduce fat cells, specifically those that make up abdominal fat. A range of studies have shown green tea's effectiveness in reducing waist size and body mass index. Likely this is due to a number of factors - the increased metabolic rate, a decrease in hunger due to the caffeine, and more energy for physical activity, plus reduced inflammation and swelling.

5. A Healthier Choice of Drink

Green tea helps to balance blood sugar levels by improving the body’s ability to respond to insulin (the hormone that brings blood sugar into balance). Problems with insulin regulation have been shown to lead to weight gain and health conditions like diabetes. Compared with juices, fizzy drinks, or other sweetened drinks, green tea has zero calories, carbs, sugar, fibre, protein, or fat.

How does green tea compare to coffee or other teas?

Black tea has the highest caffeine level of all teas, followed by green tea and then white tea. Herbal teas usually contain no caffeine, unlike more traditional teas which come from the plant Camellia sinensis. Green tea provides natural energy with low levels of caffeine. It offers a natural energy boost without causing the “jitters” some coffee drinkers experience. Together with the amino acid L-theanine, these two ingredients are thought to help increase focus and performance.

Coffee is believed to contain less antioxidants and health properties than green tea, and is commonly more processed too. Black and white teas offer some of the same health benefits, but green tea is often regarded by experts as the best choice with the most powerful effects - as long as it’s a high-quality brew.

Herbal teas are actually quite different from traditional teas but several of these - like peppermint, ginger and chamomile - have a very long history of being used medicinally to ease digestion, boost immunity, and bring on a feeling of calm and relaxation. However most herbal teas do not contain the antioxidant or inflammation-reducing abilities that green tea does.

With green tea readily available in almost every supermarket or cafe these days, why not give it a chance? Experts recommend drinking 1-3 cups of green tea daily. You can also add a squeeze of lemon to help your body absorb more antioxidants (thanks to the Vitamin C it contains) or a bit of honey to add some natural sweetness.

If that amount seems like too much for you, consider taking a green tea extract supplement or using matcha powder. Matcha powder is made from ground green tea leaves and boasts even more antioxidants than many brewed teas. You can whisk matcha powder into your smoothie or even sprinkle it onto some desserts. This is an especially convenient way to still get all the benefits of green tea without brewing and drinking multiple cups.