Tea is so famous and so deeply rooted in our culture that you can divide the entire world into tea lovers and others. Which one are you? This division probably wouldnâ€™t exist if people knew all the amazing health benefits of tea.
In this article, we will focus on green tea and reveal what itâ€™s good for. Hint: all of its benefits wouldnâ€™t fit into a proper book, let alone one blog post. Youâ€™re also about to learn the optimal green tea drinking schedule and safety precautions.
Did you know?Â Tea production originated in China more than 3000 years ago and then moved to other Asian countries. Today, total world production reaches 2.5 million tons of tea leaves each year. Green tea accounts for 20% of it.
Still think nothing can replace your morning cup of coffee? Stick with me for a while and Iâ€™m sure you will give this energizing tea a chance!
Green Tea â€“ Introduction
Tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) can give 4 different types of tea, depending on the production process: green, black, white, and oolong. They differ by antioxidant content, green tea being the richest (more details shortly). Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea and coffee, enabling a subtle energy boost with a lower risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Table 1: Coffee and Tea Caffeine Content
|Coffee drinks||Size â€“ oz. (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Latte or mocha||8 (237)||63-126|
|Teas||Size â€“ oz. (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Brewed black||8 (237)||25-48|
|Brewed green||8 (237)||25-29|
Source: Mayo Clinic
Green tea exists in many different varieties; the most popular one is called Sencha (or Ryokucha).
Of other varieties, Matcha green tea is getting the most attention nowadays. This variety is made of finely ground tea leaves that â€˜dissolveâ€™ in hot water. By consuming the leaves, you get even more antioxidants and other powerful nutrients.
Thanks to a special cultivation method, this variety tends to have more chlorophyll. Also, Matcha powder blends well into smoothies and other recipes.
Antioxidant and Nutritional Content of Green Tea
Unlike its black cousin, green tea doesnâ€™t undergo fermentation and oxidation, maintaining a higher antioxidant content. Catechins are the strongest antioxidant weapon of green tea and they include:
- Gallate derivates
One compound in green tea leads the way with dozens of confirmed health benefits: epigallocatechin-3-gallate, widely known as EGCG. Most studies have been focusing on EGCG, although green tea contains a complex mixture of polyphenols and other phytonutrients, such as:
- Methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline, theobromine)
- Proteins and amino acids
- Complex carbs and fibre
- Minerals and trace elements (magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc, etc.)
- Volatile aromatic compounds
Health Benefits of Green Tea Antioxidants
Antioxidant polyphenols such as catechins account for 30% of green tea leaves dry weight. They support the bodyâ€™s defence mechanism and fight cellular ageing, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Researchers have confirmed their positive biological action and vast therapeutic potentials (1).
EGCG has been studied extensively in various fields. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology recently published a comprehensive review, pointing out some amazing therapeutic potentials of EGCG. It is able to fight and prevent the following processes in the body (2):
- Cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart muscle)
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Oxidative stress
These positive effects can help prevent countless health conditions. Letâ€™s now dive into the benefits of green tea for different aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Benefits of Green Tea for Cognition and Mental Performance
Caffeine is the most popular and most widely consumed psychostimulant. It can bring a short-term improvement of cognitive function, alertness, and mood. In some cases, however, caffeine can provoke anxiety, headaches, and sleep problems (3). Many people have issues with a caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms after long-term excessive consumption.
Then why is green tea so good for mental health and cognition?
- It contains much less caffeine than coffee (Table 1) but still enough to get you going.
- It has a secret weapon for mental health and relaxation: an amino acid called L-theanine.
L-theanine is able to reach your brain neurons and stimulate the production of a â€˜relaxingâ€™ GABA neurotransmitter (4). This way, green tea ensures a unique balance of calmness and alertness. Many people thus consider green tea a more stable and subtler source of energy and â€˜mental buzzâ€™ than coffee.
Benefits of Green Tea for Alzheimerâ€™s (AD) and Parkinsonâ€™s Diseases (PD)
Green tea polyphenols, mainly EGCG and theaflavins, have shown a huge neuroprotective potential in cellular and animal models. They are able to prevent inflammatory and oxidative damage in neurons, which leads to crippling neurodegenerative disorders such as AD and PD (5).
Some human epidemiology studies have confirmed that drinking tea may reduce the risk of dementia, AD, and PD. Scientists are now extensively researching EGCG and other green tea polyphenols as promising neuroprotective agents (6).
TIP: Â Make sure to choose high-quality tea brands. The tea plant can accumulate fluoride from the soil and low-quality tea brands can be contaminated with this potentially neurotoxic element (7).