It seems like every week a news story breaks telling us something we consume regularly is too bad or good for our health. Both tea and other caffeinated drinks get a lot of attention with green tea being soloed out in particular. So, here’s the truth about the health benefits and potential negative side effects.
Green tea is a very nutritious drink and it’s one of the least caffeinated tea types. According to USDA, 100g contains:
- 1 kcal
- 8mg of potassium
- 12mg of caffeine
- Traces of whole range of vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium, vitamin B2, and vitamin B3
It’s also full of antioxidants (molecules that prevent cell damage) and can have varying levels of other vitamins depending on the variety of green tea you drink. Mostly, however, it’s just a great way to rehydrate and enjoy some delicate or complex flavor profiles.
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the most notable health benefits and side effects!
8 Benefits of Green Tea
Besides the vitamins and minerals mentioned, it contains 3 very beneficial natural elements.
Antioxidants: these are natural chemicals found in green tea that stop oxidation in your body. They neutralize free radicals, which damage your cells and contribute to aging, heart conditions, disease, and cancer. Scientists have found that the antioxidants can neutralize those free radicals and stop cell damage, thus giving evidence that drinking green tea could prevent cancer and keep your cells whole and healthy for longer.
Polyphenols: there is a whole range of polyphenols in green tea and other plants. These are organic compounds that protect the plant from disease, UV rays, and environmental damage. When consumed by us, we can absorb their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties. The key polyphenol is catechin, which acts as another antioxidant.
Amino Acids: green tea leaves contain l-theanine, a unique amino acid that’s only found in tea leaves! L-theanine has relaxing properties. It can affect your mood, making you feel mellow and calm. It can help to soothe anxiety and improve the quality of your sleep – although the natural caffeine also in green tea will combat that.
These 3 natural elements alongside the health benefits of staying hydrated (green tea is mostly water!) can help ease a wide number of medical problems.
1. Green Tea for Weight Loss: Does it work?
Losing weight is a great aim if you struggle to maintain a healthy weight and green tea can certainly help! The best green tea for weight loss drinks with a healthy, balanced diet with exercise. Otherwise, you’ll just put the pounds back on after your return to your old eating habits, regardless of how much you drink.
There are a lot of studies that show how green tea can help you lose weight, increase your metabolic rate, and increase calorie output. Just choose a good quality green tea as your best diet to make sure you enjoy the experience.
Both caffeine and catechin EGCG have been shown to boost your metabolism.
2. Can Green Tea Help Digestion?
The catechins in green tea can aid digestion naturally, but there are specific green tea blends with added ingredients that can help you digest easier. It can interact with your food when it’s in your stomach and stop some nutrients from being absorbed into your body (particularly iron), so if you’re drinking green tea for digestion you should wait at least 30 minutes after you’ve finished your meal. This gives your food time to enter the digestive system where catechins can help you digest.
Turmeric can prevent bloating, chamomile relieves heartburn and diarrhea, and fennel seeds can promote healthy digestions and treat cramps. These are all great ingredients you can add to your green tea to create an herbal blend that’s ideal for digestion.
Catechins in green tea help boost your digestive enzymes, allowing your body to absorb more nutrients from your food.
3. Anti-inflammatory Effects
Adding lemon juice breaks down the polyphenols and antioxidants, allowing your body to absorb them quicker. The anti-inflammatory properties of green tea could help ease inflammation in the gut and stomach, plus inflammatory conditions like arthritis and IBS.
Other anti-inflammatory ingredients you can add to your green tea include licorice root (which is naturally sweet too), ginger (will also calm an upset stomach), black pepper and white willow bark.
The polyphenols contained in green tea are naturally anti-inflammatory.
4. Good for Skin
Green tea is a known treatment for skin problems. It’s a traditional and widely used ingredient in many Korean beauty regimes! It’s the antioxidants that strengthen your skin, the ECGC antioxidant to be precise. This antioxidant protects your skin from free radical damage and UV rays (although you can’t use it as a sunscreen!). There are many scientific studies on how this antioxidant can improve your skin, keeping it strong and looking healthy.
The anti-inflammatory properties will also aid red, blotchy skin tones and help to reduce acne.
You can improve your skin by drinking green tea regularly or using the leaves as a face mask.
Anti-inflammatory polyphenols can reduce acne while catechins protect your skin from sun damage and antioxidants reduce the visible signs of aging by neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals.
5. Anti-Cancer Health Benefits of Green Tea
Scientists are still researching how green tea, Chinese green tea, in particular, can help fight or prevent cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, there is some evidence that green tea can prevent cancer. We know that it strengthens the immune system and has anti-inflammatory, calming effects, but there’s little evidence that it can stop your cancer altogether.
We recommend a calming, sweet cup of Mao Feng as the best green tea for cancer patients. We find it’s particularly soothing and bursting with fresh, revitalizing antioxidants.
Antioxidants can prevent free radicals from causing cell damage and cancer, however, more research is needed to discover if green tea can combat existing cancer cases.
6. Good for Hair Loss, Shedding, Hair Growth
There is evidence that green tea can be good for your hair, particularly if you want to stop losing hair or encourage hair growth. Vitamins C and E are also good for strengthening your hair and making it shiny, so enjoying a cup of green tea with fresh fruit (infused or on the side) is a great way to boost your vitamin intake. Citrus fruits are bursting with vitamin C, while mango, kiwifruit and a variety of nuts from almonds to peanuts are a fantastic source of vitamin E.
We recommend a more full-bodied Chinese green tea to stand up against the fresh fruit sweet flavors if you’re consuming tea. If you’re applying it directly to your hair, a standard will do (use loose leaf if you want to extract the most antioxidants or use the best green tea extract).
Antioxidants can prevent free radicals from causing cell damage and cancer, however, more research is needed to discover if it can combat existing cancer cases.
Related: Best Slim Teas
7. Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Caffeine can increase your blood pressure, so drinking too much black tea or coffee when you already have high blood pressure is not a good idea!
This is why green tea is the best choice for those with high blood pressure, as it contains the smallest amount of caffeine compared to the other tea types. There is also some evidence that drinking green tea long-term can reduce your blood pressure a little, reducing your chances of having a stroke or cardiac disease.
Drinking low-caffeine green tea rehydrates your body and relaxes your blood vessels.
More: Caffeine Free Tea
8. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Just like long term drinking of green tea is good for reducing blood pressure, there’s also some evidence that it can reduce levels of cholesterol. Furthermore, EGCG, that antioxidant that’s great for your skin and hair, is also effective at preventing the build-up of plaque in your arteries, meaning it could reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease.
Green tea flavonoids protect the heart while antioxidants could prevent atherosclerosis.
Choose green tea that’s young, fresh and has high levels of antioxidants as your best green tea for heart health.
Is Loose Leaf Healthier?
Loose-leaf will generally contain more antioxidants, as the tea oils are tightly packed within the leaves. There’s also a higher concentration of L-Theanine within the stalks of the tea plants, which are sometimes caught up amongst the leaves.
Green tea bags are full of smaller tea leaf parts that have been cut or crushed after drying. This allows those nutritious tea oils to escape. This does reduce the nutritious value, but the smaller size will also allow those remaining antioxidants to infuse quicker into your cup of tea.
It does make sense that the longer you brew, the more of these antioxidants, amino acids and polyphenols will infuse… but don’t get carried away! The flavor of your green tea is also important and over-brewing can give your tea an astringent, bitter bite.
Are There Health Benefits to Green Tea Extract?
Green tea extracts can have some great health benefits when you use them correctly! They allow you to enjoy the healthy antioxidants and vitamins (particularly vitamins A, B, C, and D) without enjoying a cup. While we absolutely recommend drinking a whole cup of green tea so you can rehydrate while you get those needed nutrients, sometimes you just don’t have time.
Just remember that the extract is highly concentrated, and you don’t need to use much to absorb the health benefits. Using too much green tea extract can be detrimental to your health. The key is moderation – most studies we’ve found suggest anywhere from 1 to 5 cups per day is healthy.
The best green tea extracts to reap the health benefits will be organic and simply concentrated green tea, with no additives. Dilute the extract in water or add it to your smoothies and during meal prep. The flavor will be super strong so if you don’t get on with it, don’t worry. A cup of freshly brewed green tea will deliver the same nutrients with a better flavor.
Side Effects of Green Tea
There are very few side effects or negative health effects of drinking green tea. Drinking a small to a moderate amount (1-3 cups) per day is highly unlikely to result in any long-term health problems.
Some components can be bad for you in excess or should be avoided if you have a particular condition.
Caffeine – green tea has very low levels of caffeine, approximately 12mg of caffeine per 100g of brewed tea (read our Guide to Caffeine in Green Tea for more information) which could cause problems if you are extremely sensitive to caffeine. It could give you an upset stomach, headache or trouble sleeping.
In the UK and USA, the NHS and American Pregnancy Association both recommend limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg per day. One normal 80oz mug is under this limit and so is perfectly fine to drink when you’re pregnant!
The refreshing flavor of green tea also makes it a lovely choice for drinking after a meal to refresh your palate. But actually, the natural polyphenols and tannins can cause nausea if you drink on an empty stomach, so it’s best to drink around 30 minutes or more after finishing your food.
Finally, there is also some evidence that drinking vast amounts of tea (mostly black but also green) can interfere with how your body absorbs iron. One or two cups won’t make much of a difference, but if you’re anemic you should avoid drinking large amounts of tea each day.
tea is a delicious and altogether a healthy drink when you enjoy it in moderation. The only real negative side effects you’ll experience are when you drink green tea in vast quantities!