Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. Its amazing benefits come from the powerful antioxidants it contains. An antioxidant is a substance that helps work against the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which increases the body’s formation of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed during the natural process of digestion, exercise, and from exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke, or other environmental toxins. These molecules, once in our bodies cause extensive cellular damage, which can speed up aging, and has been linked to several diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease. In order decrease the problems caused by free radicals, the body needs antioxidants to help neutralize these molecules. This is where green tea really shines, the antioxidants it provides help the body fight off free radicals leading to incredible health benefits.
Green tea contains several different antioxidants, which may be why it is so exceptionally beneficial. The class of antioxidants it contains is called polyphenols, specifically flavonoids and catechins, that have been shown to be important in maintaining heart health, may reduce the risk of cancer, and can help slow aging. A specific catechin in green tea is called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) and based on current research seems to be the most potent ingredient. It has been found to help boost weight loss, increase metabolism, and may even prevent several different diseases. Here are some of the highlights of green tea and its antioxidants detailed in these eight amazing benefits.
Green tea has been shown in several studies to increase metabolism, which may result in weight loss. A 2008 study found that even when obese subjects followed the same type of diet over a 12 week period, those who drank green tea lost almost 7 pounds more than those who did not. They also were found to have a higher resting energy expenditure, meaning they were burning more calories at rest.
A 2004 study followed 14 male subjects for 8 weeks to determine the effect of regular exercise and tea catechins on energy expenditure. After two months, energy expenditure, or calorie burn, even at rest was greater in the group that consumed the green tea. Researchers found that the metabolism of the subjects was boosted by about 4% by drinking green tea. This small boost can make a significant difference in overall daily calorie burn and possibly result in weight loss over a period of time.
There are several reasons why green tea may be an effective tool for weight loss. First, the caffeine contained in green tea can temporarily speed up metabolism. Also, the catechin, EGCG, has been shown to help improve body composition and reduce fat in the abdominal area. Ideal dosages of green tea for weight loss have yet to be determined, but a cup of green tea does not have any calories and can be a great addition to any weight loss program.
Decreased Cancer Risk
Green tea has been shown effective in reducing risk of cancer and possibly even helping the body slow the growth of cancer cells. One Japanese study went as far as to recommend drinking up to 10 cups of green tea a day for cancer prevention. Once again, the secret is the antioxidants it contains, specifically EGCG.
A 1998 study found that the EGCG in green tea was protective against lung, skin, stomach, colon, liver, and pancreatic cancer. People who drank 10 cups of green tea per day, developed cancer 8.7 years later than those who drank less than 3 cups a day. Researchers believe that it inhibits the release of a compound called tumor necrosis factor-a, which has been linked to inflammation and the development of cancer.
A large review of several research studies found a strong connection between drinking tea and a lower risk of breast cancer in women. The cancer risk in women who drank tea was 22% lower than in women who did not regularly drink green tea. The same connection was not found for black tea drinkers. Green tea also seems to reduce risk of prostate cancer and colorectal cancer by almost 50%.
Improved Brain Function and Focus
Green tea is excellent for helping you stay focused and awake. It has a small amount of caffeine, less than a cup of coffee, so it can give you a slight caffeine boost, without the jittery feeling. Caffeine has been linked to increased attention, mood, and memory.
Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant. It works to increase focus by increasing the amount of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, and decreasing another neurotransmitter called adenosine. The shift in neurotransmitter balance is what results in increased mood, physical stamina, memory, and improved reaction time.
Caffeine isn’t the only component in green tea that helps improve brain function. Green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which is found almost exclusively in tea. This unique amino acid is responsible for the taste of green tea. It has been found to work synergistically with caffeine to help boost brain function. Research has found that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine results in increased memory, improved performance of cognitive tasks, and increased alertness. L-theanine also seems to counteract some of the side effects of caffeine, reducing the feeling of “jitteriness” and maintaining a normal blood pressure.
Helps Reduce Stress
Just sipping a cup of tea can help you relax at the end of a long and stressful day. But, the L-theanine in green tea actually helps boost relaxation even more. It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and once it reaches the brain, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase the number of relaxation inducing brain waves in humans. It can also increase levels of other neurotransmitters, such as GABA and dopamine, both of which have anti-anxiety effects. A cup of green tea can be a great addition to any stressful afternoon.
Type 2 diabetes is a world-wide epidemic. In the United States, over 9% of the population has been diagnosed with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, where the cells of the body stop responding to the message of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that signals to the cells that sugar is available after a meal. But, in type 2 diabetes, the cells stop responding to the insulin, they become resistant to its actions. Therefore, any sugar (glucose) remains in the blood, leading to an elevated blood sugar. High levels of glucose in the blood is extremely toxic and leads to long-term complications such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney damage.
Drinking green tea regularly can help improve insulin sensitivity and in turn help reduce blood sugar. It has also been shown to possibly prevent the diagnosis of diabetes. A 2006 study followed participants for five years to determine the influence that consumption of coffee, green, black, or oolong tea had on the development of diabetes. It was found that people who drank green tea regularly had a 33% lower risk for developing diabetes over a five year period, regular coffee consumption showed a similar result, but it was not seen in people who drank the other types of tea. With how serious the diabetes epidemic is at this time, green tea may be a good preventative and inexpensive solution.
Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Green tea doesn’t only help your memory and cognitive function in the short-term, it also can protect your brain against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, of the most common causes of dementia and memory loss in old age.
Both of these diseases are linked to inflammation and oxidative stress caused by damage by free radicals. The antioxidants that green tea contains will scavenge the free radicals, helping to neutralize them, and possibly preventing long-term damage in the brain.
A 2008 review looked at several human and animal studies on dementia and tea drinking. Researchers found that regularly drinking green tea seems to decrease the incidence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s across the animal and human studies reviewed. It is the catechin EGCG that seems to be the most potent in protecting against the neurological damage caused by these debilitating illnesses.
Improved Exercise Performance
Green tea not only helps with weight loss and to boost metabolism, it can also help improve performance during exercise and help you burn fat while you work out. During exercise, the antioxidant in green tea EGCG can help maintain levels of a hormone involved in fat breakdown called norepinephrine. When levels of this hormone are high, it is a signal to the body to begin to empty out the fat cells.
A 2008 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intake of green tea extract during exercise burned 17% more fat when compared to those who took a placebo. There was also a decrease in insulin levels and an increase in insulin sensitivity.
Caffeine also helps increase exercise performance. Caffeine may help delay fatigue during exercise. It has been found that people who regularly take caffeine before exercise report a decreased rating of perceived exertion, meaning they could workout harder without feeling like it was harder. It also helps reduce pain during exercise. Between the EGCG to burn fat and the caffeine content, green tea is an amazing addition to any workout program.
Protects the Heart
Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Everyone, no matter what age, should be concerned about keeping their heart healthy.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutrition followed over 40,000 participants to determine the connection between green tea intake and cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers found that green tea consumption was associated with a decreased risk of mortality from all causes, especially for women who regularly drank green tea. It was also associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, which was also more pronounced for women. Participants who drank more than 5 cups of green tea per day had a 31% lower risk of death by heart disease. The same effect was found with green tea and risk of stroke.
Green tea helps improve heart health by lowering blood lipid levels, such as cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Bad cholesterol, or LDL becomes dangerous when it is oxidized or exposed to oxygen. Some LDL cholesterol, particles are more likely to become oxidized than others. Smaller LDL molecules are more at risk for oxidation, than larger fluffier ones. Oxidation occurs when the small, sticky LDL interact with free radicals becoming reactive and damaging surrounding tissues. Oxidized LDL increases inflammation and risk of heart attacks. The powerful antioxidants found in green tea can help reduce the damage caused by the oxidized LDL, decrease inflammation, and overall lower risk of heart disease.
How to Enjoy Green Tea
If you want to drink green tea, try to purchase the highest quality tea you can find to ensure the most antioxidant content. In order to determine the quality you must judge the appearance, color, smell, and taste of the tea. The leaves of the tea should be all approximately the same size and should all be whole, not broken up. The color of the leaves should be bright and look similar when it is seeped. The tea should smell grassy and not be overpowering.
When serving green tea, do not pour boiling water over the tea as it destroys the sensitive catechins. Instead use water that is around 160 degrees and let it seep for a few minutes. Try to avoid putting milk in your tea, as it seems to reduce the potency of the antioxidants. Vitamin C seems to increase absorption of the catechins, so add a squeeze of lemon. Some of the benefits of green tea can also be found by taking the EGCG antioxidant directly in a supplement form.
Overall, the research on the health benefits of green tea is very promising for weight loss and a variety of medical conditions. Adding a nice cup or two of green tea to your day is a simple way to get the benefits and a little relaxation at the same time.