While you might guess red wine (it is a beloved beverage in moderation among Blue Zone-dwelling Italians), functional medicine doctor and The Pegan Diet author Mark Hyman, MD, says the best drink for longevity is actually green tea. "Tea is a super beverage that contains potent phenolic compounds that fight cancer and protect our cardiovascular system. Green tea is in a class by itself, rich in catechins, some of the most powerful disease-fighting phytonutrients found in the plant kingdom," he says.
By protecting against both cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and even helping you sleep better, drinking green tea regularly is directly linked to living a long, healthy life. An older review of studies found a correlation between green tea consumption and a decreased number of cardiovascular health problems in Southeast Asian countries; a 2018 study also found that regular tea drinkers have a reduced risk of age-related decreases of high-density lipoprotein (aka "good" cholesterol), with green tea having a slightly stronger effect than black tea. Green tea’s EGCGs (a type of beneficial catechin particularly prevalent in the tea) have also been shown to inhibit tumor growth.
Dr. Hyman says green tea is also good for the gut. "There are certain beneficial gut bugs that feed on foods rich in polyphenols, including green tea," he says. He explains that one of these beneficial gut bugs is called akkermansia muciniphila, which supports the protective mucus layer that prevents a leaky gut by keeping gut lining strong. "Low levels of this critical bacteria have been linked to autoimmune disease, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer," Dr. Hyman says.
In addition to being good for the heart and gut, green tea is also good for the brain. Registered dietitian Neva Cochran, RD, previously told Well+Good that this is because of the drink's caffeine and catechins. “Catechins help protect the body from free radicals. This benefits the whole body and of course the brain as well," she says.
With all these benefits, it's clear why Dr. Hyman picked green tea as the best beverage for longevity. In terms of how much to drink, he recommends two cups a day.
While some folks might think pricey "superfoods" are where it's at, let this be another lesson that some of the healthiest foods are some of the simplest. Leafy greens, beans, and now green tea is another item to add to your longevity shopping list.
How does matcha compare to green tea when it comes to health benefits? Watch the video to find out:
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