If you’ve considered adding green tea to your routine, there’s no better time than now. Ahead, get the dietitian perspective on green tea, including green tea health benefits you should know about, who should not drink green tea, tips for consuming green tea, what to look for when buying it, and more.
- Kyle Stewart, certified tea specialist and co-owner of The Cultured Cup in Dallas
- Madeleine Putzi, MS, RDN, Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian
- Nadia De La Vega, director of tea content and sustainability at DavidsTea
- Neva Cochran, RD, Dallas-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant
What is green tea?
Long before it made its way to the West, green tea was sipped in East Asia, with its earliest roots traced to China in the twelfth century. Its many health benefits were recognized from the start and green tea has always played a strong role in Traditional Chinese Medicine. To this day, China is still the number one producer of green tea.
“Green tea, made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, is harvested, roasted, and dried,” says Madeleine Putzi, MS, RDN, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian. “Historically, green tea was primarily used for its medicinal properties, until it expanded in popularity and started being consumed for pleasure.”
While cozying up with a warm cup of tea in hand is incredibly relaxing, that’s only the beginning of green tea’s health benefits. “Green tea contains an antioxidant called catechins, which studies have found provide a range of health benefits, from increasing mental cognition to preventing chronic disease to reducing inflammatory cell activity,” Putzi says.
Types of green tea to try
With all the different (and delicious-looking) varieties of green tea, where the heck are you supposed to start? According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, some of the most popular include:
- Sencha: Japan’s traditional daily green tea that's made from whole leaves that have been steamed, rolled, and dried.
- Matcha: Finely-ground green tea leaves that have been transformed into a vibrant powder.
- Gunpowder: A Chinese green tea where the leaves are tightly rolled into small pellets.
- Dragon Well: China's most popular green tea variety that’s known for its pan-roasting process and chestnut-like flavor.
- Kukicha: A Japanese green tea made from the leaves, twigs, and stems of the plant.
- Gyokuro: A rich, sweet, and highly-caffeinated shade-grown Japanese green tea.
- Genmaicha: A Japanese tea that's a combination of green tea and roasted rice.
While the type of green tea you choose to drink is more of a preference (do you like the flavor of a traditional cup of green tea or are you all about your matcha lattes?), giving into the green tea hype and making it part of your daily routine could bring on some advantages. So, is green tea good for you? Keep reading for the benefits of green tea.
How do the health benefits of green tea compare to matcha? Watch the video below to find out:
Is green tea good for you? 10 health benefits you should know
Sure, it’s super soothing and delicious—but is green tea healthy? If you ask for a registered dietitian’s opinion, you'll quickly discover they’re fans. We’re talkin’ green tea benefits for your stomach, for your heart… heck, there are even benefits of drinking green tea for your skin. Because honestly, when it comes to green tea advantages, the list seems never-ending.
1. It's good for your heart
If you're looking for something to sip on throughout the day for heart-protective benefits, registered dietitian Neva Cochran, RD, says green tea is a great option. "Green tea is high in flavanols, which is a type of antioxidant, and these flavanols have been linked to reducing LDL cholesterol, also known as 'bad' cholesterol," Cochran says. This, she adds, means it can lower the risk of heart disease.
A review published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases found that regularly drinking green tea could play a role in lowering the risk factors of heart disease, including weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose.
2. It protects your skin from free radicals
There are benefits of green tea for your skin, too. “It turns out that some antioxidants present in food are not only good for preventative health, but are also good for your skin,” says Putzi. “The primary antioxidant found in green tea, catechin, has been shown to protect skin from free radicals and environmental damage such as UV radiation. Additionally, one [small] study found that green tea formulated in skincare products showed increased effects in enhancing skin moisture and decreased roughness after two to four weeks.”
3. Green tea is good for your brain
Drinking green tea does more than just support a healthy heart; Cochran says it benefits the brain, too. This, she says, is credited to its caffeine content as well as catechins. "Catechins help protect the body from free radicals. This benefits the whole body and of course the brain as well," Cochran says.
An article published in the journal Phytomedicine that took into account 21 separate studies on green tea found that its consumption was linked to better attention and memory. The researchers say they believe this to be connected to the caffeine and l-theanine (an amino acid associated with calm and focus) in the tea. Between the catechins, caffeine, and l-theanine, clearly there are several components in green tea that make it such a cognitive-enhancing beverage. (You can also drink turmeric green tea for even more of a boost.)
4. Drinking green tea could improve your mood
The same paper published in Phytomedicine found that green tea was linked to feeling less anxious. "This is likely because of the l-theanine in green tea," Cochran says. "Many scientific studies have found a connection between l-theanine and mood as well as with cognitive function," she says. The combination of l-theanine and caffeine leads to a feeling of cognitive alertness without the jitters that some can experience with coffee.
5. It can keep your gut healthy
There are green tea benefits for your stomach that you should be aware of, too, all thanks to its high antioxidant content. “Green tea contains polyphenols, which have been found to positively interact with the microbiome and can act similarly to prebiotics, which help maintain a healthy gut barrier,” Putzi says.
One thing to keep in mind is green tea’s caffeine content, which Putzi says some people may be sensitive to. “If you have a low tolerance to caffeine, green tea may exacerbate stomach issues and indigestion. However, an eight-ounce cup of coffee contains three times the amount of caffeine as green tea, so of the two, green tea would be the easier choice for your stomach,” she says.
6. It can help you feel more alert
Another benefit of the caffeine in green tea is that it can help you feel more alert. While some teas, like chamomile or lavender, are more associated with feelings of relaxation or sleepiness, the caffeine content in green tea makes it more of a good one to sip throughout the day, not in the evening. Another benefit: it doesn't have the crash that drinking coffee causes many to experience.
7. Green tea could protect against certain cancers
Cochran says green tea's antioxidant content also means that sipping it on a regular basis could protect against certain cancers, but she also adds a major caveat to this benefit. "Green tea is by no means a silver bullet and The National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer." Disclaimer in place, there are some components in green tea that may lessen the risk. A paper published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews says that green tea's EGCGs (a type of beneficial catechin) have been shown to inhibit tumor growth.
While this finding is noteworthy, Cochran says some of the other claims of green tea and cancer prevention may be overblown. "[For example], a meta-analysis with eight studies on green tea and breast cancer found reduced risk in three studies but no reduction in five studies," she says. "There is also a lack of evidence for green tea and lower risk of prostate cancer and no significant association between endometrial cancer risk and green tea consumption."
8. It could help lower blood sugar levels
"In a meta-analysis of 22 studies with 1,584 subjects, green tea catechins significantly lowered fasting blood sugar levels," Cochran says, adding that it may also help prevent type 2 diabetes. "[This is because] green tea can inhibit digestive enzymes that help break down sugars in the gut to slow down the absorption of sugars so blood sugar levels rise more slowly," she says.
9. Drinking green tea is good for your bones
Another green tea advantage that Cochran says is often overlooked is that it's good for your bones. "Tea polyphenols enhance bone formation and inhibit bone breakdown, resulting in greater bone strength," she says. As one scientific paper published in Nutrition Review says, "epidemiological evidence has shown an association between tea consumption and the prevention of age-related bone loss in elderly women and men. Ingestion of green tea and green tea bioactive compounds may be beneficial in mitigating bone loss of this population and decreasing their risk of osteoporotic fractures." In non-science speak, that means milk isn't the only bone-benefitting beverage.
10. It's hydrating
Cochran says that because green tea has caffeine, many don't think it's truly a hydrating drink, but that's not the case. The actual dietitian perspective on green tea is this: "Especially for people who don't like the taste of plain water, green tea can be extremely helpful in helping someone meet their hydration goals," she says. This is another benefit of drinking green tea for your skin, too, as staying hydrated is also important for your complexion.
Tips for consuming green tea
The health benefits of tea are seriously impressive, but it’s also important to get a registered dietitian’s opinion on how to consume it to get the most out of every cup. Here, tea and nutrition tips you should know before taking your next sip.
Make sure to steep it long enough
According to Kyle Stewart, a certified tea specialist and co-owner of The Cultured Cup, “green tea is the problem child of teas,” as it’s not nearly as forgiving as other options. It needs to be prepared just right to avoid any bitterness, so learning how to brew green tea (and how long to steep green tea) is key. He recommends brewing Japanese green tea at 165°F for 1-3 minutes. For Chinese green tea, brew it at 175°F for 3-4 minutes.
Opt for loose leaf tea whenever possible
The world has a serious plastic problem—tea, included. “Recent research has found that most ‘food grade’ tea bags actually contain microplastics that, when paired with water at 95°F, release harmful substances,” Putzi says. “While long-term health effects are not yet known, frequent tea drinkers could be unknowingly dosing themselves with billions of microplastic particles every day.”
Putzi says opting for loose tea leaves—and using a stainless steel strainer, not plastic!—is a much better alternative. “Both for human and environmental health, as standard tea sachets can take hundreds of years to decompose,” she says.
Add fresh lemon
If you don’t currently enjoy your green tea with lemon, it may be time to change that. “Adding fresh lemon to tea can increase the antioxidant content of the beverage,” Putzi says. In addition, the citrus fruit is high in vitamin C, giving your immunity a boost.
Sweeten it with honey
Like things sweet? Putzi says to add a teaspoon of manuka honey to your green tea. “Manuka honey has an abundance of health benefits, with its high antioxidant content and natural antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory compounds,” she says.
Evaluating green tea's health effects, nutrient content, and dosage
Now that you’re equipped with all the tips you'll need to brew a health-boosting cup of cozy goodness, it’s time to evaluate green tea’s health effects, including any disadvantages of green tea and who should not drink green tea. First up, tea and nutrition.
Clearly drinking green tea comes with its perks. But in terms of hitting your nutrient goals for macronutrients like protein, fiber, and healthy fats, you'll have to get them elsewhere. There are none of these nutrients in green tea. So while there are many health benefits of tea, it shouldn't be mistaken as something to be consumed in the place of nutrient-rich foods.
Tea and nutrition aside, how much green tea do you have to drink to experience the benefits highlighted above? Cochran says the majority of scientific studies of green tea range between four to six cups a day. In terms of side effects, drinking too much could cause a green tea headache, primarily because of the tea's caffeine content, so make sure you’re sticking to an amount that feels good to you.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, there’s one more disadvantage of green tea to keep in mind. “Some antioxidants in green tea, called flavonoids, bind with non-heme iron, which is the form of iron that is present in plant-based foods. Non-heme iron is not as absorbable as heme-iron (present in animal meats), and flavonoids can reduce absorption even further,” Putzi says. “This is something to consider, especially for those who have or are at risk for developing iron-deficiency anemia, or follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.” But other than that, there aren’t many disadvantages of green tea—it’s a low-risk beverage in terms of side effects.
Now, who should not drink green tea? Putzi says it’s always important to double-check any herbs or botanicals you plan on consuming with your doctor to ensure there won’t be any negative implications. “This is especially true for individuals that are taking (routine or temporary) medications or living with certain medical conditions,” she says. For instance, those being treated with benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, or blood-thinning medications. Once you get the go-ahead from your medical provider, you can start enjoying the beverage.
How to buy and store green tea
Because green tea is so popular, it's easy to find and is sold at virtually every grocery store. If you want to get the maximum benefits from your green tea, Cochran recommends buying it loose as opposed to in pre-made tea bags. "This tends to give you more of the leaf intact," she says. "Many of the green teas in tea bags look more like a dust than bigger pieces of the tea leaf, and you'll experience a greater benefit when the tea leaves are left more intact." That said, even the inexpensive green tea sold in bulk still has the benefits outlined above, so she encourages people to just buy what they can afford and like the taste of.
As for storage, always check for instructions on each green tea product you purchase, as the correct technique may vary depending on the variety and brand. With that being said, there are a few general tea storage tips experts recommend following to protect your tea's taste and integrity.
According to Nadia De La Vega, director of tea content and sustainability at DavidsTea, always keep your tea—both loose leaf and tea bags—in a sealed container. Tea leaves are dry and easily absorb moisture and strong aromas, meaning uncovered tea could wind up smelling like whatever is next to it in the cabinet if you're not careful. Because tea leaves can absorb—and become damaged by—sunlight, you’ll also want to keep your tea in a dark, cool place. Just avoid anything too cool or hot, such as storing tea in the refrigerator or next to the stove.
Frequently asked questions about green tea
What happens if I drink green tea every day?
Is green tea healthy, even if you drink it every day? Yep, giving into the green tea hype can come with some benefits. “If you’re drinking green tea every day, you may experience greater cognition and reduced stress thanks to an amino acid called l-theanine, which is highest in green tea compared to other popular tea varieties,” Putzi says. The green tea advantages don’t end there, though. “Because of its high antioxidant content, green tea has been touted as having an endless amount of potential benefits, primarily related to (metabolic) disease prevention and overall longevity.”
What is the best time to drink green tea?
While green tea’s health benefits don’t hinge on timing, if you ask for a registered dietitian’s opinion, you’ll find there’s a good rule of thumb to follow if you want to get the most bang for your buck. “It’s better to drink green tea between meals rather than during meals,” Putzi says. “One [older] study found that, when compared with water, consumption of beverages containing 100-400 milligrams of total polyphenols with meals reduced absorption of non-heme iron by 60-90 percent. Green tea contains an average of 50-150 milligrams of polyphenols per cup.”
Is it better to drink green tea hot or cold?
If you're looking for a dietitian's perspective on green tea’s temperature (and what’s going to help you reap all the health benefits of tea!), you're in luck. “Regardless of your temperature preference, you’ll still reap the benefits of green tea as long as you have steeped it long enough,” Putzi says. “However, studies have shown that different tea varieties react in different ways to time and temperature. With green tea, the highest antioxidant content occurred when the tea was steeped in cold water for a longer duration of time.”
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