Tea has been revered and enjoyed all over the world for thousands of years. The brewed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant create a warming and stimulating beverage that is the most widely drunk other than water. There are countless ways to prepare tea, from plucking the first spring leaves of young trees to aged fermented concoctions made from leaves of eight hundred year old master tea trees.

In the West, tea (from the tea plant, not herbal infusions) is usually categorized as white, oolong, black, or green. White tea is made from the youngest leaves and black from the oldest. Green tea, made from unwashed young tea leaves, has the highest concentration of antioxidants and other healing elements. While folklore has held tea in high regard for a long time, modern scientists are beginning to understand why green tea is such a valuable healing drink.

Boost Metabolism

Drinking green tea can boost the metabolic rate. In several trials with humans it has been determined that drinking at least four cups of green tea daily can increase energy expenditure (calorie burn). Research indicates that green tea modulates the genes related to energy metabolism, enhancing the bodys ability to process nutrients and increasing the efficiency of the metabolism, even at rest. These metabolism boosting results are amplified when drinking green tea is combined with consistent exercise.

Manage Blood Sugar

Blood sugar regulation is very important for preventing sugar cravings and having the energy and motivation necessary to get through the day. Yo-yoing blood sugar levels are responsible for a lot of the afternoon sugar binges and blown diets that happen. Green tea has been shown to help regulate blood glucose levels, slowing down the rise of glucose levels after a meal. This is particularly helpful after eating a high-glycemic food.

Regulating the blood glucose levels can prevent insulin spikes and low blood sugar crashes. Green tea consumption has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity over time, helping to prevent insulin resistance. In the long term, drinking green tea can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, and help people who already have either type of diabetes mange their blood sugar levels.

Support Weight Loss

In addition to boosting the metabolism, drinking green tea can support weight lossbecause it increases the bodys thermogenic capabilities. This is the bodys heat source, the inner fire that helps it burn more calories than it consumes. Green tea increases fat oxidation, helping unwanted fat melt off the body. It also speeds up the rate at which the body transforms food into energy (calories), giving you more oomph without having to eat as much or as frequently to have the energy you need.

Just having a cup of green tea can help you feel energized enough to exercise if you are usually lethargic in the morning, which will help you lose weight. And combining green tea with exercise gives you an extra weight loss boost. The fat burning properties of green tea and exercise combine and exponentiate each other, helping you reach your weight loss goals faster than using either one alone.

Boost Your Antioxidant Power

While it is known for its metabolic support, green tea is most famous in the health community for its high antioxidant content. Green tea has a few potent polyphenols and other antioxidants that serve to support and protect the body in many important ways. Antioxidants protect cells and molecules from being damaged by free radicals, dangerous cells with an unpaired electron, by binding with the free radicals and moving them out of the body. High free radical levels in the body contributes to many diseases and speeds the aging process. One of these protective antioxidants is Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a potent free radical fighter. Green tea is also high in catechins, antioxidants that help protect the body from damaged DNA.

Because of its high antioxidant content, green tea has been researched for its capacity to reduce cancer risk. Through analyzing data from several studies it was determined that in general, woman who drink green tea on a regular basis have up to a 22 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. Men who frequently drink green tea have up to a 48 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk. It was also determined that green tea consumption can lower lung cancer risk by up to 18 percent and colorectal cancer risk by up to 57 percent. And other studies have shown a lowered risk of developing pancreatic, esophageal, and stomach cancer amongst people who drink green tea regularly.

Strengthen Your Chompers

The antioxidant catechin is great for more than just preventing cancer. It also improves mouth health. Some studies indicate that the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties of green tea can protect people who drink it from developing throat infections and gum disease, and can slow tooth decay.

Lower Cholesterol

Green tea has been shown to be very helpful for managing cholesterol levels. Drinking green tea reduces LDL, so called bad cholesterol levels in the blood. It also increases the production of HDL, good cholesterol, improving overall cholesterol ratios. Green tea also increases the antioxidant capacity of blood vessels, keeping the LDL cholesterol that does exist from oxidizing as quickly as it would otherwise. This helps keeps the arteries healthy for longer, and supports heart and liver health.

Keep Your Heart Happy

Green tea is also a big winner when it comes to protecting the heart. It has been proven to be helpful for several heart health issues, including blood pressure, blood fat, artery function, and the aforementioned cholesterol regulation. Green tea helps the epithelial cells in the lining of the blood vessels remain relaxed and responsive. Then the blood vessels can more easily maintain their health and structural integrity through changes in blood pressure, making them less likely to get clogged. Green tea consumption also can lower blood pressure.

Green tea helps prevent the formation of blood clots, one of the primary contributors to heart attacks. It helps burn off triglycerides and reduces the amount of fat in the blood stream. It also improves overall vein and artery functioning and supports healthy blood flow. A Chinese study found that people who drink green tea regularly show a 45 to 65 percent reduction in risk for developing hypertension.

Strengthen Your Immune System

The catechins in green tea have powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. Reducing the viral and bacterial load supports the functioning of the immune system. Green tea is a great overall health tonic, supportive in the treatment and prevention of colds, viruses, flus, bacterial infections, and many other diseases.

Improve Brain Functioning

In addition to the antioxidants that support body and brain health, green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine boosts the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA. This reduces anxiety, stress, and depression. It also improves mental clarity and focus, and enhances problem-solving skills. GABA also increases the production of dopamine, inspiring relaxation, calmness, and pleasure. L-theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, entering the brain and supporting GABA production directly. GABA helps the brain transition into an alpha wave state, the state in which the brain is the most creative.

Keep Your Wits About You

In addition to supporting brain health and functioning in the short term, drinking green tea can help protect the brain in the long term. It has especially been noted to protect the neurons from degeneration. Green tea is being studied for it preventative powers, as it has the potential to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers and Parkinsons. For people who are at risk for Alzheimers or in the early stages, green tea consumption can reduce the formation of the plaque that causes memory loss. Magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that people who drink green tea have greater activity in the areas of the brain that govern functional memory.

Enjoying Your Green Tea

To get most benefit from drinking green tea, it is important that you source high quality, organic, fair trade tea. Green tea leaves are not washed after harvest, so any pesticides used in growing them will still be present when the tea gets to your cup. Fluoride can interfere with the absorption of the antioxidants, so be sure to use filtered or pure water for your tea. The phytonutrients in green tea are enhanced by vitamin C, so adding fresh lemon to your cup of tea is a great way to enjoy even more of the benefits. Do not add milk to your green tea, as the proteins in milk interfere with antioxidant activity. Be sure to use water that is very warm but not boiling hot, as boiling water also kills some of the beneficial nutrients. Lastly, green tea does contain some tannins, which can decrease the absorption of folic acid and iron, so it is best to drink it at least an hour before or three hours after your meals.

Some of the most powerful new medicines are actually some of the oldest plants known to man. Tea has been enjoyed by humans all over the world since the beginning of civilization, and is still one of the most popular beverages globally. Now we know that green tea, the young leaves of the historic tea plant, contains a variety of healthful plant compounds and antioxidants that can support metabolism, heart health, digestion, weight maintenance, and even protect us from cancer. Enjoying a few cups of green tea throughout the day can be a great way to support your health and longevity, the way it has been done for centuries.


Harvard Health