10 Health Benefits of Green Tea You Didn’t Know
December 12, 2012
Everyone knows America is a nation of coffee drinkers. Anxious to get that first cup of get-up-and-go, we rush through the line at the local Starbucks and head off to start our day. We leave all the tea drinking to the British—that’s their thing, right?
Well, maybe it should be our thing too. Tea—and green tea in particular—is loaded with all kinds of antioxidants and compounds necessary to maintaining good health.
The benefits of green tea are so widely recognized that it has nearly unanimous support from the healthcare industry.
“I believe in green tea based on everything written about it,” Katherine Tallmadge, a nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells WebMD. “Green tea, white tea, black tea—I like all of them.”
If that doesn’t convince you to put the kettle on immediately, maybe these 10 health benefits of green tea will.
1. Improves Immune Function
Green tea is filled with antioxidants, which take the form of compounds called polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids. Each of these compounds battles free radicals—outside compounds that come from pollution in the air, water, and food.
Because free radicals are the culprits behind illnesses ranging from cancer to the common cold, eliminating them will keep you happier and healthier.
2. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of both American men and women. Luckily, you can lower your risk of heart disease by drinking green tea.
According to a 2008 study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, people who drink green tea have better blood vessel function. These effects are so pronounced, the benefits start to appear just 30 minutes after finishing a cup.
Biologically speaking, green tea improves the health of the cells that line blood vessels, known as endothelial cells. Endothelial cells prevent clogged arteries, which in turn prevents heart disease.
3. Increases Stamina and Endurance
One of the reasons people turn to coffee over tea is the energy boost. However, green tea actually has remarkable effects on energy levels in the body, as a stimulant.
A 2005 study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands demonstrated this effect particularly well. Researchers placed subjects on a low-energy diet and resting energy expenditure, meaning they were both taking in and expending low levels of energy. Half of the subjects were then given green tea. At the end of the study, subjects who drank the green tea had significantly higher levels of energy.
4. Anti-Aging Benefits
If your concerns lay more along the beauty line, green tea can help you there too. Another subset of antioxidants in green tea, called oligomeric proanthocyandins—or OPCs—are thought to slow the premature aging process.
OPCs are so powerful, many leading cosmetic manufacturers include these antioxidants in face creams and skin treatments.
Specifically, the antioxidants in green tea strengthen protective barriers between the skin and the pollution and toxins in the air that cause wrinkles.
5. Improves Ratio of Good Cholesterol to Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a hot topic in the health community these days, and Cheerios aren’t the only thing that can help you tackle LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
A meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials found that drinking green tea over a period of 3 weeks to 3 months lowers LDL cholesterol by 7.2 mg. That’s a 2% drop.
Green tea doesn’t seem to have an effect on HDL, or “good” cholesterol, but by lowering LDL cholesterol, you’ll maintain a healthy balance between the two.
6. Supports Proper Digestion
In addition to antioxidants, green tea is also high in vitamins B, C, and E. These vitamins benefit digestion, helping the body clear waste from cells. Polyphenols also attack bacteria and viruses that form in the gastric system and cause swelling in the stomach.
Better digestion will help you absorb more nutrients in your food, keeping you healthy and compounding the benefits of a heightened immune system.
7. Triggers Weight Loss
If you’ve got weight loss on your mind, pour yourself a cup of green tea. Catechins in green tea trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and decrease body fat.
According to a 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking enough green tea over an extended period of time results in a reduction in waist size, BMI, and total body fat. Alongside a low-calorie diet, this can really help you achieve your weight loss goals.
8. Prevents Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases
Dementia, whether the result of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, will affect 80% of adults who reach age 85 or older. Fortunately, green tea can help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline.
When green tea is consumed, the digestive process releases chemicals that enhance cognition and slow dementia development. Specifically, these chemicals prevent toxins from destroying brain cells.
And because this effect is even more powerful when digested, drinking green tea is the best way to harness these anti-dementia benefits.
9. Prevents Acne and Skin Cancer
Green tea also has benefits for your skin. The polyphenols in green tea regulate hormones like IGF-1, testosterone, and estrogen, which can cause acne if they aren’t in balance. So, by drinking green tea, you can save yourself from an embarrassing flare-up.
More seriously, green tea fights skin cancer. Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is the most powerful antioxidant in green tea and is able to latch onto the surface of cancer cells and destroy their growth.
According to one study from the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, drinking green tea was able to shrink 40 percent of skin cancer cells.
10. Keeps Teeth Healthy and Kills Dental Plaque
Lastly, green tea has many dental benefits. By killing the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease, green tea prevents tooth loss and the resulting periodontal disease. A 2010 study published in Preventive Medicine demonstrates these benefits.
Incidentally, green tea also kills the bacteria that cause halitosis, or bad breath, so you can breathe with ease.
How to Harness the 10 Health Benefits of Green Tea
Nearly all of these green tea benefits require a certain dosage, most of which amount to a huge number of cups of green tea per day. For example, if you want to see weight loss with green tea, you’d better be prepared to drink 12 cups of the stuff.
Fortunately, there’s an easier way to harness these benefits. The dietary supplement industry sells plenty of green tea supplements, many of which include other natural ingredients designed to help give you the specific benefits you’re looking for.
Of course, if you don’t have anything specific in mind, you can just swap out that morning espresso for a hot cup of green tea and improve your overall health in a flash. Whatever you choose, don’t let these green tea benefits pass you by.
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