Whether hot, iced, or with honey, brewed green tea is chockfull of health benefits. (One exception: Avoid bottled green tea, which is often filled with added sugar.) Made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea has a high concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols and tea flavonoids known as catechins. These antioxidants help combat free radicals — substances that can alter and even kill cells in your body, causing premature aging, cancer, and other diseases — by neutralizing them. And fighting free radicals with green tea can have all kinds of benefits: Here are 10 scientifically supported reasons to add green tea to your diet.
Green Tea Protects Skin
Research shows that drinking green tea or placing green tea bags over your skin may help protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, Moore says. This may be due in part to the extract epigallocatechin gallate, which showed promise against skin cancer in recent lab tests at the University of Strathclyde. Researchers treated human skin tumors with the extract for a month, at the end of which 40 percent of the tumors had disappeared and an additional 30 percent had shrunk.
In another study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers in Germany found that women who drank about six cups of green tea per day had less reddening of their skin when exposed to a solar simulator than those who did not. Unfortunately, preventing wrinkles is not among the tea’s benefits.
Green Tea Lowers Cholesterol
A number of studies show that green tea seems to help lower cholesterol. One report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking green tea daily can slightly lower cholesterol levels. Another study done with male smokers who took daily 375-milligram green tea capsules for 12 weeks found that green tea significantly reduced the level of harmful LDL cholesterol in their blood when paired with a diet low in saturated fat.
Researchers believe green tea’s catechins help prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the organs while simultaneously increasing the absorption of high-density HDL (good) cholesterol.
Green Tea Helps Manages Weight
If you’re watching your weight, green tea could be among the superfoods you want to include in your diet. Although research has not found that green tea can produce immediate weight loss, numerous studies have concluded that the properties of green tea can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy diet because green tea increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
Green Tea Improves Bone Health
Osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become brittle and fragile, is a serious health threat for both men and women as they age. Although more research still needs to be done on the benefits of green tea for bone health, there is growing evidence that green tea can help. For example, a study in the journal Nutrition Research found tea drinkers between the ages of 65 and 75 had 5-percent higher bone density than non-tea drinkers, prompting researchers to conclude that drinking green tea can improve bone mineral density and thus lower your fracture risk. Researchers in Hong Kong also found that green tea contains a group of chemicals that stimulates the formation of bone and helps slow their breakdown. However, Atlanta-based nutritionist Marisa Moore, RD, LD, says more conclusive studies on green tea benefits as a healing food for bone health are needed.
Green Tea Boosts Oral Health
A number of studies, including one of 940 men in Japan, show that drinking green tea regularly can lead to a healthy mouth because tea’s catechins can actually help kill mouth bacteria. Mouth bacteria can turn the sugar in foods into plaque, and plaque produces acids that can cause tooth decay. Catechins may also help kill the bacteria that can cause bad breath.
Green Tea Helps Prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharacology, there is significant evidence that free radicals play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and that the polyphenols in green tea can help fight these free radicals. Researchers found that polyphenols can help prevent the buildup of brain-damaging proteins, as well as help prevent memory loss. A study published in theNatural Medicine Journal found that participants who took daily 360-mg capsules of green tea extract along with 60-mg of I-theanine (an amino acid also found in tea) had improved memory and attention spans, even if they had started to lose both.
Green Tea Fights Some Cancers
A number of studies show that green tea benefits include protection against certain cancers. “The data are the strongest for ovarian, bladder, and esophageal cancers,” Moore says. Green tea and green tea extracts also have been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer spread and decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence, but only in certain circumstances. Research shows that green tea doesn’t seem to prevent breast cancer in Asian women, but it might help reduce the risk for breast cancer among Asian-American women. The jury is still out, though, on the likelihood of green tea reducing breast cancer incidence in Western populations.
Green Tea Protects Against Diabetes
There is some evidence that drinking this super drinkcan help prevent diabetes. One study found that Japanese adults who drank more than six6 cups of green tea a day had a much lower risk (33 percent) of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank a cup or less a day. A number of smaller studies found that green tea extract lowered blood sugar levels in people who were borderline diabetic.
Green Tea Helps Prevent Heart Attack
Several population-based studies show that green tea consumption can lower the risk of a heart attack by up to 11 percent. According to an analysis by the University of Maryland Medical Center, scientists also believe that green tea can help prevent coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty material along the inner walls of arteries. However, at this time, the FDA does not believe that the evidence that green tea helps prevent heart disease is strong enough to allow tea makers to make this health claim on tea labels.
Green Tea Boosts Energy
Some studies have found that green tea can boost your energy levels, most likely thanks to the caffeine. In fact, Japanese researchers found that when endurance athletes drank four cups of green tea a day for about 12 weeks, their overall endurance increased between 8 to 24 percent almost across the board.
SOURCE: Beth W. Orenstein