Green tea is the go-to beverage for anyone on a health-kick, and green tea extract is the go-to supplement for every natural weight-loss, superfood, and wellbeing supplement. It’s said to be one of the healthiest drinks on the planet, and some would have you believe that it’s the healthiest substance in the world.
But how much of that is true? Is green tea really as healthy as people claim, and can these claims actually be backed by scientific research or have we all been duped into buying caffeinated snake oil?
The Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is definitely a healthy drink and, as we shall discover, many claims can be substantiated by science. But it’s also worth noting that many claims can not be substantiated by science and a number have been exaggerated. You should also know about some concerning side effects if you plan on drinking this tea every day.
1. It Could Increase Weight Loss
You have to take such claims with a pinch of salt, and we have looked at the dangers of so-called weight loss teas before. But there are some genuinely effective metabolism-boosting teas—and green tea could be one of them.
A number of studies have looked at the impact of green tea on obesity in females and have discovered a positive, albeit marginal, effect. Researchers have theorised that this is all down to the unique catechins found in green tea, including the super antioxidant ECGC.
We also know that caffeine can have a marked effect on the metabolism, and while the caffeine content of green tea is marginal when compared to coffee or black tea, in combination with the catechins it could be enough to make this a viable fat fighting beverage (read our guide to the benefits of caffeine here).
Just don’t expect miracles, as weight-loss studies on both caffeine and catechins have only been effective in overweight individuals who do not already consuming large quantities of tea.
2. It May Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer
Green tea is high in antioxidants, and it’s the antioxidant profile that makes this such a healthy beverage. A diet rich in antioxidants is known to reduce the risk of most forms of cancer, as it reduces oxidative damage in the body, which can contribute to the growth of cancer.
There are some notable correlations between green tea consumption and cancer risk. This includes a large meta-analysis that looked at more than 5,500 breast cancer patients and found that those who consumed at least 3 cups of green tea a day were less likely to experience a recurrence of the disease. (1) There have been similar studies regarding prostate cancer and other forms of cancer, but more research needs to be done before we can say anything with any degree of certainty.
3. May Protect the Brain
One of the most exciting things about sideritic scardica, and one of the reasons we are such dedicated consumers and advocates, is that it has been shown to reduce the risk of many neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Unlike the cancer benefits mentioned above, this is quite rare for tea.
But it’s a similar story with green tea. Countless studies have shown it to have neuroprotective effects, which means it could slow down the rate at which these diseases progress, and if consumed for many years prior to development, it could even reduce the risk of them occurring in the first place. (2)
That doesn’t mean that green tea is a cure for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, nor does it mean that you will never get those diseases if you consume it. If that was the case then no one in China would develop them, but it could certainly play a role in reducing risk factors.
Side Effects of Green Tea
Provided you are not allergic to tea or sensitive to caffeine, then you should not experience any side effects from consuming green tea. However, some concerns have been raised in recent years concerning the consumption of tea and green tea in particular:
- Hot Tea and Cancer: Studies have shown that regular consumption of green tea can increase the risk of developing throat and oesophageal cancer. It was reported by several UK tabloids a few years back and raised some alarms. But as mentioned on the NHS website, the risks are much lower for UK drinkers. (3) If you don’t smoke or drink then you may not be at risk at all, but you should also avoid drinking scalding hot tea. Look at our brewing tips below to learn how to make green tea properly and you should be okay.
- Heavy Metals in Tea: Tea can draw contaminants from the soil and these can remain in the leaves. This becomes more of an issue when you consider that many green tea growing regions are known to have higher heavy metal contaminants, as is the case in Japan, where the Fukushima disaster may have tainted certain plantations. However, these “contaminants” can actually be found in most of the natural produce we consume, and while they are higher in tea, they are not high enough to warrant concern.
How to Brew Green Tea
In the United Kingdom, the typical method of consuming green tea is to buy a few cheap teabags, throw one in boiling water, give it a few stirs, add lots of sugar, and then drink. We do this and then we complain that green tea tastes “horrible”, and it’s no surprise.
These teabags are made using low-quality tea. You either end up with something that tastes like dishwater or something that has a bitter, acrid aftertaste. If you want the real green tea experience, you need loose leaf, which can also be bought in the form of loose leaf teabags.
- Green tea needs to be made with water that is around 70 to 80 degrees (a kettle boils to 100 degrees). Boil the kettle and either remove it from the base just before it reaches the boiling point, or wait for it to boil and then add cold water from the tap.
- Steep the tea for between 3 and 5 minutes.
- Add sugar or honey, but skip the milk.
Is Green Tea Good for You?
The long and short of it is that green tea is good for you, but there are a few things worth mentioning:
- It is not a wonder drug and will not cause rapid weight loss, nor will it cure chronic disease.
- You should avoid drinking scalding hot tea.
- Get a higher-quality loose tea, as it has undergone less processing and will contain more antioxidants.
- Avoid extracts. If you want a powdered form of green tea to add to drinks and tablets, try matcha tea instead.
We’ve consumed a lot of tea over the years and we’ve researched hundreds of others, from the relatively obscure and potentially dangerous soursop tea, to the hugely exciting and beneficial dandelion tea. Throughout all of this, green tea has remained one of the standout drinks and next to sideritis scardica, which we believe to be even more beneficial, and dandelion, it’s one of the teas we consume the most.
But it’s not something you should consume just for the health benefits. If you can’t stomach the taste and no amount of honey will make it more palatable, then try something else. There are many healthy teas out there that you may prefer the taste of, and if not, then just stick with black tea. It may not be as healthy as green tea or the aforementioned herbal teas, but it’s still rich in antioxidants.