If you aren't already a green tea drinker, you're sure to become one now. This soothing hot beverage packs some seriously impressive health benefits—here's what you should know.

By Jamie VespaMS and RD and Lauren Wicks
Updated: January 29, 2019
Photo: Elena Kovyrzina/Getty

From reducing heart disease and cancer risk to promoting weight loss and blood sugar control, tea is recognized for much more than its ability to soothe, refresh, and restore. Though this poses the question—are all teas created equal? Is green tea superior? What about matcha? Here, we give you the low-down on why we have the hots for tea.

Green Tea and Antioxidants 

Tea is brewed from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush and can be categorized into four types, depending on the level of oxidation: white (unoxidized buds), green (unoxidized leaves), oolong (partially oxidized leaves), and black (oxidized leaves). The health benefits of tea stem from the antioxidants it contains, primarily flavonoids, also known as catechins.

All teas contain antioxidants, though green and black teas contain the highest amounts of flavonoids.[1] Other factors that determine the antioxidant levels of tea include tea quality, origin of growth, brewing method, and brewing time. The antioxidant levels in dry tea leaves are much higher than those in brewed tea because the tea leaves are discarded after the brewing process.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

You've likely heard green tea is good for you, but why? Green tea and health is often associated with high levels of antioxidants, which are chemicals in your cells that help prevent cell damage. Here's why drinking green tea gets all the promotion it deserves. 

Green tea and heart health

Tea has shown promising benefits in association to heart health. Flavonoids in green tea can help prevent oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce blood clotting. Studies show green tea can also help lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and total and LDL cholesterol.[2]

Green tea and cancer prevention

In addition to cardiovascular health, tea extracts and polyphenols have also shown promising effects in cancer research. Tea and tea components have been shown to inhibit carcinogen-induced DNA damage in a number of cell studies, as well as inhibit tumor development at different organ sites.[3] 

Studies on the effects of green tea in cancer prevention have shown to have a possible impact on liver, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. These studies suggested the more cups of green tea consumed per day over a a number of years continues to reduce one's chance of these cancers. 

Green tea and anti-aging benefits

The presence of polyphenols in green tea has also shown to be a wonder for the skin, as they can protect against damaging UV rays, which are linked to wrinkles, skin cancers, and dark spots. Green tea has also shown to be anti-inflammatory, which helps keep your skin clear and glowing. One study showed applying green tea topically can even alleviate skin conditions such as acne and rosecea. 

Green tea and weight loss

Evidence supporting tea as a weight-loss aid is based mainly on studies testing the effects of teas extracts, such as catechins and caffeine, so results may not be directly applicable to brewed tea. However, research suggests green tea catechins and caffeine may stimulate thermogenesis, leading to a potential increase in energy expenditure. 

Several studies have shown implications of green tea consumption on reducing abdominal fat and waist circumference in slightly overweight participants. However, while green tea has shown to aid in weight loss, it should not be seen as a cure-all, because it only makes a small impact, and is less important than eating a healthy diet or participating in daily exercise. 

Matcha Health Benefits

Photo: Jamie Vespa

Matcha is a very fine, high-quality green tea powder made from the leaves of tea bushes grown in the shade. It is the only form of tea in which the leaves are ingested, making it a more potent source of antioxidants than steeped green tea. Matcha is a particularly rich source of L-theanine, an amino acid unique to tea known to mitigate the negative effects of caffeine. Try a hit of matcha in a creamy latte, a yogurt parfait, or in a chocolate-dipped shortbread cookie. We also think it makes a beautiful donut glaze! (We have even more matcha recipes here, if you want to go crazy!)

Bottom Line: As part of a nutrient-rich diet, tea does have potential to enhance health and mitigate disease risk. Tea is an excellent calorie-free alternative to sugary beverages that also provides health-promoting phytochemicals. Try a fresh batch of home-brewed Lemon Green Tea to reap the many benefits of this medicinal elixir.

Article Resources
[1] Peterson J, Dwyer J, Bhagwat S, et al. Major flavonoids in dry tea. J Food Comp Anal. 2005;18(6):487-501.
[2] Khalesi S, Sun J, Buys N, Jamshidi A, Nikbakht-Nasrabadi E, Khosravi-Boroujeni H. Green tea catechins and blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Eur J Nutr. 2014;53(6):1299-1311.
[3] Yang CS, Lambert JD, Sang S. Antioxidative and anti-carcinogenic activities of tea polyphenols. Arch Toxicol. 2009;83(1):11-21.

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