What Is In Green Tea That Makes It So Healthy?
A Guide To The Amazing Health Benefits
Everyone seems to be talking about the healthful benefits of green tea, but what exactly are they and what is in green tea that makes it so good for your health?
People talk about it as a weight loss aid, an anti-aging drink and the claims seem to keep going on and on, but does the evidence stack up or is it all just hype?
We decided to look at the science of green tea and find out exactly why green tea is considered to be one the most potent superfoods on the planet.
Firstly, let’s look at what green tea is, in order to get a better understanding of this immensely popular drink.
What Is Green Tea?
Where Does It Come From?
Green tea leaves come from the plant camellia sinensis which is a kind of shrub-like tree and is native to Asia.
The reason it’s green is that it’s simply not dried like other tea leaves to blacken them, so while black teas also come from the same plant (camellia sinensis), green teas are less oxidized and therefore have a lighter and greener color.
Green tea dates back as far as the 3rd century. Documented evidence in the form of medical text written by Huo Tao shows it was used back then as a medicinal drink for health and vitality.
It’s most likely far older than that, but every attempt to date tea back further is ostensibly just an educated guess.
The Legend Of Emperor Shennong
There’s a Chinese legend that describes how Emperor Shennong was drinking a bowl of hot water and some leaves from the green tea plant blew into his drink. He then apparently decided it was a good idea to go ahead and consume this beverage, declaring it to fill him with vitality.
It’s more than likely not true, and green tea could well have been consumed before this point in time anyway.
How Does It Stay Green?
They steam the plant leaves to stop them from browning, unlike black tea which is allowed to oxidize further. By steaming the tea leaves it halts this oxidization process and keeps the vibrant color that green tea is famous for.
So, What Is Green Tea Exactly?
It’s simply the leaves of a plant (camellia sininsis) that are steamed to stay green and to prevent them from oxidizing.
Does Green Tea Help You Lose Weight?
It’s been claimed that green tea can assist with weight loss goals and for that reason, it occupies a huge percentage of the weight loss consumables market.
There are many varieties and enhanced flavors available, along with many gimmicks, but so long as they maintain the properties of the tea’s nutrient profile, they can all assist with weight loss.
What is in green tea that helps with weight loss?
There are a couple of key components in green tea that help with losing weight and these include:
Catechins – Help Fat Burning Hormones
There’s a hormone called norepinephrine that plays a significant role in the fat burning process by convincing the body to metabolize more fat.
Norepinephrine’s effectiveness can be reduced by a chemical the body produces called Catechol-O-methyltransferase.
Tea catechins such as epigallocatechin inhibit Catechol-O-methyltransferase, meaning the norepinephrine in the body works more effectively to help with fat burning. (1)
So long story short, tea catechins help to stop a compound that reduces fat burning.
Caffeine – The Known Fat Burner
Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can help to metabolize fat and increase weight loss in healthy individuals.
Because caffeine acts as a stimulant, it can increase performance during exercise, meaning that the total number of calories burned is increased. (2)
The same stimulant properties of caffeine increase the resting heart rate and calorie expenditure of normal individuals meaning that a drink such a green tea that contains caffeine, can assist with weight loss possibly even in sedentary individuals.
EGCG – Slows Carbohydrate Digestion
This is actually a lot more impressive than it sounds because the proportion of fat we burn at any given time is determined by a few factors, one of them that is very important is the amount of insulin that is in the bloodstream.
When you consume carbs, your pancreas releases insulin which pretty much inhibits fat burning. By slowing the digestion of carbohydrates it tempers the release of insulin, meaning we need less because, at a given point in time, there is less glucose in our bloodstream.
Just as studies show epigallocatechin (EGCG) can inhibit a fat burning blocker (catechol-o-methyltransferase), it turns out that EGCG also affects the digestion of carbohydrates, acting to slow down their release into the blood stream.(3)
This could have interesting ramification for those who suffer from diabetes as the effect on carbohydrates could be very helpful indeed.
What About Weight Loss?
The reason this is quite exciting is that it means taking a certain amount of green tea with a carb meal will have a similar result on the glycemic effect of food as apple cider vinegar does.
This would indicate that taking apple cider vinegar and green tea with a carbohydrate meal might have impressive effects on weight loss over a period of time.
Though there are a lack of studies on these two substances being used together, there is a lot of positive, yet unreliable anecdotal talk of good results combining them.
So, Is It True – Does Green Tea Help You Lose Weight?
It certainly does. The catechins and caffeine are proven to help with weight loss.
What Are The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea?
In the previous segment, we covered how green tea might help with weight management, but there are a lot more positives than that.
Let’s look at some of the wonderful benefits of drinking green tea:
1. Green Tea Could Lower Bad Cholesterol
In a meta-analysis of an impressive 14 different studies, it was found that green tea helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) significantly all without affecting good cholesterol (HDL). (4)
2. Green Tea May Lower Blood Sugar
This has an impact on weight loss but is particularly interesting to diabetics, who may be looking to reduce the impact of carbohydrates on their blood glucose levels.
By consuming an appropriate quantity of green tea, a diabetic may be able to reduce some of the glycemic effects of the carbs that they consume.
3. Green Tea Can Help With Pimples
Green tea has long been considered on of the best natural acne cures. It can help to reduce some of the swelling that comes with acne and it also contains anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties that can help the skin by destroying pimple bacteria and protecting the skin from acne damage.
4. Green Tea Is Packed With Antioxidants
By now, you’ve no doubt heard of the dangers of free radicals in your bloodstream that run amock destroying healthy cells?
Even though there is a bit of hyperbole surrounding free radicals and the damage that oxidants can do, the truth is that the polyphenols in green tea, both the catechins and flavonoids really can help protect cells from oxidant damage.
5. Green Tea Accelerates Fat Burning
In an above segment, we showed in detail how the polyphenol compound EECG in green tea helps increase fat burning and reduce carbohydrate digestion. This can have an effect on the body’s ability to burn fat.
It also has caffeine which has been proven to help metabolize fat, increase exercise performance and burn fat while you are resting.
6. Green Tea Increases Intellectual Performance
Most green tea, even some decaf varieties contain between small to moderate amounts of caffeine which have been shown to increase neural activity in the brain by supporting the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine, two powerful neurotransmitters.
Green Tea also contains an amino acid called L-Theanine that helps to stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine which can temporarily increase your IQ and boost intellectual performance.
L-Theanine works even better in conjunction with caffeine, making green tea a convenient delivery system. (5)
7. Green Tea Could Help To Prevent Cardiovascular Issues
It’s pretty widely known that the biggest killer on the planet is cardiovascular disease with over 600,000 people dying in the United States alone each year. This accounts for one in four deaths according to a CDC study. (6)
Green tea may increase cardiovascular health. As we showed above at number 1, a study showed a remarkable decrease in LDL cholesterol in the group consuming large quantities of green tea.
As we showed above at number 1, a study showed a remarkable decrease in LDL cholesterol in the group consuming large quantities of green tea.
Being that LDL cholesterol play a large role in many potential heart related issues, drinking green tea might be an excellent way do decrease the risk factors associated with bad cholesterol.
What Does This All Mean?
It means green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on the market, with several key health benefits that are very impressive.
How Is Green Tea Good For You?
Because it contains so many beneficial polyphenols in both flavonoids and catechins, green tea’s antioxidant power is very good for you.
With ECCG helping to possibly lower blood sugar and increase dopamine activity it serves as helpful on more than one front.
Knowing that the above-mentioned study shows a reduction in LDL cholesterol with green tea consumption, it’s a safe bet to say green tea is a truly beneficial substance.
What Are The Side Effects Of Green Tea?
Unfortunately, it seems no consumable is perfect and green tea is no exception. There are some side effects of green tea that can be quite uncomfortable for some people, so we’ve listed them below.
Caffeine is not tolerated the same by everyone, meaning that the intense stimulation caused by drinking the wrong amount of green tea can have some negative effects.
By consuming too much green tea a person might find themselves being unable to get to sleep, being jittery and possibly jumpy.
2. Feeling Nauseated
Sometimes this can be from simply having tea that was brewed too hot, but most of the time it is likely that the high levels of tannins in green tea are affecting the acidity of the stomach, which can leave someone feeling nauseated and with gastric distress.
Some people report that caffeine is a trigger for their headaches and find themselves needing to avoid caffeinated beverages such as green tea or sticking to the decaf variety.
Just like coffee, green tea contains caffeine which can contribute to bowel movement frequency. Unfortunately for some, this can take on an exacerbated effect resulting in an unwelcome case of diarrhea.
5. Iron Absorption
This can be especially concerning for vegans who traditionally lack iron in their diet.
Green tea can reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron from food sources, so concern must be taken for those who have to supplement iron in their diet.
6. Eye Pressure
Caffeinated beverages may increase the pressure in the eye according to some studies. This can increase the risk factors for glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease.
People showing the signs of glaucoma may need to opt for decaf green tea to enjoy the benefits of the antioxidant properties, without the caffeine.
The effect of caffeine on intraocular pressure: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Li M, Wang M, Guo W, Wang J, Sun X. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2011. 249(3):435-42.
What’s the Take Home Message Here?
The caffeine in green tea can pose a problem for people – Decaf could be better for some.
What Is In Green Tea That Makes It So Healthy?
Looking through the research, it seems there are two powerful compounds in green tea, the caffeine, and the antioxidants.
The antioxidants have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and slow down the effects of carbs, both actions which have seriously postive effects on health.
Caffeine is a double edged sword in that it comes with some really beneficial aspects, but many of the negatives side effects of green tea can be attributed to its caffeine content.
It appears that decaf green tea might be a superior choice for quite a few people.
We hope you liked learning what is in great tea – Please feel free to comment below.