The Benefits of Green Tea
by Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD
Last Updated: November 30, 2020
Move over smoothies – there’s another way to drink your way to health benefits with no blender required. Nope, it’s not red wine; it’s tea! Tea has always been highly regarded for its health benefits, with research supporting brain, heart, skin, and anti-inflammatory benefits all in this one beverage (1-3).
Tea is considered a functional food since it has an abundance of health benefits, as it’s packed with flavonoids, antioxidants, and many other bioactive compounds. White, green, oolong, Pu-erh, and black teas all hail from the same plant but use different processing and aging methods, leading to slightly different flavors and bioactive compound content. If you can, prioritize adding green tea to your day because it has the highest levels of flavonoids or antioxidants and therefore tends to rank higher in health benefits than black teas (2). Matcha, which is made of powdered green tea leaves, has certainly become popular recently. Since you are ingesting the actual whole leaf with matcha powder, it is even higher in antioxidants than traditional steeped green tea (3). However, all tea varieties, green or black, contain excellent amounts of beneficial compounds, so just drink the variety that tickles your fancy.
Regular tea consumption has been shown to offer these potential benefits (1-3):
- Improved mood
- Mental alertness
- Anti-aging of skin
We recommend prioritizing enjoying matcha or green tea daily. There are different green tea flavors, such as jasmine, and varieties with fruits or flavors added if you don’t prefer the traditional green tea taste. You can drink matcha plain or add it to a smoothie, baked good recipe, or stir into yogurt. This is our favorite way to consume matcha:
Mini Matcha Latte:
- Heat 1/2 cup of milk or dairy alternative (tastes lovely with a dab of coconut milk added)
- Add 1/2 - 1 tsp of honey
- Whisk in 1/2 tsp of matcha powder until dissolved and frothy. If you have a milk frother, this is an ideal way to fully blend the milk and matcha and produce a delicious froth on top.
- Put it in a fancy Asian teacup or espresso cup, sit back, and sip in the relaxation!
If green tea does not appeal to you, consume any white, black, or oolong tea instead. It can be iced or hot. All tea counts! Note: Herbal teas are completely different because they come from different plants, so these health benefits cannot be inferred.
As with most superfoods, the research is looking like it’s best to consume tea in original food or drink form (e.g., tea bag in hot water or matcha drink) instead of taking supplements. There have been some risks of taking green tea extract supplements on the liver and gastrointestinal system (2). If you are taking green tea extract supplements, speak with your healthcare provider about this to ensure your medications or medical history does not contraindicate them. If you have any reactions or signs of liver problems, stop immediately. Generally, drinking traditional tea or green tea is considered safe but excessive amounts of tea drinking (over 6 to 8 cups per day) could rack up unhealthy amounts of caffeine and interact with certain medications. Always consult your healthcare provider if you are unsure.
With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) season upon us and 60% of adults having a chronic inflammatory condition, we could benefit from what that tea could provide us. If you are new to tea and are unsure where to start, grab a sampler pack and find your favorite. A tea drinker from way back? Venture out and try a new variety: Pu-erh, white, oolong, jasmine, or my personal favorite for the risk-takers out there - Lapsang Souchong (just a warning that it tastes a bit like you’re drinking a campfire!). So, snuggle up to a hot mug of tea and soak in the warmth, relaxation, and plethora of health benefits.
- Prasanth MI, Sivamaruthi BS, Chaiyasut C, Tencomnao T. A Review of the Role of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) in Antiphotoaging, Stress Resistance, Neuroprotection, and Autophagy. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):474. Published 2019 Feb 23. doi:10.3390/nu1102047
- Jane Higdon, P. (Written 2005, Updated 2015, January). Tea. Retrieved from Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/tea#authors-reviewers
- Neva Cochran, M. R. (2016, July). Hottest Nutrition Trends of 2016: Green Tea — A Refreshing Beverage and Healthful Elixir. Retrieved from Today's Dietitian: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0716p28.shtml
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.