What is it?
Green tea and black (regular) tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, so you’d expect them to have similar health benefits. But this isn’t the case thanks to special compounds, called catechins, which are present in large amounts in green tea. The reason for this is the minimal processing of green tea which is simply steamed, rolled and dried after cutting.
Black tea involves an additional step of leaving the tea leaves out in the open air which allows different plant compounds, like theaflavins, to develop. They’re still beneficial but in a different way. Most tea drunk in the UK is black but green tea is gaining fans thanks to its refreshing taste and lower caffeine content – around 40 mg per serving compared with black tea at 50 mg and coffee at 80-100 mg.
Is it good for weight loss?
There are few foods which genuinely burn body fat and green tea is one of them. However, don’t imagine that a cup of green tea will offset that cheeky double chocolate muffin – the effects are pretty small. A clinical study in 10 overweight men found that 300 mg catechins per day, equivalent to 3-4 cups of green tea, boosted fat burning by one third after a test meal. This may sound impressive but a review of studies found that the average weight loss after consuming green tea daily was only around a kilo (2 lbs). It’s still worth having green tea rather than a sugary drink when you’re trying to lose weight but it should be part of a healthy diet, not seen as a silver bullet.
Research shows that people who drink 5-6 cups of green tea daily have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One study in Japan found that women had a 30% reduction in death from heart disease when they drank green tea regularly. Another, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that green tea catechins lowered the risk of stroke by 20%. Green tea is thought to work by preventing cell damage, lowering so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, reducing abnormal blood clotting and helping to manage blood pressure.
Green tea was used traditionally in the Far East to promote wound healing and modern science has now confirmed that green tea does indeed have anti-bacterial properties. This, and the natural fluoride content of tea, is great news for oral hygiene and teeth. A clinical study in 110 men found that rinsing with green tea reduced the risk of gum disease, while a lab study reported that green tea catechins successfully blitzed a type of bacteria responsible for bad breath.
Drinking six cups of green tea daily has been found to lower the risk of diabetes by 33% according to a Japanese study. The green tea catechins are believed to work by improving our bodies response to insulin, and by helping to manage body weight.
How do I get it?
Brew up a pot of green tea using loose tea leaves or a bag. The longer you leave it, the higher the concentration of healthy catechins. If you aren’t keen on green tea, regular black tea is a good option, or you can take a green tea supplement.
How much do I need?
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve health wise, anything from three to six cups of green tea daily would do the job. For supplements, green tea extracts of 300-750 mg are typical. Watch the caffeine content of supplements as the safe daily limit is 400 mg (200 mg in pregnancy).