The green miracle drink from China made its way long ago into the mugs of Americans all across the nation for its touted health benefits. From a weight loss aid to targeting pancreatic cancer, green tea has evolved into a medicinal drink that caters to a myriad of illnesses. The reality is there are surprising benefits to reap from this magical drink in just one cup.
The hot beverage accounts for 15 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S., according to the Tea Association’s latest statistics. Although black tea remains America’s favorite at 84 percent, green tea can invite more positive changes when it comes to your health. Unlike green tea, black tea is processed in a way that allows for fermentation, which depletes the amount of antioxidants and polyphenols found in tea. Black tea also contains less catechins than green tea, which minimizes the benefits of the hot beverage.
Here are surprising health reasons why you should go green and let it be your cup of tea:
1. Combats Allergies
Green tea may need to be added to your allergy season arsenal. Drinking the green liquid may provide some relief, as it's been proven to be anti-allergenic; a specific compound, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), appears to be the most potent.
A 2007 study published in the journal Cytotechnology found the tea polyphenol can reduce pollen allergies. This is the first time a methylated form of EGCG can block the IgE receptor — the key receptor involved in an allergic response. It can elicit a stronger anti-allergenic response than normal EGCG, which makes it the strongest anti-allergen compound found in tea. Quercetin, a naturally occurring flavonol in tea, can also alleviate a histamine response.
2. Boosts Eyesight
Carrots have long been associated as a food that promotes good eyesight, but science suggest there’s a new kid on the block. The antioxidants found in green tea can actually penetrate the tissues of the eyes and produce antioxidant activity. Catechins, an antioxidant in green tea, are capable of being absorbed into the tissues of the eye.
A 2001 study published in the journal Experimental Eye Research found green tea can actually prevent cataract-induced blindness. Researchers saw different parts of the eye absorbed varying amounts of catechins, with the highest concentration of this antioxidant found in the retina of lab rats fed green tea extract. The area with the least absorption of catechins was the cornea. These findings suggest that drinking green tea could serve as a protective measure when it comes to eyesight, but its effects have yet to be confirmed in humans.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
The access to greasy foods puts your health at risk for heart-related complications like high cholesterol. Replacing unhealthy snacks and drinks with green tea could actually help keep your cholesterol levels at bay. Green tea’s powerful antioxidant, EGCG, is believed to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from the large intestine.
A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found green tea consumption significantly lowered the total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol across 14 randomized controlled trials of over 1100 participants. Overall, green tea intake led to significant reductions in total cholesterol — 7.2mg/dL, and mean low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (2.19 mg/dL). Research suggests drinking five cups of green tea per day will provide the biggest reduction in cholesterol.
4. Promotes Healthy Gums And Teeth
Drinking tea has been given a bad reputation for its staining effect on your teeth. The hot beverage contains tannic acid, which is what gives tea its dark-like color. However, the consumption of green tea can actually be beneficial when it comes to your oral health.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Periodontology found the intake of green tea was inversely correlated with periodontal disease. Regularly drinking green tea reduced symptoms of periodontal disease, possibly due to the presence of catechin. Catechin reduces inflammation in the body, and therefore, interferes with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria. Its ability to control bacteria and lower the acidity of saliva and dental plaque makes it useful for preventing cavities and other indicators of poor oral health.
5. Wards Off Oral Cancer
Green tea has been known to target pancreatic cancer, and most recently oral cancer. Its strongest antioxidant, EGCG, is able to help kill cancer cells through destruction of the cells’ mitochondria, and may even become a possible alternative to the debilitating chemotherapy. Green tea consumption is believed to not be associated with any of chemo’s side effects, according to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
“It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species,” Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science at Penn State, in a press release. Eventually, the mitochondria loses its defenses with a breakdown in the expression of antioxidant genes. It is in this weakened state the cancer cells succumb to EGCG and die.
6. UV Protection
You may want to add a packet of green tea in addition to sunscreen and sunglasses when you visit the beach. The catechins in green tea can actually make the skin more resistant to the effects of UV rays and therefore premature skin aging. They can also lead to reduced skin redness after UV exposure.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found a relatively low dose (540 mg) of green tea catechins each day along with 50 mg of vitamin C for 12 weeks, or two cups of green tea can considerably reduce the effect of UV radiation on the skin. When UV exposure produced inflammation, green tea supplementation reduced that effect. This is the first time oral doses of green tea has been proven to make their way to skin tissues to limit the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
A cup of green tea a day, may actually keep the doctor away.