Unlike many fad dietary aids, green tea has been a medicinal staple for many cultures for over 500,000 years. Rumors abound about the health benefits–some claim green tea reduces signs of aging, lowers blood sugar, and prevents cancer. Separating fact from fiction can be tricky when it comes to supposed miracle cures like green tea, but scientific studies have found evidence that connects green tea with many health benefits.
According to several studies, the prevalence of atherosclerosis–plaque buildup in the arteries–is significantly lower in cultures that drink green and black tea regularly. Though scientists aren’t certain why tea affects plaque buildup in this way, they suspect it has to do with the way tea’s natural antioxidants affect the body’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The FDA rejected green tea manufacturers’ requests to claim that tea reduces the risk of heart disease, but replacing a daily coffee with green or black tea is still an excellent way to add more antioxidants and lower caffeine intake for heart health.
Population studies have also shown a correlation between tea intake and lower frequency of certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, and bladder cancers. Individual studies differ in results–some show that people who drink tea regularly are less likely to get certain cancers, but others show an increased risk, particularly in tea drinkers who prefer stronger, hotter tea. For this reason, many health professionals recommend taking green tea supplements in capsule form, particularly caffeine-free versions.
Professionals recommend drinking three to five cups of tea per day for maximum health benefits. That is a large increase for many people, so it’s important to consult a doctor before changing your routine for health reasons. Green tea may interact poorly with certain medications, including some antibiotics, blood thinning medications, and even chemotherapy. Changing your caffeine intake routine may cause irritability, nervousness, or insomnia, so it’s important to be in contact with your doctor in case adding tea to your diet creates more problems than it solves.
Green tea is an excellent coffee substitute, believed to increase mental alertness, slightly lower blood sugar, and aid in weight loss. Though making the switch from highly caffeinated beverages to tea may be difficult at first, the heavy concentration of antioxidants, possible health benefits, and lower caffeine levels make it a positive lifestyle choice in the long run. Coupled with proper diet, exercise, and regular doctor visits, green tea is an excellent way to improve overall health and well-being.