The next time you pour yourself a steaming cup of tea, make it green. No, this isn’t an eco-plug for environmentally sustainable tea (although that’s good too!). We’re talking about green tea, made from leaves and buds of the Camellia sinesis bush. This is the same plant used to make black and oolong teas, but green tea leaves undergo less processing and are therefore less oxidized. That difference gives it its distinctive earthy taste along with some impressive health benefits.
In general, Americans tend to be coffee drinkers, starting their day with big mugs of joe and enjoying afternoon pick-me-ups of frothy, flavored concoctions from a local cafe. Tea drinking is traditionally more consumed in Britain, where having a civilized cuppa is ingrained in the culture. Much of Europe enjoys tea too, and of course, Asia, where the beverage originated. The Chinese are the biggest tea consumers in the world, and the Japanese a close second. In Japan, they tend to drink a sweeter sencha form of green tea throughout the day and revere the powdery matcha in their sacred tea ceremony rituals.
For the uninitiated, green tea can taste a little bitter at first. Some describe it as having an aromatic grassy flavor with a hint of citrus. It’s an acquired taste, but you can quickly grow to love it. And the best part is it loves you back.
Green tea has gotten a lot of buzz in recent years because of it’s medicinal properties. This ancient leaf that has been brewed and consumed for centuries finally gets to wear the superfood crown it rightfully deserves.
Put the kettle on and brew yourself a cup while you read about eight healthful reasons why seniors (or people of any age) should up their consumption of green tea.
It’s heart healthy
In population studies, those who regularly drink unsweetened green tea are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in life, and have a reduced risk of death from heart disease and stroke. A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked this heart healthy benefit to the high levels of flavonoids in the tea. Another study out of Harvard Medical School showed that green tea helps reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
It protects your brain
Elders who consume green tea regularly may have sharper minds than those who don’t, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Another study showed that drinking green tea lowered the risk of cognitive decline by close to 50 percent in older adults. There are even some green tea studies that show it reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Ideally, you should drink at least two cups a day to get these brain benefits.
It strengthens bones
Some studies have shown that older women who drink tea seem to have a higher bone mineral density than those who do not drink the tea. The nutrients found in green tea may even help fend off osteoporosis. Green tea is full of antioxidant compounds and it appears to stimulate mineralization to generate bone formation, while also inhibiting the formation of cells that remove bone tissue. Drink up for the taste, and enjoy the bone-building benefits as a bonus.
It lowers risk of diabetes
With the rising rates of diabetes in today’s senior population, developing a daily green tea habit may be good medicine. According to a Harvard study, the catechin polyphenols and polysaccharides in green tea help cells to metabolize glucose and control blood sugar levels, which reduces diabetes risk. It also helps prevent rapid rises and subsequent crashes in blood sugar levels that lead to fatigue, irritability, and food cravings in diabetics.
It may have some cancer-fighting properties
Studies have suggested that the antioxidant-compounds rich in green tea may combat certain cancers. Its polyphenols like EGCG and ECG help scavange free radicals, protect cells from DNA damage and inhibit some tumor cell proliferation. Those who consume green tea regularly tend to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, and other studies show a positive effect on ovarian, bladder, esophageal and prostate cancers too. A definitive link about green tea as a cancer preventative or cancer-fighter has yet to be proven, but it is certainly promising.
It can ease stress
The green goodness can have a calming effect on your mind. An amino acid found in green tea leaves called L-theanine helps to relax you and alleviate stress. According to some studies, L-theanine also helps to reduce anxiety. Some research has also linked this brew to reducing the stress hormone cortisol in those who consume it.
It can help you lose weight
Green tea contains properties that can increase your metabolic rate and help burn fat in the short term. Green tea promotes the body’s ability to burn fat through thermogenesis and fat oxidation. If you’re a regular soda, juice or energy-drinker, or add sugar to your coffee and tea, switching to unsweetened green tea can help you cut your calorie and sugar intake enough to affect the scale over time.
It elevates your mood
If all these other health benefits don’t convince you to convert to green tea, how about doing it just because it makes you feel good? Green tea is traditionally known to induce mental clarity, and studies on its epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has shown demonstrated benefits on lifting mood. The L-theanine has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain. So pour yourself a soothing cup of green tea and sip your way to a calm contentment.