There are so many basic lifestyle changes that can yield great health benefits for most people; walk 30 minutes a day most days of the week, eliminate junk food from your diet, eat less processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. And my triathlon-competing, ultra-fit friends and patients who see this lifestyle as a no-brainer may be thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know.” OK, how about this: for the super-fit triathlete and pudgy couch potato alike, one of the greatest lifestyle changes you can make is to add a couple of cups of green tea to your daily routine. Want to lose weight, prevent diseases and live a longer and healthier life? Drink green tea.
Green tea will definitely not be one of those health trends that come and go; the Chinese have recognized the medicinal properties of green tea for thousands of years. Modern health researchers have done extensive research into this miracle drink and discovered many health benefits. First, green tea is a powerful antioxidant. A quick primer here on antioxidants: the very act of living, eating and breathing causes stress on our body, resulting in the release of free radicals that kill cells, damage our DNA, cause diseases and age our bodies. Green tea is loaded with catechins, which are a powerful antioxidant that fights these free radicals. The most important of these catechins is EGCG. Imagine free radicals as hard-core criminals holed up in a building, and green tea’s catechins are the antioxidant SWAT team ready to take them down. Give them the green light to go.
Green tea’s antioxidant capacity should be enough to get you to add it to your diet, but this magical drink has several other health benefits. Studies have shown that drinking green tea can boost metabolism and lead to weight loss, especially if consumed before exercise. In one published trial lasting just a few months, the drinkers of green tea lost on average 6-7 pounds more than the controls who had no green tea.
Medical researchers have also linked green tea with improved cardiovascular health. One well-known study reported in a 2008 issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation noted that healthy test subjects who drank green tea showed immediate improvement in blood flow. Other researchers have found green tea consumption is correlated with higher levels of good HDL cholesterol, lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and a lower incidence of long-term cardiovascular problems.
Even when things have already gone terribly wrong in your body, green tea can come to the rescue. Some studies have shown that green tea consumption can help improve the long-term survival rate for cancer patients. Here’s a rundown of studies on green tea and cancer and other ailments, compiled by the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Additional studies have shown green tea is a powerful booster of dopamine levels and detoxification pathways by upregulating an enzyme known as “COMT.” This upregulation also has benefits as far as improving mood and mental function, concentration and has also been linked with higher IQ in those with the highest levels.
So now that you’re sold on the health benefits of green tea, you’re wondering how much you need to drink to enjoy better health. A cup or two a few times a week would be a good start, but usually two to three cups a day are suggested. Some studies have suggested for anti-cancer benefits three glasses a day are needed to help treat breast cancer and five glasses per day were effective at reducing prostate cancer. It’s worth noting that decaffeinated green tea loses up to half its antioxidant capacity. Warning: Because of all the media hype about green tea, most health-food stores sell green-tea extract, which has not been tested to the same degree as the drink. Also, try to avoid commercially bottled green teas, many of which are loaded with unhealthy amounts of sugar and other chemicals. But do yourself a favor and start drinking green tea today.