Someone asked me a great question about green tea.
Is it really healthy to have 3 to 4 bags of green tea per day or is just a marketing campaign by tea makers?
Before we examine the pros and cons of frequent green tea consumption, I first want to highlight the differences between the various types of teas and how they’re processed, as the health benefits do vary from one tea to the other.
The Shades of Tea
Although there is a multitude of teas to choose from, there are really only 4 main types – black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea.
Interestingly enough, they all come from the same Camellia plant family and it’s the way that the tea leaves are processed after they have been plucked that actually differentiates them from one another.
So why is this important to know?
Well, tea is made up of 3 components; essential oils, caffeine, and polyphenols.
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that give tea its wonderful health benefits.
The less processing the leaves undergo, the more polyphenols they retain, and therefore the greater the health benefits they provide.
So Which Tea Is the Most Processed?
After tea leaves are plucked, they begin to oxidize (react with oxygen and darken) and ferment until they are heated and dried.
Of the four varieties, black tea undergoes the most processing.
As for green tea, the leaves are steamed or pan-fried almost immediately, so they don’t have much time to oxidize and ferment.
As a consumer, the color of your green tea can give you an indication of the quality.
The lighter and brighter the green tea is, the better it is.
The processing of oolong tea falls somewhere in between black tea and green tea as it is semi-oxidized.
White tea is the purest.
Not only does it contain the most polyphenols, white tea also contains the least amount of caffeine.
It differs from green tea in that only the first bud and top leaf from the new season’s tea bush are used.
White vs. Green Tea
Does this make you wonder why green tea is marketed as the “healthiest” tea while white tea is rarely talked about?
In my opinion, it boils down to economics.
White tea can only be plucked once a year while green tea can be manufactured and sold year-round.
Pros & Cons of Green Tea
Although there are many claims about the health benefits of drinking green tea, the actual benefits have, for the most part, not been proven by scientific research believe it or not.
With that said, considering that green tea has been used as traditional medicine on large populations for so many years, it isn’t surprising that research has found green tea to be associated with some pretty remarkable health benefits such as:
- Protection against cardiovascular disease
- Blood pressure regulation
- Cholesterol regulation
- Tumor reduction and cancer prevention
- Prevention of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Raising metabolism
The biggest concern with green tea however is the caffeine content.
Green tea contains up to half the amount of caffeine in brewed coffee, so if you do have caffeine sensitivity issues, then drinking large quantities can pose a problem.
The solution could be to drink white tea, which has less caffeine or opt for herbal tea.
Just note though that herbal or fruit flavored infusions don’t have the same antioxidant properties that tea leaves offer.
However, they do provide other medicinal properties for those who enjoy a healthy beverage that is caffeine-free.
How Much is Too Much?
Once again, the research is inconclusive and often times confusing when it comes to the quantity of green tea that offers the maximum health benefits.
For example, a study found that women who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had fewer recurrences of breast cancer, and the disease spread less quickly.
Another study concluded that you can reach the desired levels of polyphenols for cancer prevention with only two cups of green tea per day.
On the other hand, another study found no significant association between green tea consumption and stomach cancer risk when drinking 10 or more cups of green tea per day.
And I can keep citing more and more studies.
So who is right and what can we conclude?
Well, the point here is not to confuse you, but just to highlight the fact that we still don’t really have conclusive evidence with regards to the quantity of green tea consumption and its potential benefits.
It really all depends.
At best, one can only extrapolate from these findings and draw our own conclusions based on our own circumstances, which is probably what most manufacturers and tea makers are doing when marketing their products.
The Bottom Line
Given the longstanding history and benefits of drinking green tea, feel at ease if it is already a part of your daily diet.
Whether or not you should drink more than one cup of green tea per day to reap added health benefits however still remains unknown and is therefore entirely up to you.
My recommendation is to use your best judgement and be moderate.
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