Why do health experts often praise tea over coffee, you might ask? All varieties of tea are first brewed from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinesis bush and can be divided into four different categories based on how oxidized they are. White tea is made from unoxidized buds, whereas oolong tea stems from particularly oxidized leaves, and black tea is made when completely oxidized leaves are steeped in hot water. Green tea, on the other hand, is made with unoxidized tea leaves — all of these varieties contain antioxidants, chiefly flavonoids, a group of plant-based chemicals that have been shown to reduce coronary inflammation. How you choose to brew your tea — and the kind of tea you’ve chosen to brew — can play a role in its final antioxidant counts. Green tea, however, has been shown to naturally contain the highest amount of flavonoids of the four varieties, according to a 2005 scholarly review published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.
But some of the hype around this herbal superstar of a daily pick-me-up has led to confusion about it’s immediate health benefits. Here, we’re confirming all the reasons why you should be drinking green tea — and debunking the most common myths about green tea’s best attributes.
Fact: Green tea can help you lose weight.
If you’re a regular soda, juice, energy-drink or sweetened-coffee-and-tea drinker and you switch to unsweetened green tea, you could see some results in the long run. That’s because the number one source of added sugar (and therefore, added calories) in the American diet is from sugar-sweetened beverages, so opting for a calorie-free alternative is always best. But if you’re already sipping on water flavored with fresh fruit, sparkling water, unsweetened coffee and tea, or the occasional diet beverage, then chances are you’ll have to do more than simply switch up your hydration habits to lose weight for the long-term. Bummer, we know!
Myth: Drinking green tea burns belly fat immediately.
Sadly, this one’s super-false. Any time you change your diet to start a new plan in which you burn more energy than you consume, you’ll likely “burn” off some additional fat mass (for many of us, that’s stored around the tummy area, so you may notice a little tightening-up!). That said, not one single food or drink can “spot train” any body parts! Keep in mind that green tea beverages (like sugary lattes, sparkling green teas with added sugar, and green tea “flavored” drinks) are often still sugary beverages, which has been linked to weight gain over time (specifically, abdominal fat), so just make sure that you’re choosing versions with “0g” of sugar and “0 calories” per serving.
Myth: Green tea boosts metabolism.
While a few small-scale studies have linked an increased metabolic rate to drinking green tea (when sipping about four caffeinated cups per day!), the only truly variable factor in your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is increasing your lean body mass, a.k.a. building muscle. That’s why strength training is key to keeping your metabolism up for the long-term, and crucial to bone, muscle and immune function, which ultimately helps to support metabolism over time. The only real, tried-and-true way drinking green tea will help boost your metabolism? By helping you wake up to get your tush to the gym (sorry!).
Claim #4: Green tea reduces risk of cancer.
The truth: The antioxidant-compounds found in green tea have certainly been touted with cancer-fighting properties — and research supports this in full! But plant-based diets are always linked to a reduced risk of cancer — plus other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Among the myriad of benefits to eating tons o’ veggies (and drinking unsweetened tea), plants are chock-full of polyphenolic compounds, a type of antioxidant that reduces risk of chronic disease by improving cellular function of tissues, leaving less “room” for cancer cells to develop. So if you’re not a green tea lover, never fear! Choosing coffee as an alternative, or simply loading up on veggie- and fruit-based meals and snacks, can help to reduce chronic disease risk when consumed consistently.
Claim #5: Green tea prevents heart disease.
The truth: In population studies, people who frequently drink unsweetened green tea are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in life. That said, many of these population studies are specific to region and genetics. For example: Studies conducted in Taiwan and Japan, where green tea is consumed regularly and consistently, may have a genetic predisposition to the positive effects of green tea. Regardless, population studies conducted in the U.S. and abroad consistently link drinking unsweetened versions of any type of tea as an alternative to sugary beverages with improved heart-health and reduced risk of developing other types of chronic diseases — especially ones related to obesity — so keep on chugging!