Now there’s a scientific rationale for reading tea leaves: If they’re at the bottom of a cup of green tea, your future may hold better health.
Green tea, which undergoes less fermentation than other varieties, is a rich source of immune-boosting polyphenols. Like other plant antioxidants, polyphenols help neutralize free radicals, harmful particles that can damage cells and DNA, cause inflammation, and lead to a host of illnesses.
How much green tea do you need to reap the antioxidant rewards? In some cases, it could be as little as one cup a day. Here are 10 ways green tea is brewing health benefits:
The risk of lung cancer appears to be five times lower for those who drink just one cup of green tea a day, according to a Taiwanese study. “The antioxidants may inhibit tumor growth,” I-Hsin Lin, of Taiwan’s Chung Shan Medical University, tells WebMD. Other studies link higher consumption of green tea with lower risk of numerous other cancers, including breast, stomach, skin, oral, esophageal, prostate, uterine, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer.
Those who drink green tea are significantly less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. One study estimates that three cups of tea per day lowers the risk of heart attack by 11 percent.
Green tea lowers total cholesterol and LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol while boosting levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center.
A little more green may lighten the blues. A study of elderly Japanese individuals notes that those who drink more green tea experience fewer symptoms of depression.
Japanese researchers also find that those aged 70 and up who drink at least two cups of green tea daily score better on tests of mental function including memory, attention, and ability to follow instructions.
Green tea contains caffeine, a hammer in the dieting toolbox, but according to a Swiss study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, green tea boosts metabolism and fat-burning to a degree “beyond that explained by its caffeine content.”
Green tea aids in regulating blood sugar, the function impaired by diabetes. “Tea may be a simple, inexpensive means of preventing or retarding human diabetes,” write the authors of an animal study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Green tea can affect the formation of calcium oxalate crystals — the most common component in kidney stones – making them less likely to grow to problematic size before being eliminated from the body.
The tissues in the eye have been shown to absorb the antioxidants in green tea, indicating that “green tea consumption could benefit the eye against oxidative stress,” concludes a report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Oxidative stress is linked to cataracts and glaucoma.
In laboratory conditions, the polyphenols in green tea can both kill influenza viruses or prevent them from infecting other cells.
To get the best out of your brewing, use green tea within six months of purchase. Steep it in water that’s slightly under the boiling point for about one minute (more or less according to taste) and garnish or sweeten as desired. But don’t add milk — the proteins will lessen the effectiveness of the tea’s polyphenols.