More people are making the switch from soft drinks to green tea. No wonder! Green tea is a rich source of polyphenols, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Some studies show the polyphenols in green tea, including a catechin called EGCG, may be beneficial for heart and lung health. Studies are also looking at whether the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea might lower the risk of some forms of cancer.
Could drinking green tea reduce the risk of dying early too? One study that followed over 40,000 Japanese men and women for more than a decade found that those who drank at least five cups per day were at lower risk of dying throughout the 10-year study. The reduction in deaths was mainly due to a lower risk of stroke and heart attacks.
To get these benefits, you want to absorb as much of the antioxidant power from a cup of green tea as you can, and how and when you drink it makes a difference. Are you maximizing the health benefits you get when sipping this hydrating brew? Here are six ways to get more out of the next cup of green tea you drink.
Don’t Drink Green Tea with a Meal
The best time to drink green tea is between meals, not during one. If you drink it with a meal, the tannins in green tea bind to iron and reduces the amount of iron your body absorbs from the food you eat at that meal. Drinking green tea with a meal may also block the absorption of zinc from that meal. Tannins in and of themselves aren’t unhealthy but they can reduce the absorption of these minerals. Wait until after a meal is over or drink green tea between meals, especially if you’re iron deficient. Likewise, don’t take an iron supplement with a glass of green tea.
Add a Squirt of Lemon
Lemon adds flavor to a cup of green tea but a squirt of lemon also increases the amount of catechin antioxidants you absorb from that tea. According to food scientists at Purdue University, citrus juice boosts the levels of antioxidant catechins in green by fivefold. So, get more health benefits from green tea by adding a squirt of lemon. Not only does lemon add flavor, but it also boosts the vitamin C content of tea. Don’t forget to add a squirt or two to your next cup of tea!
To make green tea, you steep green tea leaves in hot water and then discard the tea leaves. Matcha is green tea powder made from whole tea leaves. Therefore, it’s richer in polyphenols than brewed green tea. In fact, matcha has from 10 to 100 times the quantity of polyphenols that a cup of brewed green tea does. Matcha is versatile too. You can use it to make smoothies, lattes, and even bake with it. When you consume matcha, you get the nutritional benefits of the whole leaf.
Brew Your Own
The best way to get the full health benefits of green tea is to brew it yourself at home. When you buy bottled green tea, the quantity of polyphenols in the bottle may be quite low. When scientists measured the polyphenol content of six brands of bottled green tea, most contained only modest quantities. As they point out, you’d have to drink as many as 20 bottles of some bottled green tea to get the benefits of a single cup brewed at home. Plus, some bottled green tea contains as much added sugar as a soft drink. If you like green tea cold, you can still brew it and place it in bottles in the refrigerator. You’ll get better flavor and more health benefits, as well as save money.
Don’t Store Green Tea Too Long
If you brew your own green tea, don’t expose the leaves to air or keep them too long. The polyphenols in tea degrade over time, especially if you don’t store them in an air-tight place. Transfer loose-leaf teas to metal tins or another container that has an air-tight lid and store them in a cool, dark place. If you don’t expose them to air, green tea leaves can retain their antioxidant benefits for a year or longer. However, the sooner you use it, the better in terms of flavor too.
Find More Ways to Use Green Tea
Think beyond sipping a cup of green tea. You can use green tea in other ways. Add it to your next homemade smoothie instead of water or add it to your bowl of oatmeal in the morning. You can use matcha powder for baking too. Doing so will give your baked goods extra antioxidants and flavor. Green tea is for more than just drinking. Matcha tends to be most versatile since it comes in a powder form you can add to baked goods for more flavor and antioxidant benefits. Online you can find recipes for matcha cookies, lattes, smoothies, and even matcha ice cream. Some people even add it to soups and stews.
The Bottom Line
Now you six ways to get even more health benefits from a cup of green tea. Substituting green tea for soft drinks is an ideal way to boost your health. Avoid reducing the health benefits by adding too much sugar. If you like it sweeter, use a sweetener that won’t raise your blood sugar, like monk fruit or Stevia. Watch the caffeine content too. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee, around 20 milligrams, so you’re less likely to feel nervous or anxious. Plus, high-quality green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect that counters the activating effects of the caffeine.
- edu. “Citrus juice, vitamin C give staying power to green tea antioxidants”
- 2006 Sep 13;296(10):1255-65. doi: 10.1001/jama.296.10.1255.
- Tufts.edu. “How long can you store tea before it starts to lose its taste and nutritional benefits?”
- com. “Bottled Tea: Health or Hype?”
- Preventive Medicine. Volume 26, Issue 6, November 1997, Pages 769-775.
- The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 138, Issue 8, August 2008, Pages 1548S–1553S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/138.8.1548S.
- Curr Dev Nutr. 2017 Feb; 1(2): 1–12. Published online 2017 Jan 19. doi: 10.3945/cdn.116.000042.