Green Tea: What It Really Does for the Body
What is it?
The leaves of the tea plant Camellia Sinensis, which are then dried and oxidised. Green tea is a less processed version of black tea.
The health claims?
- It is a fat burner and causes weight loss
- It is high in anti-ageing anti-oxidants that can also prevent cancer
- It helps protect from heart disease
- It has no caffeine and is healthier than black tea
The scientific facts??
- Claims that green tea is a potent fat burner are indeed true and there are an abundance of studies to back them up. Scientific research papers, such as this one, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that an anti-oxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the secret behind the tea’s slimming powers. It has been shown to boost metabolism and the body’s fat-burning powers… BUT only when taken at a high dose.
Additional studies, like this one, also suggest that drinking green tea before a workout can increase fat burn during exercise… BUT once again the findings show you have to drink a lot of it to get any noticeable effect.
In the aforementioned study, a small group of men drank caffeine free green tea extract (equivalent to 3.5 cups of green tea) before exercising, and they burned 17% more fat than another group of men who took a placebo extract. So yes green tea can help you burn more fat, but you need to drink a fair bit of it – probably around 4 cups and do so before exercising – to reap any benefit.
- The super-food (or super-drink) is also high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can help protect the body from the type of natural damage (caused by molecules called free radicals) that causes skin ageing and cancer. But let’s be clear, while studies suggest that drinking green tea may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and visible signs of ageing, the evidence is still far from conclusive and no definite answers currently exist.
- It’s a health myth that green tea is caffeine free. The fat-burning drink actually has around half the caffeine content of black tea (up to 30mg per cup versus 60mg in black tea). It’s a small amount, but enough to produce a noticeable effect if you drink a couple of cups a day.
Nutritional facts – Green tea versus black tea
Does switching your black tea for green really make a difference to your body? Here’s how a cup of each compares:
- Kcals: Green tea 1 v Black tea 1
- Protein: Green tea 0g v Black tea 0g
- Carbohydrate: Green tea 0.4g v Black tea 0.4g
- Fat: Green tea 0g v Black tea 0g
- Caffeine: Green tea 15-30mg v Black tea 40-60mg (depending on brew time)
- Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous nutrients: Both green and black tea contain small amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C and carotene. But as green tea is less processed than black tea, it has higher levels of antioxidants, especially the polyphenol ECGC. Black tea has more fluoride than green tea.
Winner: Green tea – it has less caffeine and more fat burning antioxidants than its black counterpart. And it’s less likely to stain your teeth!
Worth the hype?
Yes. Even though more results are needed on the disease-fighting properties of green tea, we are convinced that green tea is a healthy addition to most diets. It’s low calorie, sugar free, metabolism boosting and fat burning. And although expensive whole-leaf, hand-dried varieties exist, very affordable versions are also widely available.