Green tea, like the other variants, is obtained from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. But unlike black or oolong tea, green tea does not ferment, remaining closer to the original form of the plant and retaining, for example, a greater amount of catechins.
Its consumption began in China thousands of years ago, and it was initially used as a medicinal drink.
Today we will review its benefits, my favorite variety and a special recipe to use in the kitchen.
Green tea compounds
Green tea provides a multitude of interesting compounds, highlighting the following:
- Catechins: They are a type of polyphenol, and include epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The latter represents the predominant and most active polyphenol in green tea, and is therefore the most studied.
- Alkaloids: The most important is caffeine, but it also has theobromine (like chocolate) and theophylline, all of which are stimulating substances.
- Theanine: An amino acid with an interesting role in the brain.
- Tannins: Polyphenols also present in grapes or wine, which can interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron.
Let’s review below how the combination of these compounds affects our health.
The keys to losing fat are diet and training, but some supplements can enhance the effect, and green tea appears to be one of them (study).
We know several benefits of green tea when it comes to losing weight:
- Better glucose control (study, study, meta-analysis).
- Greater satiety (study, study).
- Increased fat oxidation (meta-analysis).
- Conversion of white to brown adipose tissue, with greater thermogenic potential (study).
- Mitigates the metabolic slowdown of low-calorie diets (detail, study).
Several of these effects are primarily mediated by caffeine, but others are enhanced thanks to the action of catechins (study, study, study). In a previous article we saw the synergies between caffeine and EGCG.
In this meta-analysis, people who drank green tea lost an average of 1.3 kg more than those who did not. It is not to shoot rockets, but everything helps.
That said, several studies in sedentary subjects found no weight loss (study, study), supporting what we saw at the time: green tea amplifies the effect of exercise, but by itself it is not very effective.
Frequent consumption of green tea is associated with a lower risk of breast (study), prostate (study), oral (study), and colorectal (study) cancer.
And again we know different protective mechanisms of green tea (detail): it reduces the risk of metastasis (study), mitigates DNA damage (study) and enhances the immune system (study, study), among others.
Green tea also protects against solar radiation, reducing the risk of skin cancer (study, study, study, study).
The consumption of green tea is also associated with lower mortality from cardiovascular disease (meta-analysis, study, study, study, study), explained again in different ways:
- Reduces blood pressure (meta-analysis, meta-analysis).
- It mitigates the oxidation of LDL particles (study, study, study).
- Improves endothelial function (study, study).
- Regulates the inflammatory response (study).
To maximize the antioxidant power of tea it is recommended do not add milk, especially skimmed, by reducing this especially its antioxidant capacity (study).
Clarity and Mental Calm
A cup of green tea has about 30-40mg caffeine, about a third that of coffee, but enough to work.
When our brain is awake it produces adenosine, which binds to its receptors to signal sleep. As these receptors are activated, our desire to sleep increases.
The molecular structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine, thus blocking its receptors and causing our brain to delay sleep.
But also, we saw that tea provides a special amino acid: L-theanine, which produces a feeling of concentrated calm, or relaxation without drowsiness. It boosts alpha brain waves (associated with relaxation) and the production of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter (study, study, study, study).
This can help you perform better in situations of mental stress, keeping you alert but not overstimulating (study, study). And the effect of theanine is enhanced by caffeine (study, study, study).
The consumption of green tea is also associated with less cognitive decline (study), and different compounds could explain this effect.
First, caffeine appears to play a protective role. Coffee itself (1-2 cups a day) is also associated with a lower risk of disorders such as Alzheimer’s (meta-analysis, meta-analysis).
In addition, animal studies show that theanine could enhance the development of new neurons (study) and improve cognitive performance (study, study).
Catechin EGCG it is not far behind, and it appears to protect against disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s (study, study, study).
Several intervention studies in humans show improvement in memory (study and attention in people with cognitive decline (study).
The problem with all of the above is that to reach the levels used in some of the studies you would need to take 4-6 cups of green tea a day. It’s not far-fetched, but it’s not very practical either.
On a trip to Japan, I found the solution: matcha tea.
Obviously obtained from the same plant, but there are two relevant differences in its production:
- They protect the plant from the sun during the weeks prior to harvest, thus increasing its production of chlorophyll (hence its more intense green) and theanine.
- They grind the entire leaf, making matcha tea richer in many of its compounds, such as EGCG (study).
In this way, the benefits of the plant are obtained with fewer cups (1-2 grams of matcha tea per cup is recommended).
And there are multiple specific studies with this variant: it inhibits the growth of tumor cells (study), increases fat oxidation (study), improves attention and memory (study), reduces anxiety (study) …
The only precaution is that it also provides more caffeine than green tea normal (although less than coffee), that’s why I prefer to enjoy it in the morning.
Being a powder, matcha tea can easily be used in multiple recipes, for example in these muffins that we recently prepared.
- 1/2 ripe banana
- 1 egg or 2 whites
- 15ml honey
- 25g of almond flour
- 20g of natural yogurt
- 2g baking powder (baking powder)
- 2-3g of Matcha tea powder (1 teaspoon)
- 10g 90% chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180 ° C and prepare a tray with papers or individual muffin molds.
- Cut the chocolate into very small pieces.
- Slice the banana and place it along with the egg and honey in a food processor or hand mixer.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and matcha tea. Process everything until the texture is liquid and there are no lumps or residue on the walls of the processor.
- Spread the mixture into the molds. Add a few pieces of chocolate to each muffin and stir everything carefully with a spatula.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes (time will depend on the size of the muffins).
- Let stand out of the oven for 15 minutes.
There are few risks with tea, but one of them is that tannins reduce iron absorption (study, study). In men this will rarely be a problem, and may actually help mitigate the dangers of excess iron (more detail).
In people with low iron levels it is preferable not to drink tea near meals, or add a little lemon juice. In addition to providing flavor, its vitamin C facilitates the absorption of iron, and incidentally enhances the bioavailability of catechins (study, study, study).
If you take tea extract in capsule form, you should be more careful with the dose, since some studies show altered liver function with high doses (study). As a precaution, it is recommended not to exceed 800 mg of EGCG per day (detail).