Although Brits have the biggest reputation as hardcore tea fans, the beloved beverage is hugely popular all over the planet. But not everyone is sipping on Earl Grey or a breakfast blend. Instead, many folks have switched to green tea – not least because of the health benefits it’s said to possess. So, is the drink really that good for you? Well, nutritionists have been looking into how green tea affects our bodies – and they’ve uncovered some surprising results.
You may even have been tempted to take up green tea drinking because of those purported health claims. And you wouldn’t be alone; while black tea and coffee are still America’s go-tos, green tea and matcha are surging up the ranks. But whatever type of tea you choose, you don’t just have to brew and steep it.
More adventurous people have created smoothies using tea for flavoring, for example. That’s right: even a basic black tea can be added to a berry smoothie if you need a healthy option to help cool you down in the summer. Green tea is a popular alternative, too.
But it certainly doesn’t end there. You can find simple recipes online for tea-infused puddings, brownies and even ice cream, while the leaves can add a new depth of flavor to savory dishes such as stew and fried chicken. And perhaps this culinary experimentation is one of the reasons why tea sales have been rising in the States.
Yes, Americans have been snapping up tea in ever-increasing numbers. According to figures from Statistica, the U.S. tea market was worth a whopping $12.67 billion in 2019 – nearly $3 billion more than in 2012. Ready-to-drink tea sales have been steadily growing to boot.
And green tea is just one of the varieties that consumers have turned to – most likely because of its reputation as being healthy. But if you believe that this tea is just a flash-in-the-pan fad, you should know that people across the world have actually been drinking the stuff for centuries now.
It’s been claimed, in fact, that green tea was consumed 5,000 years ago – although this can’t be completely confirmed. That’s because historians are unsure which one of the several stories about its discovery is true. One of the tales, however, has links to China.
Apparently, the Chinese emperor Shennong – who is said to have ruled in the fourth century B.C. – was drinking hot water one day when a Camellia sinensis tea blossom accidentally dropped into his cup. And as the legend goes, the flavor the leaf imparted was unlike anything Shennong had tasted before.
Other tales about green tea’s origins talk about similar inadvertent discoveries. But while the real story may well be lost to the past, we know a lot more about how tea itself came to American shores. That’s probably because it happened as recently as the 16th century – which isn’t all that long ago, historically speaking.
Traders visiting China from Europe couldn’t get enough of tea, and so they imported it for themselves. From there, colonists brought the beverage to U.S. shores. And Britain was America’s main provider of tea until the country’s government famously hiked their taxes. After that, residents of the fledgling United States turned elsewhere for their fix.
The East India Trading Company stepped in to fill this void, and ever since tea has been an American staple. In fact, none other than George Washington was said to have been an avid tea drinker, although admittedly he could afford the good stuff – something not all citizens could.
And did you know that both black and green tea are both taken from the same plant? Yes, tea-growers harvest and dry leaves from the aforementioned Camellia sinensis bush. Then, if the leaves are oxidized before brewing, they produce the sweeter black tea; otherwise, the brew is green. Either way, the drink has a level of caffeine.
But as green tea’s popularity has spread in the West, so too have the claims about the good things it does for your health. Is there any truth to the rumors? Well, nutritionists have investigated some of the drink’s purported properties – and what they have discovered is pretty eye-opening.
For example, Good Housekeeping magazine had the director of its nutrition lab, Jaclyn London, look into several of the supposed benefits of drinking green tea. And the dietician had stunning news to share. Apparently – depending on the amount imbibed and how it’s taken – green tea-infused drinks may actually make some health issues worse, not better.
It’s also said to be a misconception that green tea increases your basic metabolic rate (BMR). Yes, the theory is that the beverage somehow bolsters your BMR, which in turn can help several areas of the body – such as the immune system – work more efficiently.
So, where did the idea that green tea can boost our metabolism come from? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly. When breaking down the myths about green tea in Good Housekeeping, though, London explained that a few small studies have indeed posited a causal link between green tea consumption and a higher BMR.
And while there may have been an increase in the test subjects’ respective basal metabolic rates, London claimed that the participants were actually drinking several cups of green tea on a daily basis. This meant each individual was consuming a measurable level of caffeine – and, of course, caffeine has its own drawbacks.
Because caffeine is commonly found in many beverages, it’s easy to forget that it’s technically a drug. And as you may already know, its effect on your central nervous system can make you irritable and jittery. You may even go through withdrawal symptoms if you miss your regular cup of joe.
Not all of the effects of caffeine stimulation are bad, though. Feeling more alert is an obvious plus point, particularly when you’re struggling to wake up in the morning. Still, like most things, caffeine needs to be consumed in moderation – whether you’re getting it via green tea or another drink. Let’s now turn, then, to the concept that green tea can act as an anti-aging tonic.
That’s right: many people believe that drinking green tea can help keep you looking young. Sadly, though, London has claimed that this is simply not the case. And the staff of Good Housekeeping’s Health, Beauty and Environmental Labs have confirmed as much, too.
Unfortunately, London revealed that green tea doesn’t actually “behave like Botox in a bottle” – despite what its fans may claim. It’s also not a good idea to overindulge, as green tea is actually stronger than the black variant. That fact certainly hasn’t put some drinkers off, though.
You see, according to a January 2020 article by The Science Times, some green tea enthusiasts have up to six cups a day. But, apparently, just two or three cups per day – or, ideally, one after every meal – is much better for you. You should avoid adding milk, too, as this blends badly with the beverage.
Yet while it’s starting to sound like green tea has little to offer in the way of health benefits, that’s not quite the case. In fact, as London explained, a lot of stories about what the drink can do for you are actually true. And you may be surprised by some of them, too.
Let’s begin with a big one: according to a study published in the journal General Dentistry in 2002, green tea drinkers have a reduced risk of cancer. Researchers at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia investigated the effects of green tea on cancerous cells, and they consequently discovered that one specific component of the beverage actually kills tumors.
Simply put, green tea has polyphenols – a type of micronutrient often found in plants. And among other things, polyphenols contain something else with which you may already be familiar: antioxidants. Antioxidants are commonly associated with superfoods such as blueberries and are renowned for the health benefits that they provide.
Indeed, while some bodily processes cause our cells to create so-called “free radicals” that can slowly damage us over time, antioxidants fight this to an extent. So, since polyphenols contain antioxidants, this means that they too can do us good. And, interestingly, the Medical College of Georgia researchers discovered that polyphenols also cause something called apoptosis in tumors.
In layman’s terms, apoptosis is another word for the death of cells. In the case of green tea, though, this effect is focused purely on cancer. And even to the scientists involved in the study, the reason why polyphenols leave healthy cells unharmed remains a mystery.
Even better, a particularly powerful polyphenol called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) also seems to limit the spread of certain mouth cancers. Overall, then, the study explained, “Regular consumption of green tea could be beneficial in the prevention of oral cancer.” A 2018 study review even found that the beverage’s chemopreventive effects may extend to breast cancer.
Then there are the flavonoids in green tea. In 2013 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study from a team investigating these plant compounds, and they came to the conclusion that regular consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of heart disease.
The question of whether consumption of tea and coffee helps or hinders the heart is a recurring concern. So, with this in mind, Lenore Arab, Faraz Khan and Helen Lam set out to provide a definitive answer. And during the course of their research, the trio reviewed past experiments along with the data sets produced.
Then, after poring over the evidence, the team’s findings convinced them that tea – particularly the green variety – does indeed help prevent some heart health issues. That said, the researchers did have to consider where the studies they looked at had actually come from.
Green tea is more commonly consumed in the East, and that’s where the majority of research on the drink has understandably taken place. Cultures who regularly drink green tea may therefore have a higher baseline resistance to heart disease as a consequence. But even so, Arab, Khan and Lam believe that there’s enough evidence in the reviewed databases to support their conclusions.
Green tea is also beneficial if your blood sugar levels are higher than desired; in fact, it may even assist people living with diabetes. Ordinarily, our bodies absorb carbohydrates and sugars from the food that we eat, while our blood sugar levels are controlled by naturally occurring insulin. However, diabetes essentially throws a monkey wrench into this process.
Luckily, green tea’s EGCG polyphenols are said to be a form of insulin substitute. And, apparently, these miraculous properties have been known about for decades. Back in the 1930s, Dr. Minowada of Japan’s Kyoto University reportedly discovered the benefits of green tea for hospitalized diabetes sufferers. But after World War II started, the medic’s findings were overlooked, and they have only relatively recently been reviewed.
Specifically, Minowada reported that both black and green teas seemed to improve the health of his patients. And it looks like it’s all down to flavonoids. It’s claimed, you see, that they lower the amount of glucose our bodies absorb from food – making green tea an ideal accompaniment to a meal.
Of course, this is all assuming that you take green tea unsweetened. Adding sugar to a cup would, after all, negate the glucose-balancing benefits that the polyphenols may otherwise provide. Putting green tea in a cake would be similarly counter-productive, too.
But if you’re assuming that green tea is purely a physically beneficial drink, think again. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology in 2012 claimed that the beverage can both reduce stress and boost your mood – providing you don’t have an intolerance to its natural caffeine content, that is.
Researchers at Japan’s University of Shizuoka monitored a group of volunteers who had a higher blood pressure response than the baseline after mental tasks. The team then took note of what effects L-theanine – one element of green tea – had on those same people. And, incredibly, their findings indicated that those who consumed the L-theanine were less stressed after the event than those who didn’t.
L-theanine is a kind of amino acid present in tea leaves, and alongside caffeine, experts have linked this substance to mood enhancement. “The findings… denote that L-theanine not only reduces anxiety, but [it] also attenuates the blood-pressure increase in high-stress-response adults,” the authors concluded.
So, there you have it. Although some stories about green tea’s wonderful properties are exaggerated, it still provides many incredible benefits. It’s also a great way to start your day or finish a meal. And if you’re not sensitive to caffeine, maybe you should give it a try. It may be just your cup of tea.
But when the weather’s warm, a hot cup of green tea is probably the last thing you’d want to quench your thirst. Thankfully, there’s a refreshingly cool and equally healthy alternative. Lemon water, it seems, is a favorite among both nutritionists and fitness influencers alike. And they say that just one week of drinking the stuff can have a remarkable impact on your body.
As its name suggests, lemon water is a very simple combination of just two basic and easily attainable ingredients, and making it is as easy as pie. Simply pour a glass of clean, safe-to-drink H2O – tap water in most developed countries is fine – and then carefully squeeze about half the juice from the yellow-colored fruit into the liquid.
And as well as being easy to make, the drink is also relatively cheap – particularly if you live in a warm enough climate to grow and maintain your own lemon tree. That’s likely at least part of the reason why it’s such a popular thirst-quencher in Asia. But the effects of the sour concoction may account for its increasing ubiquity, too.
Yes, as we previously mentioned, drinking lemon water can have quite the dramatic impact on the human body. And while some of these changes are more or less immediate, others are reported to take hold after only a week of consuming the beverage several times a day.
So, what exactly does lemon water do to us? And what happens if you go the distance and incorporate this drink into your life for at least seven days? Well, content marketing guru Bill Widmer has revealed some of the things you can expect if you choose to take on the lemon water challenge.
In a piece for the website Lifehack, Widmer picked out some problems that the juicy concoction is alleged to flush away. And, apparently, one of these issues is tiredness. The expert wrote, “If reaching for a cup of coffee every few hours is becoming your norm, you should really consider drinking lemon water for a week to cleanse your system.”
Widmer even suggests forgoing your joe altogether, adding, “While the first two days are going to be a little tough due to caffeine withdrawal, by the end of the week you should start feeling a lot better than you have in a while. Stop reaching for your coffee mug and start squeezing lemons to get more energy in your day.”
The second thing Widmer covered was getting sick. He noted, “If a runny nose and constant cough occur every other week for you, lemon water can help! The natural vitamin C in lemons will help your immune system fight off viruses and bacteria. Drinking more water will also help cleanse your system and remove bad toxins from your bloodstream.”
And according to the marketing specialist, lemon water may even help you stick to that diet. “Thanks to lemon acid and pectin, infusing your water with this fruit will help your stomach feel fuller for longer periods of time,” he explained. “Pectin is a natural chemical found in many [types of] produce, so feel free to combine lemon with some water to give your stomach a little more substance to digest. You can have lemon water before any meal to keep you from feeling overly hungry.”
Even if you’re eating in moderation, though, you may still experience tummy troubles. Fortunately, lemon water can help those, too – or so Widmer has claimed, anyway. He explained, “Drinking lemon water for a week can cleanse your system of toxins and other harmful bacteria, and [it] also has a similar molecular structure to your stomach’s digestive juices. Lemon water will trick your liver into creating bile, which helps move food throughout your digestive tract. This is why any indigestion, bloating or gas is alleviated with the consistent consumption of this drink.”
The next item on Widmer’s list was the bane of many a teenager’s life: acne. He revealed, “Lemon produces antioxidants [that help] prevent your skin from breaking out. Additionally, lemon helps your body produce collagen, which is known to smooth out wrinkles in the skin and promote skin elasticity. Drink lemon water for a week, and you’ll see some major changes in your face!”
And if you want to get in shape, lemon water may be the key. How? Well, Widmer has clarified this, too, writing, “The acidic nature of lemon juice combined with the juice’s negative[ly] charged ions give your body a boost in energy. This energy boost means your metabolism will kick into higher gear. In addition to [giving you] a faster metabolism, the pectin will keep you fuller for longer periods of time – again helping you kick those detrimental eating habits.”
Finally, Widmer argued that lemon water helped with psychological issues – including mood swings. He expounded, “Lemon consumption has been found to reduce stress levels and improve moods. If you drink lemon water for a week, your improved energy levels will combine with the natural stress relief properties of lemon juice and result in optimum and controlled mood levels.”
So, if you’ve previously been on the fence about lemon water, those many supposed benefits may just encourage you to make the leap. But we shouldn’t just take Widmer’s word for it, as other folks have been doing some investigating of their own into the effects of the fruity beverage.
Nicole Yi knows better than many about this, too, as she once consumed lemon water for seven days straight. And in 2018 Popsugar’s former associate editor for fitness penned a piece for the site revealing what exactly she had experienced during her week-long experiment.
Yi began her article by writing, “With perks [such as] digestion aid, weight loss and kidney-stone prevention, lemon water sounds like a miracle elixir. So, when I found out that the benefits of lemon water actually weren’t all hype, I knew I had to put it to the test myself.”
Yi continued, “For one whole week, I added half a lemon sliced – any less won’t yield enough vitamin C – to my water and drank it from morning till night, refilling as needed throughout the day.” And while the journalist “didn’t wake up each morning with glowing skin and a flat belly as [she had] expected,” she did notice one unanticipated benefit.
Specifically, Yi observed, “During the week of my experiment, I was surprised to see how much more water I was drinking each day. Most of the time, my problem with plain old water is that it’s too boring to drink. But lemon added enough flavor to make things interesting, encouraging me to reach for my infused glass more and more.”
Yi found that her H2O intake close to doubled, in fact, going from around 20 to 32 ounces per day over the length of the challenge. However, she went on, “This little experiment also came with an unexpected side effect: I began to feel slightly nauseous in the mornings when I drank the lemon water on an empty stomach.”
Yi continued in her Popsugar column, “I don’t typically eat breakfast — mostly due to force of habit, not because of intermittent fasting — and I refused to give up my cup of coffee for this experiment. That plus lemon water on an empty stomach until lunch was a recipe for stomach irritation. This might be due to the acidity of the coffee and the alkalizing effect of the lemon, but I can’t be sure. While it wasn’t enough to keep me from continuing, I’d definitely line my tummy with some food before trying this again.”
Summarizing her experiment, Yi concluded, “I don’t recommend drinking lemon water all day, every day for an extended period of time for the sake of preserving your teeth enamel. But if you’re seeking an easy way to reset healthy habits, try starting your morning off with a warm glass of lemon water to replenish your body and give yourself a boost of vitamin C. And if you’re just as bad as hydrating, it may be worth infusing your water with different fruits to see if it makes a difference like it did for me.”
Freelance writer Gianluca Russo similarly took on the lemon water challenge, drinking a glass of the stuff every morning for a week after rising out of bed. He also noted his newfound habit’s apparent effects in a 2019 article for the website Insider. And it seems that Russo had only positive things to report.
Russo explained how the regimen had improved his skin, writing, “First off, upon the completion of my one-week lemon water challenge, I noticed my skin was almost flawless, [with] no breakouts, no excess oils [and] no new blemishes. I also found that, to the touch, my skin was much softer and appeared to be much brighter. Essentially, the lemon juice created a natural highlight on my face.”
Russo continued, “I also found that the lemon water helped with my breath. Having been cursed with bad breath, mornings have always been a particularly difficult time for me. However, I soon found that the lemon water improved this, [as] the fruit’s citric acid helps to break down and fight bacteria in the mouth.”
After the writer had completed his seven-day routine, though, his acne reportedly began to return – suggesting that maybe the lemon water had made a difference. Furthermore, he noted, “At the end of the week, I also found I was much less bloated. Lemons are a natural diuretic and help the body let go of any extra salt it’s hanging on to. In turn, this decreases bloating.”
And while Russo didn’t manage to spot any more immediately discernible health benefits, he did suggest that drinking water may have boosted his immune system, as he hadn’t felt ill during the experiment. Even so, he admitted, “I found each day that I became thirsty faster in the mornings. I also found that if I didn’t quench this thirst, a weird aftertaste was left in my mouth.”
But while such anecdotal evidence is all well and good, what do the experts say about the pros and cons of lemon water? Well, Jo Lewin is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition in England, meaning the subject is well in her wheelhouse. And she has given her thoughts on the matter in a piece written for BBC Good Food’s website.
Before analyzing the many claims that have been made about lemon water, however, Lewin outlined the basic facts about lemons themselves. She wrote, “Lemons and other citrus fruits are well known for their colorful pitted skins and tart, refreshing taste. Lemons contain citric acid and have a high vitamin C content.”
But consuming lemons for health reasons is not a new practice, as Lewin pointed out. She went on, “Lemons have been used for centuries and have been highly regarded in the past for treating scurvy – a now rare condition that can develop through lack of vitamin C. Vitamin C is often claimed to support the immune system; however, studies have been inconclusive.”
So, does getting a regular supply of vitamin C through lemon water prevent you from contracting a cold? Well, while Lewin cited a study that suggested this isn’t the case, this investigation nevertheless found that the vitamin “may shorten the duration of symptoms [as well as halve] the common cold risk in people exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress – for example, marathon runners.” Lewin added, “Lemons also contain protective antioxidants called flavonoids.”
The nutritionist also took a look at the supposed benefits of lemon water that have been touted by writers such as Widmer. “Headlines have linked drinking lemon water to many other health claims, including weight loss, improved digestion, ‘alkalizing’ effects on the body, improved skin and detoxification,” she wrote. However, Lewin went on, “The research, especially human studies, to support these health claims is minimal.”
It’s not all bad news for those convinced of lemon water’s advantages for health, though. As Lewin attested, “Some evidence has linked vitamin C and flavonoids to improvements in skin. Vitamin C is known to help the body produce collagen, which contributes to the integrity of skin.”
And although it contains naturally occurring sugars from the fruit, lemon water is viewed by Lewin as a good bet for quenching both thirst and hunger. She wrote, “It’s possible to mistake thirst for hunger, so if you have been advised to lose weight, try having a glass of lemon water first when you feel hungry to see if you’re really just thirsty. If you usually opt for fizzy or sugary drinks, lemon water would be a lower-calorie and lower-sugar alternative.”
Naturally, then, as lemon water is predominantly made up of H2O, it is also excellent for hydration. Lewin stated, “Dehydration is common and can present with headaches, dizziness and tiredness. It’s important to make sure that you consume enough fluid while exercising or in hot weather. The [British National Health Service] advises drinking six to eight glasses of fluid – ideally water – a day.”
Lewin additionally acknowledged the assertions that the beverage can assist with stomach issues, writing, “Some people find drinking a glass of lemon water, particularly first thing in the morning, aids digestion.” Yet she stopped short of suggesting that the drink was a miracle cure, saying instead that any positive findings to this end were “mainly subjective, and reports are anecdotal.”
Furthermore, Lewin questioned the legitimacy of the claims that lemon water should be consumed immediately upon rising. She opined, “The effects of lemon water will not change regardless of whether you drink it first thing in the morning or last thing at night. If you like the taste of lemon water, it could be a good choice for first thing in the morning, as we often wake up a little dehydrated – especially if you’ve had alcohol or salty food the night before.”
And the nutrition expert denied that lemon water assists in the detoxifying process. She revealed, “There is currently no evidence to suggest that lemon water has an alkalizing or detoxing effect on the body. The liver is responsible for eliminating toxins from everything we eat, drink and are exposed to in our environment, so no amount of lemon water is going to ‘detox’ our bodies. There is also no truth to the claims that lemon water balances pH levels.”
A number of these findings were backed up by Joe Leech, who in a May 2020 article for Medical News Today similarly questioned the veracity of some of the claims made about lemon water. Leech hinted, however, that the flavonoids in the fruit could potentially reduce inflammation, while lemon’s citrate may heal or prevent kidney stones.
Yet the writer was largely skeptical about some of the perceived benefits to consuming the drink, writing, “There are many other health claims surrounding lemon water, but most do not have any scientific evidence to support them.” He also refuted suggestions that lemon water could aid substantial weight loss, effectively alkalize the body, help fight cancer or, perhaps most bizarrely, raise IQ.
So, we’ve covered the potential positives to sipping lemon water, but are there any drawbacks we should know about? Well, perhaps just one. In her article for BBC Good Food, Lewin highlighted the consequences that long-term lemon water drinking could have on our teeth, explaining, “Fruit juices and acidic liquids can impact the enamel of teeth, so it is best to dilute concentrated lemon juice with water or drink through a straw.” Altogether, then, while lemon water is not quite the magic potion many would have us believe, it is a perfectly healthy and refreshing thirst-quencher that can be safely consumed as part of a balanced diet.