Natural health advocates often like to tout the health benefits of green tea – after all, it has less caffeine than black tea or coffee, includes cancer-fighting antioxidants, and it might even lower cholesterol, burn fat, prevent diabetes, and lead to better heart health. Nevertheless, some people just plain don’t like green tea, and much prefer traditional black tea. How does black tea stack up to green tea? Does it carry the same health benefits? Here’s a closer look at both green tea and black tea, so that you can make an informed decision about what kind of tea you stock in your kitchen cabinet.
Studies on Green Tea
Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, points out that the large-scale human studies on green tea have all been conducted in the Far East. Although all the results from those studies have been very promising, Dr. Goldberg points out that the typical Asian diet also includes other healthy factors that the typical American diet does not – including a high consumption of fish and soy protein, with less fast food and processed food (Source: WebMD.com).
Still, no one can deny that green tea contains powerful antioxidants. Green tea isn’t as processed as other types of tea, so its antioxidants are more potent. Antioxidants can help destroy the free radicals that damage DNA and cause both cancers and heart disease.
A study of 500 women in Japan with Stage I or II breast cancer showed that increased green tea pre- and post-surgery could be associated with a lower recurrence of cancer. Likewise, multiple studies in China show that the more green tea you consume, the less likely you are to contract a wide variety of cancers. Even in Europe, one Dutch study showed that an increase in green tea consumption, especially in women, lowered the level of clogged blood vessels (Source: WebMD.com).
However, don’t run out and buy a box of green tea just yet: the antioxidants contained within green tea have a low level of bioavailability. In other words, your body can’t use all the antioxidants that green tea contains. You might wind up with more antioxidants in sweet peppers, berries, or dark chocolate.
In order to experience the benefits that green tea has to offer, you must drink it consistently over a long period of time – years or even decades.
Studies on Black Tea
Strong and earthy, black teas have a richer, fuller flavor than green teas, but the process of fermenting black tea also destroys some of its antioxidant potential.
Despite the fermentation, black tea still has a host of health benefits. A long-term study in the Netherlands, for example, showed that regular consumption of black tea can lead to a reduced risk of stroke. The researchers focused in on flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. In their study of 552 men over 15 years, 70% of the flavonoids the men consumed came from black tea. The Dutch researchers concluded that black tea reduced cholesterol and significantly lowered the risk of stroke (Source: Chinesefood.About.com).
On the other side of pond, Dr. Joseph Vita at Boston’s School of Medicine gave four cups of black tea or a placebo to sixty-six men. The men who drank the black tea greatly improved blood vessel function, reducing the risk of both stroke and heart attack (Source: Chinesefood.About.com).
Vitamins in Tea
Although tea gets most of its good press for its work battling cancer and heart disease, one shouldn’t ignore that tea also contains vitamins and minerals, as well.
In green tea, you’ll find:
- 6 mg of Vitamin C
- 3 mg of calcium
- 2 mg of magnesium
- Small amounts of iron; Vitamins B2, B3, and B6; folic acid, panthothenic acid, copper, and manganese
How does this compare to black tea? By comparison, black tea contains basically no vitamins and minerals. Again, this is because of the fermentation process of black tea, which destroys many of its nutrients.
What about caffeine? Many people believe that green tea is caffeine-free, but actually this isn’t true. Both green tea and black tea contain caffeine, but green tea contains very little caffeine. Here’s a closer look:
- Black tea contains 40 mg of caffeine
- Oolong, a mild black tea, contains 30 mg of caffeine
- Green tea contains 20 mg of caffeine
- White tea contains 15 mg of caffeine
- Decaffeinated tea still contains 2 mg of caffeine
- Herbal teas contain no caffeine
By comparison, a scant 5 ounces of coffee contains 80 mg of caffeine. A 12 ounce can of soda contains 45 mg of caffeine (Source: StashTea.com).
The Verdict: Green or Black?
Without a doubt, green tea is better for you than black tea, but that’s not to say in any way that black tea is bad for you. Just like green tea studies, black tea studies have shown that what the British call “normal tea” has its own array of benefits, particularly for preventing heart disease and strokes. Green tea, however, has more vitamins and minerals, and its list of benefits seem to go on forever.
It might also be interesting to further explore white tea. Although not as well-known as green tea, white tea is also not as processed, thus leaving its antioxidant properties in tact. It has even less caffeine than green tea, and just like green tea it shows great promise in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol.
When you go to the store to pick out your tea, you can choose almost any tea on the shelf with some assurance that what you drink will be good for you. By the way, this doesn’t include ready-to-drink bottled beverages, which are usually packed with sugars, preservatives, and other unnatural ingredients that counteract the health benefits you would otherwise get. Instead of being lured in by bottled drinks that contain green tea, just buy the green tea itself. You’ll be glad you did – and so will your body.
Photo by Shandi-lee