I hear it all the time: green tea has more health benefits than does black tea.
Yes, green tea is extremely beneficial for us. . . . but so is black tea. And oolong. And white.
So why do people think that green tea is healthier?
If we think about how and where and why research is done, this idea makes some sense.
For one, early studies came out of primarily green tea drinking countries such as China and Japan.
And secondly, these areas have been pretty ideal for studies using large groups of people.
That’s because you can find communities in which most people are drinking the same kind of tea, from the same tea garden. Further, they will probably be brewing them in a similar fashion.
Think about how many variables this rules out! Everyone is drinking the same tea—the same plant grown in the same place and processed in the same way and consumed in a similar fashion. This allows researchers to determine, for example, that x results are due to the amount of tea consumed—because most other factors are the same.
When we look at research into the health benefits of green tea vs the health benefits of black tea, we find that both have benefits.
For example, both green and black tea seem to protect our cognition and functional ability as we age.
And here, polyphenols—antioxidants naturally found in plants—are key. And there are a lot of polyphenols in tea leaves.
In green tea, the polyphenols remain as simple polyphenols. In black tea, they are converted into more complex forms. But in both green and black tea, the polyphenols have the same antioxidant potency (Leung et al. 2001).
And what does that mean for our health?
Well, polyphenols do a lot, helping to protect our brains from:
- damage by free radicals
- damage to neurons
- Alzheimer’s disease
- cognitive decline
The bottom line?
Drink tea. Whatever type you prefer.
Leung, L. K., et al. “Theaflavins in Black Tea and Catechins in Green Tea Are Equally Effective Antioxidants,” Journal of Nutrition 131(9):2248–51. 2001.