Green Tea vs. Black Tea: Health Benefits that May Surprise You

Green Tea vs. Black Tea: Health Benefits that May Surprise You

Tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world. It’s been consumed for thousands of years by millions, perhaps billions, of people.

Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits, including being part of a brain-healthy diet. Some of these benefits are thought to be related to the tea’s antioxidant properties which come from certain flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory compounds that have a range of health benefits - some of which may surprise you.

The Difference Between Green and Black Tea

What do green and black teas have in common?

First of all, they both come from the same plant - the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Secondly, they both have numerous health benefits.

Their differences, however, begin being realized when their leaves are processed.

Green tea v. Black tea

Green tea undergoes minimal processing. Because the leaves are steamed or heated, they remain green. The heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then the leaves are dried to preserve the colour and flavonoids, which are the antioxidants.

This is how green tea is made. Due to its minimal processing, green tea contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea.

On the other hand, to produce black tea, the leaves go through an oxidation process, known as fermentation, where they are exposed to moist, oxygen-rich air. Leaves are crushed, rolled, and allowed to oxidize until they’re dry and have turned from green to dark brownish-black in colour.

This oxidation process uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have a slightly lesser ability to combat free radicals compared to green teas. It is due to this variation in their nutrient content that allows each type of tea to offer slightly different health benefits.

Avoid adding milk and sugar to your tea. Milk will reduce its antioxidant ability, and any health benefits of the tea will likely be offset by adding sugar. So to get the most out of your tea, it’s best to enjoy it as is! [quote]

Green tea vs. black tea - Health Benefits

Tea drinking, in general, seems to be associated with good health. So regardless of what kind of tea you choose, here are some amazing health benefits that you may experience:

Brain Health - The caffeine content in both green and black teas stimulate your nervous system and aid the release of dopamine and serotonin - two mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Teas also contain L-theanine, an amino acid that has been clinically shown to reduce stress and anxiety, boost mental health, and improve cognitive performance by inducing a state of calm attentiveness. Unlike most other molecules, l-theanine has the ability to readily cross the blood-brain barrier, which makes it an effective ingredient for the health of our brains. In addition, it is thought to counter-balance the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Overall, there is slightly more L-theanine in green tea than black tea, and when combined with the caffeine content of the tea, our brain can benefit. Tea can produce a relaxed but alert state, boost mood, improve reaction times, and provide better short-term memory recall.

Heart health - For one thing, both green and black tea drinkers seem to have high levels of antioxidants in their blood compared with non-tea drinkers. Green and black tea drinkers also have lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. Drinking green tea, in particular, is associated with reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL oxidation, all of which are risk factors for heart conditions.

Overall, drinkers of green and black tea seem to have a lower risk of heart problems. Green tea has also been shown to reduce risk factors (i.e., blood lipid levels) a little more than black tea has.

Cancers - Antioxidants also reduce the risk of many cancers. Studies show that both green and black teas can reduce the risk of prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men). Also, green tea drinkers have a lowered risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Black tea is currently being researched for its potential to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. 

Overall, antioxidant flavonoids in tea seem to help reduce the risk of some cancers. Green tea may have a slight edge over black tea, but both seem to be associated with lower cancer risk.

Diabetes - Both green and black teas can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also reduce diabetes risk factors, like elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For example, some studies have shown that both green and black teas can help reduce blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity.

Once again, green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea, but both are blood sugar friendly (just don't overdo the sweetener).

Caffeine content of green vs black tea

Both green and black teas contain less caffeine than coffee. 

Coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup, whereas each 8-ounce cup of green tea contains about 25 mg of caffeine and black tea contains about 48 mg.

So either type of tea would be a great alternative to coffee for those who want a mild caffeine boost without the telltale restlessness associated with coffee.

In Summary

Both green and black teas come from the same plant, but are processed differently. Green tea retains more of the beneficial antioxidants than black tea does; but both are associated with overall better health than non-tea drinkers.

Overall, both green and black teas are healthy drinks, and tea drinkers, in general, seem to have fewer health conditions than non-tea drinkers. Green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea when it comes to measurable risk factors of some common diseases.

When you enjoy your tea, try to minimize or, better still, eliminate adding milk and/or sugar; these reduce some of the health-promoting properties of tea.

Personally, I enjoy the occasional green tea in the morning. But I can always be seen sipping on a good peppermint tea all day, then relaxing with a cup of “Nighty-Night” tea before bed.

I’d love to know: Are you a tea drinker? Which tea is your favourite? How do you like to enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below - as always, I welcome your thoughts.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign up to receive my newsletters for more information about brain health, neuronutrition, lifestyle tips, and nutritional advice. Of course, if I can help you or a loved one with your nutritional needs, make an appointment to see me today!