The Healthy Apron
Reliable, Accurate and Trustworthy Articles About Health, Fitness and Nutrition

Green vs Black Tea – Is One Healthier Than the Other?

It’s a centuries-old debate upon which the world has never been able to agree: green tea or black tea?

People feel strongly about the drink, especially where it is ingrained as a part of a national culture—Japan, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America to name a few significant tea drinking countries.

Taste preferences aside, there is, in fact, enough research to determine which of the teas is healthier.

Though one can argue that both teas are beneficial—and they both can be—it is important that we be conscious of what we are putting into our bodies and be aware of the specific effects each drink has on our overall health.

young man holding cup of tea

What is Tea?

All tea comes from the leaves of a single bush—the Camellia sinensis bush—and can be broken down into four major types: green, black, Oolong, and white.

Black tea is extremely popular in Europe and North America, making up for 80% of tea consumed in the world according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A.(1)

In contrast, most Southeastern Asian countries, including China and Japan, primarily drink green tea.

Any other “tea” is actually a concoction of herbs, flowers, or roots that do not possess the same qualities or side effects as the four mentioned above.

 

What’s the difference?

The difference between each type of tea lies in how the leaves are prepared.

Sabu M Chacko of the NPO International Laboratory of Biochemistry explains that tea leaves are steamed immediately upon harvesting, to prevent them from oxidizing.(2)

Black tea leaves, on the other hand, are allowed to ferment after being picked, which is what causes them to change in both color and taste.

What many don’t know, however, is that this oxidation causes a change in the chemical makeup of the leaves, altering how it affects the human body upon consumption.

 

Chemical Breakdown

Though tea as a concept seems simple—leaves and water—the content of those leaves, in combination with how they are prepared, is much more complex.

Like any other plant, tea leaves possess vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and a variety of other components that can affect the human body.

What contributes to tea’s massive reputation as a superfood is its high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are complex chemical compounds, also known as antioxidants, naturally found in some plants.(3)

Tea leaves are unique in that they contain more natural catechins than most other foods.

Green tea, in particular, contains a high level of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), Epigallocatechin (EGC), Epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and Epicatechin (EC).(4)

As tea leaves become oxidized, however, the present catechins decrease, while other complex polyphenols become more present.

Caffeine is also a notable building block of tea.

It is found naturally in green tea, but has an interesting increase of caffeine once oxidized to become black tea, as noted by Sylvie Tremblay, MSC from LIVESTRONG.(5)

Black tea has approximately 20 to 60 more milligrams of caffeine per cup than green tea.

Additionally, researchers have discovered a great deal of minerals in tea leaves—enough to be a significant source of each for consumption.

An article listed in the Journal of Toxicology includes fluoride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, to name a few.(6)

 

Health Benefits

Health gurus and quick fix doctors preach the benefits of green tea on repeat, but which of them are grounded in science instead of speculation and wishful thinking?

Due to the high number of antioxidants in green tea, it possesses the ability to protect cells and DNA. It has been proven to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation.

Preventing Cancer

Tea’s most impressive quality must be its ability to combat and prevent multiple types of cancer. In short, cancer is caused by the mutation of genes, or DNA, which often occurs after birth.(7)

When these abnormal cells begin to replicate and spread through a specific organ of the body is the beginning of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, studies show the polyphenols green tea possesses may be able to protect against UV radiation, prevent tumor cell invasiveness, and shield cells from DNA damage.(8)

Drinking green tea regularly could definitely provide enough protection from cancer to help prevent it.

As tea leaves become oxidized, however, the present catechins decrease, while other complex polyphenols become more present.

The American Society for Nutritional Sciences states that while green and black tea possess the same catechins, green tea possesses more of the antioxidants capable of fighting cancer—particularly EGCG.

While black tea can still, in theory, do the same things regarding cancer prevention, it does it on a much smaller scale.

With cancer being the second leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being able to protect cells from the fatal disease is green tea’s ultimate trump card over black tea as far as health benefits are concerned.(9)

It is for this reason that many nutritionists tend to recommend green tea as the healthier option over black.

standing at the window with a cup

Preventing Parkinson’s Disease

According to Louis C. Tan, who conducted a study to observe the effects of black and green tea on Parkinson’s disease, black tea actually proves to have an “inverse” relationship with the disease.(10)

This means consumption of black tea could help in preventing Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, green tea did not have any relationship with Parkinson’s.

This is a powerful trait, considering Parkinson’s is a debilitating neurological disorder that affects 10 million people throughout the world.

Evidence of why black tea is able to prevent Parkinson’s, while green tea is not, has yet to be discovered.

This is perhaps the greatest, if not only area, where black tea provides a health benefit that green tea does not have.

Energy Boost

Tea is one of the healthiest and most natural sources of caffeine one can find.

This is where black tea does have an edge over green tea, boasting more milligrams of caffeine per cup than green tea does. If one is in need of an antioxidant-friendly coffee substitute, black tea is more likely to perk you up than green.

However, it is important to remember the side effects of too much caffeine.

Caffeine Informer states caffeine can cause restlessness and anxiety if consumed too quickly.(11)

It can affect heart rate and functionality and induce unintended insomnia in the long-term.

At worst, it can make one nauseous to the point of vomiting and may even cause heart attacks.

Due to its many health risks if taken in excess, some people recommend steering clear of caffeine as much as possible, especially for those with a history of anxiety or cardiovascular illness.

This may have some say that even though black tea is a more effective eye opener, its excess of caffeine makes it less healthy than green tea.

Experts say anything up to 400 milligrams of caffeine should be safe for the average consumer, making 4-5 cups fair game.

For most people, the presence of caffeine in each drink may be a matter of preference.

For those who are sensitive to caffeine, though, green tea is the safer and healthier of the two options.

Cardiovascular Health and Weight Loss

female in sports wear holding measuring tape

The relationship between heart health and tea remains to be a mystery to many researchers.

On one hand, doctors recommend patients already suffering from cardiovascular diseases and illnesses to avoid substances containing caffeine—tea included.

However, The National Institute of Health provides a variety of studies that indicate a positive correlation between a healthy cardiovascular system and regular tea drinkers (anywhere from 2-10 cups a day).(11)

Many of the studies are inconclusive, and while they indicate a cause and effect, they do not guarantee that tea alone is to thank for healthy hearts.

Tea drinkers are also more likely to live healthier lifestyles in general, which include balanced diets and regular exercise, which could also contribute to the results of these studies.

Researchers conclude that drinking any type of tea may help cardiovascular health, and there is no harm in drinking it.

Similar findings occur when researchers look at tea’s effect on fighting obesity or diabetes.

Though many people are quick to pronounce green tea a wonder worker in the field of weight loss, there is no conclusive evidence that promises any type of tea can directly—or even indirectly—help someone lose weight.

Replacing sodas, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks with a low calorie beverage such as tea will help weight loss because of tea’s lack of sugar and calories—otherwise, however, there isn’t enough evidence to guarantee green or black tea can assist with weight loss.

Any positive correlation between drinking tea and healthy weights can be just as easily attributed to the other common habits of tea drinkers, such as a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

When it comes down to it, neither black nor green tea are bad for weight loss.

Both are no-calorie, no-sugar, and no-carb.

Both are recommended by doctors as a guilt-free addition to any diet, especially those with more specific dietary restrictions.

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, green and black tea have an abundance of health benefits.

When one breaks down each health benefit and analyzes the individual effects of both teas, though, health experts tend to agree that green tea comes out on top.

Green tea possesses a stronger ability to combat cancer and inflammation, and it also has the least health risks associated with it.

However, if the preference of taste sways you toward black tea, there is no harm in choosing a very close second.

Both teas are healthful, guilt-free choices.


(1)http://www.teausa.com/14655/tea-fact-sheet
(2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/
(3)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319728.php
(4)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet
(5)https://www.livestrong.com/article/416351-what-are-the-benefits-of-green-tea-vs-black-tea/
(6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3821942/
(7)https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/genetics/genes-and-cancer.html
(8)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet
(9)https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/types.htm
(10)https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/167/5/553/211843
(11)https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-overdose-facts-and-fiction
(12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3123419/