Green tea has become the go-to beverage for people seeking to improve health. Tea advocates are quick to note the tea’s potential protective effects against heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now, we have evidence that green tea also may keep a spring in your step as you age.
Studying sipping habits
To study how green tea drinking may affect level of physical disability over time, researchers collected information on tea drinking habits, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle behaviors from 14,000 Japanese adults over 65 years old. Study participants had no prior history of disability—physical limitations that affect a person’s ability to take care of him- or herself—and the study authors tracked the group to determine who developed disability over three years.
Compared with people who rarely or never drank green tea
people who drank 3 to 4 cups per day had 25% lower risk of developing disability, and people who drank 5 or more cups per day had 33% lower risk of developing disability.
Sipping, stepping, and snacking your way to health
This study suggests that green tea may protect against disability among aging adults. Use our green tea tips, plus other stay-vibrant ideas to keep your body healthy into your golden years.
Assess amounts. In Japan, a typical cup of green tea is about 100 ml, which is around 3 to 4 ounces, or 1/2 cup. In the US, a typical coffee mug holds up to 16 ounces. One or two of these larger servings of green tea daily is enough to provide potential health benefits.
Steep smartly. Green tea tastes best when brewed with hot, but not boiling, water. Allow boiling water to cool slightly before brewing, and let the tea steep for no more than four minutes. Longer steeping times can lead to a bitter brew.
Find a favorite. Experiment with different green teas to find one that tastes good to you. For example, if you don’t enjoy regular green tea, try a jasmine-infused blend, or a green tea flavored with fruit essences.
Pick plain. Enjoy your tea straight-up, without milk or sugar, both of which may reduce tea’s beneficial effects on health.
Work in walking. Regular physical activity is vital to healthy aging, and health experts point out you need not run a marathon in order to benefit. A daily, half-hour, brisk walk is one of the best ways to improve and maintain well-being as we age.
Snack with savvy. Snacking can be a smart way to work healthy foods into the diet. Instead of the usual chips, pretzels, or other salty snacks, try apples, bananas, nuts, or low-fat Greek yogurt for your mid-afternoon fix.
Skip the soda. Drinking more green tea is a great way to cut back on less-healthy options, such as soda, including the diet versions. Even though it's calorie-free, diet soda is not a good choice; drinking it has been linked with higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:732–9)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.