Don’t kettle for just any source of caffeine — green tea has its health benefits, but it could also make you happier.
Previous research has shown the positive quali-teas of the drink, such as reducing the risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and it can reportedly act as a mood booster as well.
“Scientifically, there are bioactives in green tea that keep the mind focused yet serene,” Maggie Moon, MS, RD, a brain health nutrition expert and the best-selling author of “The MIND Diet,” told Well + Good.
“It’s not a stretch to think they contribute to the overall well-being experienced in Okinawa, where locals often enjoy jasmine-infused green tea,” she said, citing the Japanese Blue Zone that’s historically known for longevity and was once called the “land of immortals.”
Okinawans have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans, and women live longer there than anywhere else on the planet, according to the Blue Zones website.
Many believe the diet of the people of Okinawa is the reason for their longevity, with Jasmin tea using a green tea blend being a popular beverage among them — which seems to not be much of a coincidence.
Moon explained that the major components of green tea include caffeine, theanine, arginine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG is the most active ingredient in green tea and the most studied polyphenol component, according to Mount Sinai.
The combination of those bioactive ingredients can lead to both same-day and long-lasting elevation of mental health and mood, as well as potential anti-inflammatory and longevity effects.
A 2018 study found that those who consumed at least three cups of green tea per week had a 21% less chance of depression compared to those who didn’t have the drink.
“Culturally, green tea is often tied to quiet moments of calm,” Moon said. “Green tea’s excitatory caffeine and relaxing L-theanine work together to produce a calm yet alert mind.”
The lower amounts of caffeine in green tea compared to coffee can be beneficial to those who get jittery and anxious from coffee, especially with L-theanine, which is said to help ease stress and anxiety.
The pairing of the stimulant with the amino acid has shown its ability to reduce anxiety, improve brain function and boost memory and attention, according to a 2017 review.
“This is all the more reason for people to enjoy green tea instead of one of its components in isolation,” Moon suggested.
The properties of green tea that help reduce inflammation are another reason to enjoy a cup.
“It found that people whose diets had the lowest inflammatory load (as measured by the Dietary Inflammatory Index) reduced their risk of depression by 29 percent,” Moon said, citing a 2023 meta-analysis.
Moon also noted that green tea’s flavonoids, a naturally produced compound, are known to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), helping the growth of new brain cells and keeping existing brain cells healthy. The flavonoids suppress inflammation in the brain and counteract the negative effects of stress.
“Better blood to [prefrontal cortex] may strengthen neural circuitry and inhibit cognitive behaviors like rumination that are associated with depression,” she added.
Moon said that you can reap the benefits of green tea whether you have it a few times a week or a few times a day.
If you choose to go the daily route, be sure to monitor your caffeine consumption in general so as to not get too jittery and risk a lack of sleep.
However, an October 2023 study revealed that adults with a higher intake of caffeinated drinks were less frail and had significantly better physical function later in life.
“Coffee and tea are mainstay beverages in many societies around the world, including Singapore. Our studies show that consumption of these caffeinated drinks at midlife may be associated with a reduced likelihood of physical frailty in late life,” said study leader and National University of Singapore professor Koh Woon Puay in a press release.
While green tea can certainly help boost your mood, though, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Green tea alone is not an elixir of happiness,” Moon emphasized. “No single food is.”