If there are any health benefits of green tea—and that’s a big “if”—how much of what you drink may matter.
“Consume enough of the tea polyphenols, one of the important active ingredients in tea, and consume them often enough,” recommends Purdue University polyphenols researcher Mario Ferruzzi. “That means three or more servings a day—to keep their levels in your blood high.”
The best source of tea polyphenols: Brewed green tea.
To get the benefits of green tea, “Make sure you drink a proper cup, not some weak ready-to-drink or instant tea product that has maybe a third or less of what’s in brewed tea,” says Ferruzzi.
Steep the tea bag or tea leaves for at least three minutes, suggests tea researcher Claudia Fajardo-Lira of California State University, Northridge. “It takes time for the polyphenols to dissolve into the water.”
Squeezing in some lemon also helps, since it supplies vitamin C, which protects the polyphenols from being oxidized and lost.
What about milk?
“Although the prevailing view has been that milk binds up some of the tea’s important constituents and makes them unavailable for absorption,” says Ferruzzi, “the effect is actually negligible” unless the tea and milk sit for more than an hour before you drink it.
An 8 oz. cup of fresh-brewed green tea contains about 320 milligrams of polyphenols, including roughly 190 mg of EGCG. If you don’t have time to brew a cup from scratch, you’ll have to settle for a lot fewer polyphenols.
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