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The Best Time to Drink Green Tea



Whether it’s the warmth of a steaming mug on a chilly morning or the refreshing coolness of iced green tea on a hot summer day, green tea is a popular drink we enjoy for its pleasantly earthy taste–and big health benefits.

Green tea is renowned for its health-promoting properties. The brew packs plant compounds called catechins (a type of flavonoid), in particular epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant that fends off free radicals and combats inflammation.1 However, certain factors–like the time of day or the other things you’re eating and drinking–can play into how well your body absorbs these beneficial compounds.

What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Green Tea Every Day
So, if you are drinking green tea for a boost of disease-fighting antioxidants and want to know the most effective time to drink it for maximum absorption, keep reading.

Factors Affecting Antioxidant Absorption
One cup of green tea isn’t the same as the next. Here’s what might affect how well you absorb antioxidants from the healthful, steamy sip:

How long you’re brewing it: Steeping for 5 minutes at 100 degrees C (212 degrees F, or boiling water) bolsters the antioxidant capacity of tea compared to those brewed for just 2 minutes at lower temperatures. Hot water can help tea extract more polyphenols and scavenge oxidative radicals compared to cold water.2 (Though steep it for too long and it becomes unpleasantly bitter.)

What you’re drinking it with: Are you eating a bowl of strawberries with your tea? Did you add fresh lemon to iced tea? Older research has shown that vitamin C may enhance the absorption of antioxidants found in green tea.3 On the other hand, adding cow or soy milk to tea has been found to decrease its antioxidant availability.4

Your personal health: Some data suggests that smoking status, BMI and genetics may impact a person’s antioxidant absorption abilities too, but more data is needed.5
Best Time to Drink Green Tea for Antioxidant Absorption

You’d be hard-pressed to find a healthcare provider who discourages drinking green tea at any time of the day. Green tea is an ideal beverage that is calorie- and sugar-free, and is a source of those antioxidant plant compounds that many of us can benefit from. “The more important point is to drink green tea when convenient for you, whether that is morning, afternoon or evening,” says Joy Dubost, Ph.D., RD, a registered dietitian and Global Director of Regulatory Affairs and Health Science at Lipton Teas and Infusions. Still, there are some things to consider depending on what time of day you’re sipping a cup:

Drinking green tea at this time means you’re getting those beneficial catechins first thing in the morning. And doing it on an empty stomach can help, since there’s no nutrients on board to compete with antioxidant absorption. Indeed, research suggests that proteins, fiber and certain minerals may impair the bioavailability (or how much of a substance your body can absorb and use) of flavonoids. In short, flavonoids may get trapped in the components (like fiber, for instance) in food, essentially hiding them from the body during digestion.6

Between Meals
It depends on when you’re timing your tea–are you having it with an afternoon snack or sipping it right before lunch or dinner? Drinking tea too close to meals can backfire: Tannins–chemicals that create that astringent taste in tea–may inhibit iron absorption.7 Iron is a mineral found in foods that is a component of red blood cells responsible for shuttling oxygen to cells to support energy, among other functions. For this reason, it’s best to sip green tea at least two hours before or after a meal to maximize antioxidant absorption, suggests Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Trainer Academy.

After Meals
For some, drinking green tea is a nice way to end a meal. However, the same concern as above stands: The tannins in green tea can interfere with the absorption of nutrients like iron, which is of particular concern if you’re at risk of iron deficiency. Tannins may bind with iron from plant sources (non-heme iron) in the digestive tract, making it difficult for the body to absorb.7 It’s best to wait a couple hours–and instead enjoy a cup outside of meal time.

For many people sipping tea is a relaxing bedtime ritual. But green tea does contain caffeine–about 30 milligrams (mg) per cup.8 That’s less than coffee, but it can hinder your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine. Decaf is an option, though this decreases the amount of flavonoids in tea, says Dubost. If you love a mug of tea before bed, choose an herbal tea, like chamomile, which is naturally caffeine-free.

Tips for Maximizing Antioxidant Absorption
To get the most out of your cup, follow these suggestions for an antioxidant-packed sip:

Practice the proper brewing technique: Dubost recommends brewing tea with boiling water (212℉) for up to 4 minutes.
Pair green tea with vitamin C-rich foods: Consuming green tea with foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges, lemons or strawberries, may enhance the body’s absorption of the antioxidants in green tea. Consider adding a splash of lemon juice to your tea or having a vitamin C-rich fruit as a snack.3

Avoid dairy: Adding milk to green tea may reduce its antioxidant capacity. For those looking to maximize the benefits, it might be best to enjoy green tea plain without cow or soy milk.8

The Bottom Line
Green tea is a source of natural compounds that have antioxidant properties. The timing of when you sip the brew may affect how well you absorb those antioxidants. Brewing tea in boiling water, letting it steep for several minutes, and consuming it with vitamin C can boost your body’s ability to absorb its healthful antioxidants.



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