Green tea is known for its numerous health benefits, making it an all-time favorite drink of our health-conscious parents. But should you give your children green tea? Since teas are also known for their caffeine content (although we will discuss decaf options later), this may make you wonder – is green tea safe for kids? Can green tea beneficial for young children?
Let’s find out!
What is green tea?
Green tea is produced from the herb Camellia sinensis. The leaves and leaf buds of this plant are steamed, pan-fried, dried, and then placed in individual tea bags that you can steep in hot water for consumption. The same leaves are used to produce black tea and oolong tea, only that the leaves are fermented to produce the latter tea varieties.
As mentioned, green tea is made by steaming the leaves and leaf buds in high temperature. This process enables the leaves to retain their polyphenols, which are deemed to be responsible for many of the health benefits of green tea. Polyphenols are compounds that are found in many plant-based foods and primarily act as antioxidants.
Can kids drink green tea?
Green tea is a health-friendly drink. But just like any other tea, green tea typically has caffeine content which will make you think twice before giving it to young children. Caffeine is known for stimulating the cardiovascular and nervous system and too much caffeine intake may produce undesirable symptoms.
According to experts, too much caffeine in young children is discouraged because it may lead to the following symptoms or conditions:
- Insomnia or the inability to get enough and quality sleep
- Irritability and inability to focus
Another issue in giving green tea to young children is the risk of toxicity. Green tea has certain components that if taken in very high or accumulated amounts may be risky for a child’s health. Some of the issues that experts are looking into are increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia, kidney stones, and weakened bones. This isn’t something most parents need to worry about, but it is something to keep in mind.
So would that mean that your child can’t enjoy a sip of green tea? Of course not.
In some cultures, like for the Japanese, green tea is a widely consumed and available drink even for young children. In fact, the Japanese produces a milder version of green tea called houjicha. This tea is produced by roasting the leaves in very high temperatures to cut back its caffeine content.
When giving green tea for children, especially to the younger ones, make sure to limit their intake to no more than a cup of green tea each day. As a reference, children who are 4 to 6 years of age should not have more than 45 mg of caffeine in a day. For reference, a cup of green tea typically has around 30mg of caffeine content.
What are the benefits of green tea for kids?
Green tea can be beneficial for kids in a number of ways. Children may enjoy the following perks when they take green tea in moderation:
Green tea may help prevent flu and common colds in children
Green tea contains catechins which are potent antioxidants. Catechins are the ones responsible in giving leaves their natural green color, but they also seem to have protective characteristics against flu and colds viruses.
According to a 2011 study among Japanese elementary pupils, those children who regularly consume green tea have significantly fewer incidences of flu and colds when compared to children who don’t have green tea in their diet.
It helps fight obesity
In the United States, 13.7 million children aged 2 to 19 years are obese. This is equivalent to 18.5 percent of children and adolescents in the US. Worldwide, obesity affects nearly 41 million children under 5 years of age, according to the 2016 data of the World Health Organization (WHO). These make childhood obesity an alarming condition, considering that it tends to continue until adulthood and is a risk factor for many other illnesses.
The good thing is that you can help regulate your child’s body weight with green tea consumption. The common culprit in childhood obesity are sweetened and high caloric drinks which load up sugar into their diet. By shifting some of these to green tea, you might be able to cut back on your child’s sugar and excess fats. Green tea is low in calories and may help improve your child’s metabolism.
It may help boost concentration and memory
The polyphenols in green tea may improve blood flow in the brain by dilating the blood vessels in your child’s body. Moreover, the L-Theanine in green tea may reduce stress and boost your child’s memory and concentration. These make moderate green tea consumption quite an advantage for school-aged children.
Green tea is good for the heart
Green tea is found to minimize the presence of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is popularly known as the “bad cholesterol” that may clog the blood vessels in the heart. Moreover, a study found that green tea may decelerate the natural loss of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is also called the good cholesterol because it helps control the levels of LDL which often cause stroke and heart attacks.
It helps keep your child’s mouth and teeth healthy
The catechins in green tea may also provide some protection against tooth decay and gum infection. Green tea also has sulfur content that may help prevent bad breath.
Please do take note that this benefit is for moderate consumption of mild green tea for kids. Drinking green tea may also lead to teeth discoloration if consumed too frequently.
It helps improve the appearance of their skin and hair
Another beneficial component of green tea is the EGCG which may help maintain a healthy skin and hair. This compound also helps prevent dandruff.
Giving Green Tea To Kids – Tips And Advice
All these beneficial effects of green tea can be enjoyed by your child, but be reminded that green tea also has caffeine that may produce untoward symptoms. Hence, you may want to be more cautious in giving green tea to your children to make sure that it is well tolerated. You may find the following tips helpful:
Buy quality green tea for kids
Before you give any tea to your child, make sure that the one in your cupboard is mild enough for young children. Buy only from the trusted brands which also clearly state the exact components of green tea blends in their product. We’ll make some recommendations below!
Slowly introduce green tea in their diet
Just like any other food or drink, you’ll need to test if your child will tolerate green tea in a certain amount before you totally incorporate it into his or her diet. This way, you can also check for their initial body reaction to green tea. Once tolerated, you may gradually give green tea in more frequent intervals.
Remove the bag after 2-3 minutes
A common mistake made with green tea is leaving the bag in the water for too long. This makes the tea taste bitter without making it taste any stronger, or providing any additional health benefits. Since you’ll be giving the green tea to kids, you’ll want it to taste as good as possible without adding any additional sugar or sweetener!
Green tea is better given in the morning
Since green tea often has caffeine, which is a stimulant, it is better to have your child take it in the morning. This will give his body more time to eliminate caffeine in her system before bedtime.
Be aware of allergic reactions
Young children are prone to allergies. If you notice skin rashes, itchiness, and difficulty in breathing, call your doctor immediately.
Consult your doctor before giving green tea to young children
Every child reacts differently to any food or drink. Some components of green tea may also interact with the medications your child takes. If you are unsure of whether or not to give green tea to your child, it is best to ask your doctor for advice.
Our Green Tea Recommendations
If you don’t mind your children having caffeine, caffeinated green teas may have more of the healthy antioxidants within them. This is because it’s hard to know everything that’s been removed when teas go through the decaffeinating process.
If you’re looking for a higher quality green tea, we recommend Taylors of Harrogate’s Green Tea with jasmine. However, we’re also going to recommend a sample pack from Bigelow with a few different flavors. This can provide some additional options to help you find which your child will like best.
Decaffeinated green tea can be a great option for children, as it gives many of the same benefits without many of the drawbacks. Note that even decaf tea may contain traces amount of caffeine – but by law, it must contain less than 2.5% of the original amount.
We enjoy and recommend Twinnings premium decaf green tea. The tea leaves are bigger, giving you more of the ‘good stuff’ and better tasting tea.
Overall, kids may benefit from a considerable amount of mild green tea, just make sure that you give only what’s appropriate for your child’s age to avoid untoward effects.