Green Tea: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, September 7, 2010

green tea

There are countless questions dietitians are asked about green tea: Is it good for me? How much should I drink? Does it have caffeine? Will it help me lose weight? We’ve got the scoop on this popular beverage — here’s what you need to know.

About Green Tea
For centuries green tea has been used in various ways including as a stimulant, diuretic and to help improve heart health. Of the three tea varieties, green tea is the only one that doesn’t undergo fermentation upon harvesting (black and oolong do). The leaves are steamed or pan-fired in order to prevent the fermentation process. Some varieties of green tea include Gunpowder, Hyson, Sencha, Dragon Well and Matcha.

Nutrition Info
Green tea contains the highest amounts of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that have been shown to help fight disease. If you find that is has a bitter flavor, that’s from the catechins which are a specific type of polyphenols specifically found in green tea. Adding lemon to your tea can help cut the bitterness.

The main vitamins and minerals you can find in green tea include vitamin C, energy-boosting B-vitamins, vitamin E and fluoride (for strong teeth and bones).

What Studies Show
Numerous studies have been published indicating that green tea may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease. One such study was published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that folks who drank green tea over a period of 11 years had a lower chance of getting a stroke. Scientific studies have also shown that green tea may help with cancer of the lungs, breast, prostate, stomach, colon and skin. The tea has also been found to help improve cognitive function among older adults.

Weight Loss
Green tea contains compounds known as alkaloids (like caffeine) which provide a stimulant effect and do help speed up metabolism. But don’t go downing packages of green tea just yet — it only increases it a small amount.  Several studies have linked green tea and green tea supplements (in the form of pills and extracts) to weight loss of about 1 to 5 pounds (depending on the study and the form of green tea that was taken).

Besides not being regulated by the FDA, many of the green tea supplements promising weight loss have a laundry list of active ingredients that may interact with medications and other herbal supplements. This is especially true if you have a heart condition — caffeine (and other stimulants) and a bad heart just don’t mix. Green tea and green tea supplements (i.e. pills, extracts) have also been shown to interact with medications prescribed for kidney disease and psychological disorders. It’s important to always consult a physician before drinking green tea regularly or taking green tea supplements.

Bottom Line:
Studies have shown beneficial effects of green tea and can be part of a healthy diet. The healthiest option is drinking a cup (or two) of green tea a day. Stay away from the supplements and weight loss gimmicks – they can be dangerous and they’ll leave your wallet thinner than they’ll make you.

TELL US: Do you drink green tea?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (47)

  1. Charlotte says:

    I had to stop drinking green tea as it was upsetting my stomach. I have the same problem with bay leaves. Could there be a connection?

  2. Noreen says:

    I drink a Japanese Herbal Tea that I buy online. It has 10 herbs that helps digestion, dissolve internal fat, helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. I have lost a few inches and so as people I shared it with. Great taste, does not get bitter at all.

  3. Deena says:

    I have given up soda complety and now only drink iced tea. I started out with just green tea but now brew up a mixture of 1 bag wild berry herbal tea, 1 bag black tea and 3 bags of green tea. It has such a good refreshing flavor that I drink about 1/2 gallon per day. The only other thing I drink is a little water now and then. Since I started drinking the green tea I feel so much better. I have more energy and am rarely ever sick. Others in my house will get a cold and I never get it. I’m truly hooked.

  4. Alyssa says:

    For the help benefits, does it have to be a 100% green tea? I ask because the other kinds that has other flavors with it taste better.

  5. ica1080 says:

    Panera Bread has an amazing iced green tea. Every time I have made it at home its disgusting. Panera's is the only green tea I will drink :-)

  6. betty says:

    I drink Tazo Zen green tea the mint helps with the flavor a lot. I drink one cup a day. I do not add anything and I drink it hot. It helps me from drinking another cup of coffee!

  7. Diana says:

    I drink soy matcha lattes.Match is a ground form of green tea, very concentrated, it has a powder consistency. It has a different taste from regular green tea (bag) types but is very good!

  8. BambiP15 says:

    Toby, I have read that green tea can interfere with folic acid absorption… so if you are pregnant or thinking about it, might be a good idea to steer clear. Any truth to that?

  9. Lulu says:

    I have been told about all of it benefits which are numerous, one of the is that it lowers your blood pressure, so if you have low blood pressure is not advisable to drink it on an empty stomach.
    I have that problem, and it makes me dizzy first thing in the morning.

  10. omran says:

    i switched from drinking redbull to green tea lol

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