Nutrition Articles

The Truth about Green Tea

A Health Powerhouse or Mostly Hype?

Whether you drink it as a hot beverage to ward off Old Man Winter or iced to cool off on a hot summer day, tea is an invigorating drink that people around the world consume in copious amounts. In America alone, each person drinks approximately 155 cups of tea per year! And as researchers discover more health benefits from those little leaves, tea sales continue to climb. But we're not just drinking tea; its extracts are becoming popular supplements and additions to other foods and drinks.

If you drink tea because you enjoy the taste, great. But if you're buying foods or supplements that contain tea extracts, thinking they'll help lower your risk for cancer and heart disease, speed your metabolism, or help you lose weight as many products claim, think again. Let's look at what research (and common sense) really tells us about tea, tea extracts and supplements, and what they can—and can't—do for your health.

First Things First: What is Tea?
Technically, only one plant provides the leaves to make what we know as tea: Camellia sinensis. The difference in the flavor, color, and name of the tea depends on how the leaves are processed. There are four basic types of tea:
  • Black tea is the most popular variety in the United States. When you drink a regular cup of hot tea, iced tea, or sweet tea, you are drinking black tea. Black tea comes from tea leaves that were exposed to the air and allowed to fully oxidize or ferment, changing the leaves from green to black.
  • Oolong tea varies in the fermentation time. It therefore falls between black and green tea.
  • Green tea is less processed and is not fermented like black tea is. These tea leaves therefore retain their green color and delicate flavor.
  • White tea is the least processed of all teas. The leaves are picked at a very young stage and are only dried in the sun.
Many other hot and cold drinks are referred to as "tea," but unless they are made with Camellia sinenesis, they are not true teas; they are herbal teas (made from a variety of other plants, flowers and herbs). Some herbal teas may offer health benefits, but you cannot assume that the health benefits of one type of tea apply to any other variety.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • What about Macha tea? - 1/8/2015 11:07:13 AM
  • So what's the verdict on things like flavored teas? For example, I like...Simply Balanced Organic Berry Hibiscus Tea... - 11/4/2014 11:11:28 AM
    I love green tea. I drink it because I love the taste. Pure and simple. - 5/4/2014 4:56:11 PM

  • I have started taking the supplement. I read that green tea extract increased the effectiveness of processes to increase collagen by 10 times over the light therapy process alone. I say this in response to the person who mentioned skin.

    My friend took it to get rid of fibroids after the doctor said surgery was the only option and it worked.

    Mine says decaffeinated and I am wondering if that changes the warning, other than the iron and folic acid. - 2/27/2014 4:05:32 PM
    Does Starbucks Iced green tea have the health benefits attrributed to green tea. or is this something else - 2/21/2014 6:13:43 PM
  • AMC8909
    I love green tea. Although this article says it's ok to drink while pregnant, I have read that you shouldn't due to the fact it depletes your folic acid, which can cause birth defects.

    P.S. If you drink a lot of tea, check out www.bulkherbstore
    .com. They have some really great ones and their website lists the health benifits of all of them. I love their site. - 1/12/2014 2:45:11 PM
    I've been drinking Original wuyi for 2 days and I already see a noticeably improvement in my skin. My cystic acne spots have dried up and my face looks less red after just 2 days. I definitely recommend drinking green tea as I think cystic acne has more to do with diet than hormones, I no longer get whiteheads that used to plague me. I recently did a complete diet overall and have cut out dairy and caffeine completely. After 2 days I saw the improvements already. - 11/3/2013 7:16:04 AM
    My hubby loves green tea; I like mine black. - 4/14/2013 5:18:19 AM
  • I've been told that it's best to use boiled water that has been given time to cool slightly. Freshly boiled water can burn the leaves and causes the tea to become bitter. This is very likely why I've never been a fan. I've been doing it wrong all these years. Should give it another go and use that jasmine green that i have sitting in the tea cupboard. - 3/18/2013 11:50:54 PM
  • Love green tea! Used to drink it constantly, but have found that with my hyperthyroid, even the slightest bit of caffeine throws me way off track! It's really strange and makes me sad :( But I guess since green tea isn't as good for me as I though, oh well.... - 3/5/2013 9:26:37 PM
  • Green tea is contraindicated with people who take blood thinners like Coumadin. Thought I would throw that out. - 2/19/2013 11:12:09 PM
  • This is my favorite tea. - 1/26/2013 5:35:48 PM
  • THIS IS MY PREFERS TEA. GREAT - 1/26/2013 5:33:23 PM
  • PS... for those that don't like the flavor, you can cook with it. Therapeutic levels (from Japanese use) are 10 cups a day! That's why I use the ground leaf form - in baked goods, even on meat if you don't like the flavor). But I do like the flavor. And I like even more having no JOINT pain (I've been in a car wreck and a horse wreck - no joint pain at all!) - 1/24/2013 1:46:04 PM
  • I use a ground leaf green tea (about a tsp a day, equivalent of about 10 cups) and found that it directly correlates to relieving joint pain. I started when I had a cancer dx - took this and other measures for 3 months before - interestingly, no cancer found after the hysterectomy. - 1/24/2013 1:44:06 PM

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