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Green tea: Understanding the brew

Green tea: Understanding the brew

Green tea comes with its own set of benefits and side effects. Read on and find out all about this beverage
A cup of green tea in transparent cup
Representational Image | iStock

Green tea is touted as a healthy option and is consumed by many with hopes of reaping its benefits. While there are health benefits of consuming this brew, it also has side effects that are not talked about much. Is green tea actually healthy and effective? The answer can be subjective, and it is best to know the pros and cons, before you switch to this ‘healthy tea’.  

Christina Lombardi, a nutritionist based in Babylon, New York, says, “Green tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients and can be a great alternative to sugar sweetened beverages or coffee. However, large quantities can provide significant amounts of caffeine, which may cause increased heart rate or sleep disturbances, like other caffeine-filled beverages.” 

Let us talk benefits first 

Green tea is said to improve mental alertness, relieve digestive issues and headaches, and aid in weight loss. A literature review published in 2010 states that green tea can provide some protection against cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, and liver problems. It is reported to be effective in preventing many chronic conditions, including neuro-degenerative ones. However, the study notes that further research is needed to monitor the pharmacological and clinical effects of green tea and assess its impact. 

“Green tea’s potential health benefits derive from catechins, which are powerful antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids, and this compound can be even stronger than vitamin C and E, which are strong antioxidants,” explains Radha Patil, a nutritionist based in Surat. Green tea in its true form is actually healthy in moderation, she adds. 

Speaking of other benefits of consuming green tea, Lombardi says, “Green tea can help reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation, reduce blood pressure and may even help with lowering blood sugar. It can help hydrate individuals who do not like plain water.” 

Patil recommends the use of green tea for weight loss and blood pressure reduction. “It has also been linked to the prevention of neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A meta-analysis has shown that green tea helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions by lowering LDL cholesterol and enhancing blood vessel flow,” she says. 

In contrast, the US National Cancer Institute does not recommend the use of green tea to reduce the risk of cancer. It says, “The evidence regarding the potential benefits of tea consumption in relation to cancer is inconclusive at present”. The US National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health says, “Although many studies have been done on green tea and its extracts, definite conclusions cannot yet be reached on whether green tea is helpful for most of the purposes for which it is used.”  

Now for the side effects  

Lombardi points out that when one consumes large amounts of the beverage, a significant amount of caffeine is consumed, which has its own side effects like increased heart rate or sleep disturbance. “It can also interact with certain medications and make them more or less effective,” she adds. 

Patil lists out some other side effects of green tea: 

  • Stomach health: When brewed too strong or drunk on an empty stomach, green tea might induce gastrointestinal distress. Green tea includes tannins (anti nutrients), which might cause your stomach acid to rise. Constipation, acid reflux, and nausea are all symptoms of excess acid in the stomach. When consumed in large quantities, green tea can also induce diarrhoea. 
  • Headache: Green tea includes caffeine, which can induce headaches in some people. If you get frequent headaches, you should avoid drinking green tea every day.  
  • Sleeping issues: Caffeine present in the green tea acts as an anti-sleep chemical. Though it has very little natural caffeine, it can still cause sleep issues for people who have caffeine sensitivity. This is because the chemical ingredients (tannins, phytates and caffeine) in green tea inhibit the production of sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. 
  • Caffeine sensitivity: People with caffeine sensitivity can experience insomnia, anxiety, irritability, nausea, or an upset stomach after drinking green tea.  

How many cups is too many cups? 

“The commonly used amount of green tea is three cups per day which will supply 240-320mg of polyphenols (antioxidants). If you are caffeine sensitive consider decaf varieties instead,” says Lombardi. 

Patil agrees that more than three to four cups per day may cause different issues for some. “But generally, green tea’s benefits outweigh the risks,” she says. 

When to consume  

Green tea boosts metabolism and thus the best time to consume this brew is half an hour before or after food for better digestion. When one drinks this beverage in between meals, then it leads to hunger pangs, leading one to overeat.   

Other benefits listed by Patil 

  • Aids digestion 
  • Improves heart health by reducing cholesterol  
  • Regulates body temperature 
  • Facilitates weight loss 
  • Shows positive effects in liver disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes 
  • Improves mental health 
  • Helps in treating other inflammatory diseases 
  • Improves skin health  
  • Lowers the risk of stroke 

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