Go for the Green: Cool Down with Green Tea

How many of you are tea drinkers? If you’re a tea aficionado, you’re probably feeling pretty smug about all the positive news that’s come out over the past few years regarding the health benefits of tea. Tea has often been maligned because of its caffeine content, but now we know that tea is a powerhouse of antioxidants that may prevent all sorts of health problems. This week, I’ll focus on green tea in particular.

Now that summer is upon us, many of you probably reach for a glass or bottle of iced tea to quench your thirst. New to the market are bottles of iced green tea (remember the days when iced tea only came in a powder that was more sugar than tea?). Several companies now make iced green tea, including Lipton, Snapple and AriZona.

What’s so great about green tea, anyway? Well, first, green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, Camellia sinensis. While green tea might be something more of a novelty in the United States, it’s actually been quite popular in China for, oh, the past 5,000 years or so. Green tea is made from the unfermented leaves of the tea plant, and supposedly contains the highest amounts of polyphenols, which are types of antioxidants that fight free radicals and possibly prevent certain types of diseases.

For thousands of years, people in China, India, and Thailand have used green tea for numerous medicinal purposes. Thanks to population studies, we now know much more about the health properties that green tea has to offer. For example, green tea may help prevent heart disease by improving cholesterol levels. In one recent study, 90% of the subjects who drank one liter of green tea daily for four weeks had a 9% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, and, in 69% of the subjects, there was a 4% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.

In another study, done with rats with diabetes, green tea helped lower blood glucose levels and also prevented the formation of diabetic cataracts. To get the same benefits, humans would need to drink about five 8-ounce cups of green tea every day.

Green tea may also help people with insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. In another study, also done with rats, green tea helped lower fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and fasting triglyceride levels. And the rats also had a decrease in the amount of visceral fat (the kind of fat that can contribute a host of health problems, including diabetes).

Other studies point to possible benefits of green tea in preventing different types of cancers, including breast, ovarian, bladder, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Some inconclusive evidence also points to a role for green tea in weight loss. Several studies have shown that drinking green tea or taking green tea as a supplement can speed up metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories). This effect is apparently due to a compound in tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—try dropping this term at your next cookout!

Obviously, more research needs to be, and likely will be, done looking at the effects of green tea on health. In the meantime, if you’ve never tried green tea, give it a go. Hot or cold, green tea has a fairly mild flavor. If you prefer cold green tea for the hot summer months, a few words of caution are in order: Many of the “ready to drink” bottles of iced green tea can are loaded with calories and carbohydrate.

For example, a 20-ounce bottle of AriZona Green Tea with Ginseng & Honey contains 175 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrate (that’s like eating three slices of bread). Fortunately, AriZona makes a diet version with practically no calories and only about 2 grams of carbohydrate. The same pretty much holds true for Lipton’s Green Iced Tea with Citrus—a 16.9-ounce bottle has 169 calories and 44 grams of carb, but the diet version contains no calories or carbs. Lipton also makes single-serving packets of iced green tea powder called “Green Tea To Go” that you add to water, and these, too, have no calories or carbs. Snapple also has a diet green tea. As always, read the label of any food or beverage for serving size and total carbohydrate. Cheers!

  • Burbot

    I would like to add that white tea has even more antioxidants than green tea. However, if you really like the taste of various teas like I do then you might find white tea lacking in flavor. It’s good for you but doesn’t really taste very good.
    I also wouldn’t waste my money buying processed tea. It’s only cheap if you make it yourself. You can also save a lot of money by purchasing various teas in an oriental market. The variety and quality in most ethnic markets is excellent. You can buy it in bulk or in bags.

  • kay

    ia any concern about potassium sorbate found in Liptons diet green tea with citrurs?

  • ktbreen

    Arizona Diet Green Tea with Ginseng has a comment on the back of the bottle in Red: “contains a small amount of honey Not for use by diabetics without advice of a physican”. It seems Diet green tea would be a better choice for diabetics over most other diet drinks. And since honey is natural – what would the concern be for a diabetic to drink this?

  • acampbell

    Hi ktbreen,

    Whenever you’re in doubt, always look at the Nutrition Facts label. I checked the label of this tea, and the serving size is 8 ounces (there are 2.5 servings per bottle). The total carbohydrate per serving is less than 1 gram. Even if you drank the whole bottle, you’d probably only get about 3 grams of carb, which is negligible and wouldn’t affect your blood glucose. Any food or beverage with less than 5 grams of carb per serving is considered a “free” food and won’t impact your glucose levels to any great extent.

  • Vickie

    Why does it say to contact your doctor before drinking the diet version of Green Tea? Is there an ingreient that might not be good for diabetics?

  • acampbell

    Hi Vickie,

    The message might be specific to a particular brand of diet green tea, as I have not come across that warning before. Could you let me know the brand of green tea or send me the ingredients that are in the tea? Thanks.

  • Demaree

    Green tea contains Antioxidants and Catechin that could be a polyphenolic antioxidant terribly helpful to fight the free radicals that are known to have an effect on the aging method and that influence general health in an exceedingly negative way.

    This drink contains also metilxantinas like caffeine, theobromine and theophylline which have an effect on the lipolysis, i.e.the hydrolysis of lipids.

    These substances will increase the metabolism and help to lose weight. Researchers of the University of Geneva in Switzerland found in a study that men who had been given a mixture of inexperienced tea extract and caffeine burned additional calories than those who had been given only caffeine or a placebo.

    I also added Vitamin E oil by cutting up the gel shaped capsules. Turned out that, even though the Vit E oil was a small amount sticky, after 15 minutes of masking, it kinda created my skin glow…. Luckily I didn’t escape from Vit E oil!

    I really like how the cold green tea feels on my skin. Its cooling (duh cos I took it out of fridge) and I enjoyed washing my face with it.

    I’m thinking of trying out Inexperienced Tea + honey+ Aspirin mask next!

  • Mark

    I am a diabetic, and I drink a lot of Arizona diet green tea with ginseng. While the health benifits of green tea are good, and just a touch of honey isn’t an issue, I have a question regarding artificial sweeteners. I read online that artificial sweeteners are not good for diabetics with one exception and that is Stevia. The Arizona diet green tea contains Splenda. What do you guys think? Mark :)

  • acampbell

    Hi Mark,

    There’s really no evidence that artificial sweeteners are harmful. Sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) have been extensively tested. Stevia isn’t necessarily any “better” than other sweeteners, either. That being said, I’m not a big proponent of consuming too much of artificial sweeteners, so the answer really depends on how much diet green tea you’re drinking, and what else you might be taking in that contains these sweeteners. Two or three bottles of the green tea each day would be prudent, in my opinion.

  • Joye Linford

    What about the aspertane in diet green tea. I have heard that aspertane is NOT good. How does this relate to a diabetic for side effects?

    Thank you on behalf of my husband.

  • acampbell

    Hi Joye,

    Aspartame is a safe sweetener to use for most people. It’s been studied and tested. There are no good studies to show that it’s harmful in any way. And there should be no reason for aspartame to cause side effects in people with diabetes, as it doesn’t affect blood sugar.



  • acampbell

    Hi Barbara,

    Actually, there are a lot of Internet scams about aspartame, so you should be suspicious of e-mails such as the one you received. Aspartame can break down into formaldehyde. However, you might be surprised that some fruits break down into formaldehyde, too — in fact, even more so than aspartame. Aspartame has been studied quite a bit and there are no good studies showing that it’s harmful.

  • Martina

    My husband has diabetes, he stared to drink Lipton- green tea diet, but it taste like sweet, I just wondering to know if this affects he’s blood sugar? Thank u

  • acampbell

    Hi Martina,

    Lipton diet green tea is sweetened with two nonnutritive sweeteners that contain no calories or carbohydrate, so this tea would not affect his blood glucose.

  • Franci Keogh

    Hi I would like to knew if Lipton tea contains aspartame or sweetners. I’ve got a disabled child with epelepsy and sweetners brings on seisers. Can you please help me with an answer. Thank you

  • acampbell

    Hi Franci,

    If you’re asking about Lipton tea bags (for example, black or green tea), then no, there are no sweeteners of any kind in them. But Lipton has bottled tea, as well. The regular bottled teas contain sugar. The diet teas contain sucralose (found in Splenda) and acesulfame-K, another type of sweetener. Some flavors also contain aspartame (found in Equal). You can always go to the Lipton Web site, too, and read the ingredient list of all of their products at http://www.liptontea.com.

  • shawn

    Don’t drink anything with sucralose its another hidden word for a different kind of sugar. Sometimes when it says sugar free its not. Just means its cane sugar free. Companies are very tricky in wording ingrediants to trick you. Dont take aspertame it tricks your body and your blood sugars stay higher for longer. Anything diet is worse for you than ragular. If you are going to keep your blood sugar in check brew tea in tea bags or loose leaf tea. Dont listen to anything these people are saying as its all false. Just brew tea at home and chill it if you want ice tea and dont add sugars at all. You will get used to the taste. Green tea isnt as harsh. If you want stronger use black tea.Trust me i take my blood sugar on a daily basis and i know what works. Dont believe anything until you take blood sugars yourself everyday and you get an idea what works for you.

  • Josie

    I drank the Arizona Diet Green Tea, and it put my sugars through the roof! I’m not sure if it was the honey or the caffeine or something else in it but will not try again.

  • Joshua

    Me an some other people wee asking about the “Warning” on the label “Contains a small amount of honey not for use by diabetics without advice of physician” you for ingredients and nutrition facts.

    Iam try to find something to drink other than water, as a diabetic.

    Ingredients: Premium Brewed Green Tea Using Filtered Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Ginseng Extract, Vitamin C.

    AriZona zero calorie green tea and ginseng
    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size 1 can (340ml)

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories from Fat 0Calories 0

    % Daily Values*
    Total Fat 0g 0%
    Saturated Fat 0g 0%
    Trans Fat 0g
    Cholesterol 0mg 0%
    Sodium 10mg 0%
    Potassium 0mg
    Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
    Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
    Sugars 1g
    Protein 0g

    Vitamin A – Vitamin C 25%
    Calcium – Iron –
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

  • A Campbell

    Hi Joshua,

    Are you wondering about the Arizona Zero Calorie Green Tea? You posted that 1 can has 0 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrate. This is fine for you to drink. One gram of carbohydrate will not affect your blood sugar level. However, you always need to read the label for anything you drink. The Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey contains 70 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces. Also, there are 3 servings in one bottle, so drinking the entire bottle would give you 210 calories and 54 grams of carbohydrate, which would definitely affect your blood sugar.

  • Suhasini

    Hi, I ‘m taking a hermesetas in my tea, I ‘m diabetic . I’m very confuses which are good sweetener for me ? Every day I drink a mug of pure green tea ( twinigs) is it good for me ?without my sugar level go up ?

  • acampbell

    Hi Suhasini,

    I’m not familiar with Hermesetas sweeteners, although I believe they may contain saccharin. First, green tea is good for you! There are many options for sweeteners and these depend on what is available to you. In the United States, we have saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-K, monk fruit extract, and stevia-based sweeteners. These have all been found to be safe, so it’s a matter of which sweetener one prefers. Look for sweeteners that do not contain calories and carbohydrate. You can also use a little bit of real sugar or honey, such as a teaspoon, to sweeten your tea, if you prefer.

  • wondering

    I have type 2 diabetes and I drink Arizona diet green tea..is that good for me?