Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, herbal tea is one of the healthiest beverages on earth. On top of that, tea calories are negligible, so you can enjoy this drink anytime without having to worry about your waistline. Milk tea, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
Adding milk and sugar to your daily cup of tea can significantly increase its calorie count. When you're on a diet, every calorie matters. Luckily, there are healthier ways to flavor your tea — and boost its nutritional value.
The Surprising Benefits of Tea
Imagine sitting on your couch and drinking a warm, steaming cup of tea. It's a perfect way to pamper yourself after a long day at work. Tea does more than just help you relax, though. It can also boost your immune system, reduce cholesterol levels and keep your blood sugar in check.
Hundreds of tea varieties exist and each has unique characteristics. Green tea, for example, is rich in EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), ECG (epicatechin-3-gallate) and other antioxidants with therapeutic properties. As reported in a January 2017 review published in the journal Beverages, this healthful drink may protect against cancer, prevent inflammation and improve cardiovascular health.
Read more: 10 Everyday Ailments Soothed by Tea
Green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea all come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Black tea is the highest in caffeine. In fact, it boasts up to three times more caffeine than green tea.
According to Beverages, caffeine inhibits adipogenesis, or fat cell formation, leading to weight loss. A 2017 research article featured in the Journal of Nanomedicine & Nanotechnology shows that caffeine may reduce the size and number of fat cells, speed up your metabolism and improve appetite control.
The antioxidants in green tea exhibit cardioprotective and anticarcinogenic properties, according to the review in Beverages. In one study, this drink reduced the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 28 percent. Other studies have found that green tea may decrease body fat, cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Additionally, it inhibits pro-inflammatory markers and scavenges oxidative stress.
Need one more reason to drink tea? This healthful beverage can ward off stress and help you get a better night's sleep. Chamomile, for example, has been shown to relieve moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms in a December 2015 study published in Phytomedicine. The tea made from this plant is known for its calming effects.
Milk Tea Calories and Nutrients
Tea calories are not a reason for concern. However, if you add milk, sugar, dried fruit and other extras, the calorie count will go up. The calories in a cup of coffee are nothing compared to those in milk tea.
Regular green tea, for example, is 2 calories per cup. It has no carbs, sugars or fats. Ready-to-drink sweetened green tea, on the other hand, contains 73 calories, 16.7 grams of carbs and 14.3 grams of sugars per cup.
Both milk and sugar are high in calories and can lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. One teaspoon of granulated sugar provides 16 calories, 4.2 grams of carbs and 4.1 grams of sugars. Sweetened condensed milk delivers 123 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, 20.7 grams of carbs/sugars per serving (1 fluid ounce or two tablespoons). A half cup of reduced-fat milk has 69 calories, 2.4 grams of fat and 6.7 grams of carbs.
Read more: The Top 10 Beverages to Avoid
If you drink a cup of tea mixed with two teaspoons of condensed milk and two teaspoons of sugar, you'll get about 157 calories and 29 grams of carbs. It may not seem much, but the calories add up in the long run. Drinking one cup of milk tea daily translates into an extra 1,099 calories per week and up to 4,396 calories per month.
One pound of body fat equals approximately 3,500 calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing and other organizations. This means that you can gain more than one pound in as little as 30 days just by drinking milk tea on a daily basis. Is it really worth it? Probably not, especially if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight.
Milk Tea With a Twist
The good news is, you don't have to give up milk tea while on a diet. Tea is chock-full of antioxidants that promote health and well-being. If you don't like it plain, mix it with almond milk and stevia or consider the following options:
- Herbal tea with coconut, soy or rice milk and stevia
- Tea with nonfat milk and stevia
- Unsweetened ice tea with lemon or lime juice
- Fruit-infused tea
- Hot or iced tea with coconut water
For extra flavor, add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger and other spices.
Stevia is a calorie-free alternative to sugar. In fact, it's the only natural sweetener available. It comes from the plant with the same name and can be purchased in powder, tablet or liquid form.
Read more: 6 Surprising Ways to Cook With Tea
According to a research paper published in Nutrition Today in May 2015, this natural sweetener may aid in weight loss and prevent obesity by reducing your calorie intake. Additionally, certain compounds in the stevia plant may reduce dental plaque buildup, inhibit bacteria growth and protect against cavities.
Almond, coconut, soy and rice milk provide calories and carbs — just like cow's milk. However, these products are more nutritious and contain no lactose.
A half cup of coconut milk, for example, delivers 223 calories, 2.3 grams of protein, 24.1 grams of fat and 3.2 grams of carbs. It also supplies 21 percent of the daily recommended iron intake and 38 percent of the daily recommended amount of copper.
Low-fat milk, by comparison, is higher in carbs and sugars. It provides more protein, calcium and vitamin B12 than coconut milk, but it's significantly lower in iron, magnesium, copper and other minerals. Plus, the antioxidants and fatty acids in coconut milk support immune function, aid in digestion and promote brain development, as reported in a September 2016 review featured in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.
An occasional cup of milk tea is unlikely to affect your weight. However, there are better options available. Just remember to skip the sugar and watch your calorie intake.
- MDPI: "An Update on the Health Benefits of Green Tea"
- Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology: "Adipogenesis and Metabolic Health"
- Journal of Nanomedicine & Nanotechnology: "Underlying Mechanism of Coffee as Inhibitor Adipogenesis for Complementary Medicine Use in Obesity"
- Phytomedicine: "Long-Term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- USDA: "Green Tea"
- USDA: "Beverages, Tea, Green, Ready-To-Drink, Sweetened"
- USDA: "Beverages, Coffee, Brewed, Prepared With Tap Water"
- USDA: "Granulated Sugar"
- USDA: "Sweetened Condensed Milk"
- USDA: "Reduced Fat Milk"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Simple Math Equals Easy Weight Loss"
- NCBI: Nutrition Today: "Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener"
- NCBI: Molecules: "Is Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni a Non Cariogenic Sweetener? A Review"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Coconut Milk"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Low-Fat Milk"
- NCBI: Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Plant-Based Milk Alternatives an Emerging Segment of Functional Beverages: A Review"