Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, tea is one of the healthiest beverages on earth. However, if you do a quick search online for "1 cup tea calories," you'll get conflicting results. The nutritional value of tea depends on any added ingredients.
A cup of tea without sugar, milk and other extras has few or no calories. Bubble tea and milk tea, on the other hand, are just as bad as soda. The same goes for bottled iced tea, which is loaded with calories and has little nutritional value.
Get to Know Your Tea
Did you know that tea may lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer? According to Harvard Health Publishing, these potential health benefits are due to its high content of polyphenols, a class of antioxidants. Green tea is particularly good for you, especially when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Read more: 10 Everyday Ailments Soothed by Tea
Black tea accounts for nearly 80 percent of the tea consumed worldwide, as reported in the January-April 2017 edition of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (JOMFP). About 20 percent of the tea consumed globally is green, and less than 2 percent is oolong tea. All of these tea varieties come from the Camellia sinensis plant.
According to the JOMFP, green tea provides 300 to 400 milligrams of polyphenols per cup. It's also a good source of quercetin, kaempferol and other bioactive compounds. Catechins, the most abundant polyphenols in this beverage, possess antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Furthermore, green tea may facilitate weight loss due to its ability to suppress the formation of fat cells and improve energy metabolism.
Herbal teas may benefit your health, too, points out a review featured in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in October 2018. These antioxidant-rich beverages scavenge free radicals and may protect against common ailments, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and inflammatory diseases. However, more human studies are needed to confirm their safety and effectiveness.
One Cup of Tea: Calories
Tea is a powerhouse of nutrition and might even help you slim down. In one cup of tea, calories are negligible, so you can enjoy this beverage without the guilt. Just remember to skip the sugar and other extras.
One green tea bag, for example, has zero calories — that's enough for one cup of tea. Ready-to-drink green tea is a whole different story. Some brands provide up to 130 calories per serving (12.6 ounces), reports the USDA. The same goes for iced green tea, which is significantly higher in sugar and calories than regular tea.
As you see, there's no reason to worry about 1 cup of tea calories as this beverage is very low-calorie for most forms. Beware, though, that some manufacturers add sugar and fruit juice to their tea blends, which increases the calorie count. Instant and bottled teas are the highest in calories, but you can always opt for unsweetened varieties.
Skip the Milk and Sugar
According to the University of Illinois, drinking tea with sugar, milk or cream adds more than 43 calories to this otherwise healthy beverage. Approximately 85 percent of those calories come from sugar and may lead to weight gain in the long run. These extras may also reduce its content of polyphenols.
Take chai tea, for example. This hot beverage is made with black tea, spices and milk and provides about 118 calories and 21 grams of sugar per cup. Plain black tea, by comparison, has no calories or sugar.
A single serving of sweetened condensed milk (1 fluid ounce) delivers 123 calories, 20.8 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fat. Granulated sugar boasts 11 calories per packet (0.1 ounces). Therefore, if you add just one serving of condensed milk and two sugar packets to a cup of tea, you'll get an extra 145 calories.
As the Mayo Clinic notes, one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. Drinking a cup of tea with milk and sugar every day will add over 1,000 calories to your diet per week and about 4,000 calories per month — that's enough to gain one pound.
While it's true that tea consumption supports your health, sugar and other extras can offset its benefits. If you're not a fan of plain tea, consider adding lemon, cinnamon, vanilla essence or stevia. Better yet, check out our Pomegranate Iced Tea recipe for inspiration.
- Harvard Medical School: "Health Benefits Linked to Drinking Tea"
- Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: "Probable Benefits of Green Tea With Genetic Implications"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Anti-Obesity Effects of Green Tea in Human Intervention and Basic Molecular Studies"
- Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: "Herbal Beverages: Bioactive Compounds and Their Role in Disease Risk Reduction - a Review"
- USDA: "Green Tea"
- USDA: "Greenwise Brewed Green Tea"
- USDA: "White Tea"
- USDA: "Black Tea"
- USDA: "Hibiscus Tea"
- USDA: "Chamomile Tea"
- University of Illinois: "Study Tallies Extra Calories Americans Consume in Their Coffee, Tea"
- Harvard Medical School: "Tea"
- USDA: "Tea, Hot, Chai, With Milk"
- USDA: "Sweetened Condensed Milk"
- USDA: "Granulated Sugar"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"