Green tea is often called the superfood of beverages. It's been linked to everything from weight loss to lower risk of chronic diseases. But all green teas aren't the same. The best tea for weight loss (and bloating from the extra weight) is one that's freshly brewed and free of sugar.
If you're drinking tea in an attempt to lose weight, it's also important to combine it with a healthy, well-rounded diet. Green tea isn't a weight-loss quick fix, and it won't help you shed the pounds without a little more effort on your part.
Green Tea and Weight Loss
Green tea is the best source of a group of flavonoids called catechins. The major catechin in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, but it has smaller concentrations of other catechins too. Green tea also contains caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system. Together, these compounds may help increase the number of calories you burn and boost the rate at which you burn fat.
One study published in Maturitas in December 2012 reported that green tea with caffeine significantly reduced body weight and total body mass index, or BMI. Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 2014 concluded that green tea can help reduce appetite, block the absorption of fat, suppress the creation of new fat, increase the amount of fat and calories you burn and help you get rid of excess fat through your stool.
Together, all of these factors can promote weight loss and help decrease your body fat percentage. However, researchers noted that the exact mechanisms behind all of this still aren't totally clear.
Other Benefits of Green Tea
In addition to promoting weight loss, the catechins in green tea have been connected to several other benefits. They act as powerful antioxidants, protecting your body from oxidative damage that's caused by unstable substances called free radicals and have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
The beneficial compounds in green tea can also lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol and improve the function of your blood vessels and arteries, keeping your heart healthy and reducing your risk of developing heart disease.
Choose Organic Tea
There's no brand of green tea that's superior to the others, but there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one that's best for you. It's important to choose an organic green tea that's exposed to fewer toxic pesticides.
Researchers who conducted a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in July 2015 reported that, after testing 62 commercial teas, at least half had pesticide residues that weren't adequately studied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Some of these pesticides are classified as chemical obesogens, or compounds that not only make it more difficult to lose weight, but possibly contribute to weight gain and promote obesity, too. These obesogenic compounds disrupt how your body responds to glucose and insulin, increase your risk of developing insulin resistance and interfere with the way your body breaks down fat.
And, an older (October 2001) report from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that the longer you brew your tea, the more pesticides leach into it, especially when the water's hot. When you're trying to lose weight by incorporating green tea, it could be counterproductive to drink three cups full of potentially obesity-promoting pesticides.
Watch Out for Additives
After you've made sure your tea is organic, look at the ingredient list and avoid any tea that contains sugar or unnatural ingredients. You may think tea contains only tea leaves, but you can sometimes find surprising ingredients when you start digging a little.
Some green teas, especially flavored varieties, contain artificial colors and flavors along with preservatives like soy lecithin. Bottled, sweetened teas have a lot of sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Read the ingredient lists carefully and choose a green tea that contains only tea, along with various herbs and maybe a little stevia.
Go for Freshly Brewed
The benefits of green tea come mostly from its high content of flavonoids and catechins. The best way to get access to those compounds is to drink your tea brewed fresh, because, according to Harvard Health Publishing, bottled tea and instant tea have lower concentrations of flavonoids and catechins.
To get the most out of your green tea, allow it to steep in hot (but not boiling) water for about three to five minutes. After steeping, remove the tea bag and enjoy. Drink it like this at least three times per day, without adding any cream, honey or sugar, which can negate the weight loss benefits of the green tea.
Something to Consider
Although there are some promising studies showing that compounds in green tea may help you lose weight, it's important to note that many of these studies use a high-dose green tea extract supplement, rather than measuring the effects of actually drinking a cup of tea.
One report published in Clinical Nutrition in July 2016 pointed out that significant weight-loss effects were seen in obese women with a 12-week treatment of high-dose green tea extract that contained 857 milligrams of EGCG, then noted that, when the dosage was dropped to 360 milligrams, there was no positive effect on body weight.
Another study published in Nutricion Hospitalaria in June 2017 reported that weight-loss effects were seen with dosages between 100 and 460 milligrams per day, but only when combined with 80 to 300 milligrams of daily caffeine.
To put it into perspective, a typical cup of green tea (that's 250 milliliters) contains 50 to 100 milligrams of total catechins, including EGCG, and 30 to 40 milligrams of caffeine, about half the amount in a cup of coffee. That means you'd have to drink around four to eight cups per day to reach the same dosage that study participants were receiving through green tea extracts.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Leaching of Pesticides in Tea Brew"
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Determinations for Pesticides on Black, Green, Oolong, and White Teas by Gas Chromatography Triple-Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry"
- Current Obesity Reports: "What Are We Putting in Our Food That Is Making Us Fat? Food Additives, Contaminants, and Other Putative Contributors to Obesity"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Benefit of Drinking Green Tea: The Proof Is in -- Drinking Tea Is Healthy, Says Harvard Women’s Health Watch"
- Clinical Nutrition: "Green Tea, Weight Loss and Physical Activity"
- Nutricion Hospitalaria: "Effects of Green Tea and Its Epigallocatechin (EGCG) Content on Body Weight and Fat Mass in Humans: A Systematic Review"
- Antioxidants in Sport Nutrition: "Chapter 8: Green Tea Catechins and Sport Performance"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "A Minireview of Effects of Green Tea on Energy Expenditure"
- Maturitas: "Green Tea and Green Tea Catechin Extracts: An Overview of the Clinical Evidence"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Anti-Obesity Effects of Green Tea in Human Intervention and Basic Molecular Studies"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Flavonoids: The Secret to Health Benefits of Drinking Black and Green Tea?"