Green tea first stepped onto the healthy beverage scene some 2000 years ago. And while it’s been revered for its high levels of antioxidants (from compounds called polyphenols), the spotlight on green tea has recently shifted to weight loss.
When it comes to green tea and weight loss, we typically hear about two things that contribute to the connection: caffeine and catechins (a type of antioxidant called a polyphenol), says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet . While caffeine and catechins may both stimulate thermogenesis (a weight loss-related process in which our bodies break down food into heat) and fat oxidation (the breakdown of fat into energy), there’s a catch: Your average eight-ounce mug of green tea contains about 41 milligrams of caffeine and eight milligrams of catechins, according to a study published in Nutrition and Cancer, yet many of the studies on caffeine, catechins, and weight loss utilize green tea and caffeine supplements containing about 550 milligrams of caffeine and 278 milligrams of catechins, according to a review published in Obesity Reviews.
You’d have to drink more than a dozen mugs of green tea to come close to the levels of caffeine and catechins those weight loss studies use. (The FDA recommends capping daily caffeine intake around 400 milligrams per day, by the way.) “If someone were to drink that much tea, I’d recommend switching to decaffeinated,” says Gans.
So, no, a morning mug won’t make you drop pounds—but green tea does deserve a spot in your healthy lifestyle or weight loss efforts. “Should you switch from a sugary coffee beverage to a cup of tea, you slash unnecessary calories,” says Gans. “Just keep the sugar or honey to a minimum, if you add it at all.”
Plus, if you’re bored to death of drinking plain water, drinking tea may help you stay better hydrated. Sometimes we mistake dehydration for hunger, reaching for food instead of water, says Gans. After a cup of tea, you might find that gotta-snack feeling disappears.
Tea can also come in handy when you’re on the brink of stress-eating a sleeve of Oreos or half a family-sized bag of nacho cheese chips. “Something about the ritual of making tea is incredibly calming,” says Gans. “If you brew a cup of tea instead of reaching for food out of pure stress, you’ll unwind and become more mindful of your eating patterns.”
The bottom line: Like the ever-popular lemon water, green tea won’t work any weight loss miracles—but an antioxidant-filled mug or two (or three!) definitely won’t hurt.
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