Being healthy has always been a worthwhile human pursuit. In every age of history, health has been top priority. People have sought doctors, shamans, priests, elders or other types of respected community figures for advice on vitality or to find ways for a more vibrant living.
These days, being healthy is more accessible than ever. However, unhealthy lifestyles are as prevalent. Many people are lured into sedentary living without them even knowing. Luckily, healthy options are easily available to those who seek them.
It is only right for anyone to prioritize their Health. This is why most people take stock of their lifestyle and find what can be improved upon. These usually involve a more active lifestyle, more intake of desired food items like vegetables, a reduced intake of undesired food items like red meat or fatty foods, or perhaps finding a healthier alternative like replacing sugary drinks like cola and artificial juices with healthy options like tea.
Those who are taking a healthier path often look towards tea as a flavorful drink alternative. It has many variants, offering a different experience each time. Tea can be an especially habit-forming hobby as well and can be safely consumed by young and old.
But can tea offer other health benefits? Can tea help dieters lose weight? Let’s see.
What is Tea?
Let’s first find out what tea actually is.
Tea is one of the oldest drinks in the world. The tea we drink is from the tea plant, a medium-sized shrub that is native to China, India, and other countries in East Asia but is now planted and cultivated throughout the world, from small gardens to wide far-reaching farms.
The flavors of tea, like wine, vary from place to place. Quality, taste, aroma, and more are affected by location, and soil characteristics. Fine quality tea is usually grown in high altitudes and hand plucked. Experienced tea farmers take young leaves and carefully process them. Tea leaves are wilted and dried to a certain extent to amplify flavors. The process is nuanced and can basically be considered both art form and craft.
More industrial methods exist of course. Tea harvesting for mass production involves mechanized harvesters cutting tea plants to a predefined measurement to only get young leaves, then processed into tea bags.
With all its variants and wide range of flavors, it is almost hard to believe that all tea comes from a single plant! Common variants like black, white, green, oolong, and more all come from it. Leaves are plucked and can be brewed fresh or after a curing process.
For such a simple drink, it obviously blew up in popularity and is now drunk all over the world. Tea is one of the most drunk liquids in the world. In fact, it is the second most consumed drink in the world next to water.
Other more flowery or fruity variants like chamomile, or other drinks from steeped leaves are not technically considered teas but rather tisanes. They lean more to the side of infusions rather than teas. Be alert for other drinks advertised as tea, as well. Some of these are also not technically teas and their consumption may have unintended or unwanted side effects.
Tea is rich in essential oils, caffeine, and polyphenols. All three factors influence a brewed tea’s flavor notes, strength, and more. The tea plant’s origins and processing can widely affect flavor and produce notes of citrus or fruitiness. The processing tea goes through after picking can also define how the tea would be classified and sold, therefore affecting the drinker’s enjoyment as well.
Tea is a very special drink culturally as well. Many cultures and civilizations have tea brewing and drinking rituals that would be insulting if broken. Tea drinking practices range from very formal to very casual. The choice of tea and tea blend is also specific to places.
Tea Health Benefits
Many people very much seek tea for its health benefits. Many cultures value good health and longevity and tea is one path to those things. Tea has been consumed for so long, ancient tea drinkers have figured out that certain teas have different effects.
Tea drinking is closely tied to meditation and mental wellness. Although tea has a notable amount of caffeine, it is consumed for a sense of calm. The smaller amount of caffeine compared to coffee is still enough for mental alertness and clarity.
Many drink tea for its relaxing properties, but it is also valued for its effects on the body. Studies have found that tea helps with cancer prevention, diabetes, heart disease and vital metrics like cholesterol, blood sugar, and more.
The health benefits seem to be very affected by the brewing process used. The taste and nutrition depend on steeping time, water temperature, and more. Tea leaves must be brewed carefully to avoid boiling off important elements like antioxidants. Nutritionists note that you will still need to watch out for sugar levels. An overly sweet tea will still be bad for your health so avoid ready-to-drink bottled tea.
The fresher the tea leaves are, the more they seem to contain polyphenols like catechin. Heavily processed teas like oolong and black tea are fermented which contributes to their radically different appearance and taste. Despite having lower levels of catechins, they do have higher antioxidants as a result. Less processed teas like green tea and white tea tend to have higher polyphenols but fewer antioxidants.
Herbal teas and tisanes also have some benefits to them. Brews from herbs, fruits, flowers, or other things also contain antioxidants and other natural chemicals depending on the steeped plant.
Tea for Weight Loss
So, does drinking tea help weight loss? It certainly might be.
Tea has a long history of being used to treat or alleviate illness. Most notably, tea is connected to weight loss by aiding digestion and helping the body’s metabolism along. Watch out for “diet weight loss tea” and those marketed similarly however as they do not fall into the natural tea types discussed here. These are usually laxatives and contain artificially made chemicals that may not be good for the body.
Certain teas like green tea extract has an antioxidant called catechin. Catechin along with caffeine speeds up digestion and makes it more efficient. By boosting the body’s metabolism, more of the food and drink you consume is turned into usable energy, and less is turned into fatty tissue.
Consuming catechins regularly creates a small impact on weight loss and helps with weight management.
Now that we know catechins help with weight loss even a little bit, do some teas contain more catechin than others?
Here are types of tea that may help with weight loss.
Black tea has an intense flavor, more concentrated than the others. After being harvested, black tea is fermented and radically changes the tea leaves both in appearance and taste. This transformation results in a high amount of theaflavins when compared to other tea variants, which also helps with weight management. Black tea contains the highest amount of caffeine.
Men and women who drank three cups of black tea daily reported slimmer waists and gained less weight than those who did not consume black tea at all, according to a study. (1)
The theory is that black tea helps weight loss by lowering calorie intake and decreases the body’s absorption of fats and carbohydrates. Black tea also helps gut bacteria, increasing digestive efficiency.
Pu-erh tea which is a kind of black tea also helps with reduced weight gain and lower cholesterol.
As we discussed earlier, green tea is noted for its catechins and is usually the jumping-off point for tea and weight loss.
Green tea is mild and has a very delicate flavor. It is one of the most common varieties, and most considered for its medicinal properties.
Green tea is also one of the more studied and researched tea variants. A study (2) of 1,200 Taiwanese men and women found that regular drinkers of green tea had a lower body fat percentage and slimmer waists. It must be noted however that lifestyle choices connected to tea drinking may also be a factor.
While more studies need to be made, green tea remains a front runner for tea related to weight loss and weight management. Green tea works similarly with how other teas assist weight loss. Catechin transforms fat cells into usable energy via oxidation. It also prevents the formation of new fatty tissue by interfering with their process and inhibiting absorption by the digestive system.
Green tea consumers should still watch out for caffeine content. Although the caffeine in green tea can also help stimulate digestion and hasten the metabolism, those with sensitive stomachs or with severe digestive issues should take note before consuming green tea.
The antioxidants in green tea also help prevent cancers and reduce the risk of neurological degradation and brain disease, stroke, and oxidation in the brain.
Oolong tea is a strong flavored tea you could consider the middle ground between green and black tea. Due to this middle ground, it is also rich in both catechins and theaflavins. It is also caffeine-rich, which also aids in weight loss.
Again, more study (3) is required to draw conclusive answers. But prior studies suggest that drinking oolong tea close to meal times burn through fats faster than those who did not drink oolong tea. When cross-referenced with those who drank caffeine, it appears that tea still has more fat burning effects.
So while more studies need to be made, drinking oolong would still be an advantage as it is indeed a very delicious tea.
Hibiscus Tea is a tangy tea with hints of sourness and plucked from the hibiscus plant. Both the flower and the leaves are used resulting in an interesting color. Although not from the tea plant, catechins are still present and also help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Hibiscus tea extract may prove helpful with those suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, common issues with people suffering from heart disease and hypertension.
Like other teas discussed in this list, those who drank hibiscus tea or took hibiscus extract had lower body fat and BMI compared to those who did not consume either. The study(https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24549255/) only lasted for 12 weeks though and further study might be needed. More conclusive information is needed before a decisive conclusion.
As discussed earlier, less processed teas contain more polyphenols. White tea, as a very unprocessed tea (relative to black tea and oolong) falls in this category. It has a very light flavor, which others may find bland.
White tea, like green tea, is theorized (4) to help break down fat cells. At the digestive tract, white tea also helps reduce the formation of new fat cells or adipose tissue by turning them into energy that is ready to be used by the body. While it does not directly translate to weight loss, it does contribute to a slimmer waist. This breakdown is due to EGCG and catechins.
Aside from catechins and weight management benefits, white tea is also anti-inflammatory which helps with various illnesses like arthritis (swelling joints) and even alleviate fevers.
Like the others in this list, more studies are needed for more definitive answers.
How to Take Tea for Maximum Weight Loss Effect?
Clearly, preliminary studies made on different kinds of tea all point to a small impact to weight loss.
To maximize tea’s weight loss benefits, it must be brewed and drunk properly. In many ways, brewing tea can be like cooking. Steeping tea too long or using too hot water and nutritional effects can be “cooked off”, losing what benefits you were after in the first place. Brewing tea improperly would waste vital health benefits, not to mention the tea leaves as you would be left with an undesirable taste.
To make tea, boil water in a pot or kettle. Weigh out the leaves if brewing tea from loose leaves, follow the recommended weight to water ratio. Teabags are easier, usually, one tea bag is enough for a cup of tea. Pour in the boiling water and steep the tea for the recommended time. Teas that have not been processed as much like green tea and white tea take less time to steep.
Delicate teas cannot be steeped too long. In fact, even black tea can get bitter if left in water too long. Any tea brewed too long can result in a very tannic mix, creating a weird mouthfeel. Ideally, you would want to avoid a bad experience with tea.
It is also important to brew tea that is in prime condition. Tea that is too old or has become stale due to uncontrolled oxidation will not produce a good taste. Dial in the tea that best suits your tastes.
Tea can also be drunk cold or iced, and is quite refreshing in all types of servings. While counterintuitive to weight loss, it can be sweetened and be flavored further with milk whether dairy or plant-based. Other cultures also enjoy adding spices to tea. Look into chai if it piques your interest.
You’ll soon find the reason for the craze about tea. There are countless variants, numerous brewing methods, and even drinking vessels. While you might enjoy tea for its weight loss benefits now, it won’t be long until you’re enjoying tea for its own merits. Various communities exist for tea all around the world, sharing their enthusiasm. Tea is a timeless drink enjoyed by all ages, there is no doubt you’ll find someone who shares the same tastes and can help you find similar teas you might like.
All in all, tea drinking can provide help with weight management. But for maximum health benefits, it would best be paired with an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. Even simple exercises like walking and stretching can contribute to lower fat levels and slimmer waistlines. Find a low-impact activity that would suit your body for a start, or consult with a physician. As with anything, moderation will be key in weight loss. Be aware of your body’s cues and watch out for allergens. Even drinking too much tea will become counterintuitive to your weight loss journey.