Green tea is a firm favorite, especially among those looking for healthier options. It’s true that it is fresh, low calorie and low caffeine – all great qualities for those looking to lose weight and stay healthy.
However, there’s increasing research into whether green tea is more than just a healthy option. Could drinking green tea for weight loss actually be a way to fight fat directly? There’s a lot contained in those little leaves, for sure. Let’s look at what’s in green tea, its benefits and whether it can promote healthy weight loss.
What is green tea?
Green tea is one of the five types of “true tea” along with black, white, oolong and pu’er. They are called true teas because they are the only infusion bases made with the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
Its origins in China, green tea has now become popular and grown all over Asia. In fact, green tea’s history might be the story of all tea as a drink. Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a Chinese emperor, Shennong, discovered tea by accident when some dried leaves fell in his cup of boiling water.
What’s special and different about green tea is the processing of the leaves. They are harvested and dried immediately to prevent oxidation, unlike the other true teas. This means that green tea is often considered fresher.
More importantly, it also means that it retains all more its essential nutrients and goodness – fewer are lost in the aging process. One type of green tea, matcha, offers the highest concentration of these because the leaves are ground and actually consumed rather than drained and discarded.
Now we know where it comes from, what’s in green tea that’s so important? The key to green tea’s nutrient-rich secret is a plant compound called flavonoids. These structures contain disease and cell damage-fighting substances called antioxidants.
A particularly helpful variety of these are catechins. We’ll explore these again when we look at green tea and weight loss, but one of their benefits is that they can kill bacteria in the mouth. Other nutrients in green tea include:
It’s clear that this ancient brew is a great source of goodness, and we’ll look at the other benefits of green tea later. First, let’s explore the research around green tea and weight loss.
Is green tea good for weight loss?
When it comes to weight loss, everyone’s looking for that magic fix. The reality is often more complicated, involving dedication to a healthy lifestyle. However, there are often things we can do to give ourselves a helping hand. Let’s look at whether drinking green tea for weight loss is one of them.
To lose weight, our bodies need to break down fat cells and transfer them into the bloodstream to be expelled as waste. They do this with the help of norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline), a naturally occurring chemical within the body in a process called metabolism.
The question is, how does green tea help you lose weight? Well, one of green tea’s special catechin compounds is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG can help inhibit the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine and so boost metabolism and fat-burning. In fact, EGCG has been shown to help increase overall metabolic rate.
In a study of 60 people suffering from obesity, green tea extract helped the participants to lose 7.3 more pounds and burn 183 more calories than those that didn’t.
This all means that a compound contained in green tea can potentially increase your body’s ability to burn fat. While these findings are based on small studies and concentrated samples, it’s encouraging research.
Another element of green tea for weight loss is caffeine. Despite being a fresh-tasting drink, green tea does, in fact, contain 24–40 mg of caffeine (compared to coffee’s 100–200 mg) per average cup. This is not an insignificant amount. Green tea potentially gives the benefits of caffeine without the jitters of a cup of strong coffee!
Green tea’s collection of helpful, metabolism-boosting substances mean that you’ll see it, or an extract, listed on most fat-burning supplements. Green tea weight loss pills are common and there are some studies that have looked into the positive effects of taking the extract.
Similar to caffeine’s complementary effects, the benefits of green tea on weight loss have been helped by exercise. One eight week study into catechins found that they increased fat-burning in combination with regular exercise.
Green Tea Diet
Given the extract’s fame as a potential fat-fighter, the green tea diet has also grown in popularity. Typically this involves drinking several cups a day; perhaps first thing in the morning and then before each meal.
Drinking green tea in this way might help fill you up and curb your appetite. It’s also low calorie. However, it shouldn’t be taken as a meal replacement. Consult your doctor before any major dietary changes.
Can green tea help you lose belly fat?
Common among green tea diets and green tea weight loss pills is the idea that you can target belly fat specifically. It’s an area that is many people’s body bugbear. There is some evidence that certain types of fat respond to antioxidants more than others.
It is true that not all fat is the same. There is subcutaneous fat, which is lodged under the skin; and there is also visceral fat, stored more deeply, also known as belly fat.
Carrying large amounts of this visceral fat has been connected with inflammation and insulin resistance. These are linked to a range of problems, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease being the most serious.
Studies have shown that the overall effects of green tea on weight loss are modest. However, a significant amount of any loss could be from belly fat. While there’s more work to be done, it could be that certain types of fat respond to green tea’s antioxidant substances.
It seems as though green tea contains some helpful, fat-fighting substances. However, if you’re considering drinking green tea for weight loss it’s important to remember a couple of things.
Any results from these studies were done in a controlled environment on a specific set of individuals and conditions.
Green tea isn’t going to be a magic path to fat-burning. Enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle, and especially in combination with exercise, it could be part of a range of healthy habits which contribute to weight loss.
Other benefits of green tea
There are positive findings for green tea as a weight loss aid, particularly when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. However, there are many other advantages of green tea and its power-packed leaves.
Firstly, green tea’s anti-inflammatory flavonoids could help to reduce flare-ups in other areas of the body. Inflammation is associated with conditions such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and period pains.
One of green tea’s amino acids, L-theanine, works in the blood to increase certain neurotransmitters and dopamine which may have anti-anxiety effects. Again, the caffeine in green tea can complement these processes.
When brewing green tea, take care not to use freshly boiling water as it may damage these health-promoting substances. Let the water rest for ten minutes, pour over the leaves and leave to steep for a minute. Just be sure not to add sweeteners like honey and sugar to keep it healthy!
There is more work to be done to understand green tea’s weight loss and disease-fighting effects. However, it’s clear that when consumed properly, it can be a beneficial part of your routine. It’s certainly a great alternative to less healthy drink options.
Drinking Green Tea for Weight Loss Conclusion
We’ve looked through lots of studies and possible evidence into green tea and weight loss. It’s important to remember that these are currently short term, small research groups based on extracts and supplements.
While green tea doesn’t yet directly equal pounds lost, the general benefits, especially when combined with other good habits, could contribute to overall health. If you’re dieting, green tea is a great option as part of your regime.
As always, take medical advice if you’re unsure and remember that nothing is a replacement for a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. When consumed safely, it won’t be harmful, as other options could be. In short, while we’re working out the science, why not enjoy the benefits of a refreshing cup of green tea?
What do you think about drinking green tea for weight loss?
Share your experiences in the comments!