Green tea is nothing new in many Asian countries, where it has been the tea of choice for more than 4,000 years. For much of this time, it has been revered as having multiple health benefits—everything from treating hangovers to curing disease. Over the last few years, green tea has been taking over the shelves of Western World supermarkets at a surprising rate. This is likely a result of the belief that the contents of green tea can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, and lower cholesterol. Lately, it has taken on a new role as a weight loss supplement.
So are these claims true, or are they hype? Green tea contains several substances that are potentially associated with weight loss— the most recognizable name in the bunch is caffeine. Brewed green tea contains less caffeine than coffee by volume, but it also contains a few substances very similar to caffeine—theophylline and theobromine. These three stimulants have the potential to aid in weight loss by stimulating the body to increase its thermogenesis—the process by which energy is shed as heat. This essentially means that energy that might otherwise be stored up for later in the form of fat is instead burned up, even if all you’re doing is taking a nap or watching television on the couch. In addition, green tea also contains several antioxidants and catechins which have been associated with decreased cancer risk, decreased cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
Still, green tea is not and should not be considered any sort of miracle drug. While animal studies have shown strong evidence of all of these beneficial properties, human studies have been less conclusive and sometimes contradictory. However, there has been very little evidence that green tea has any negative effect—it is certainly healthier for you than coffee is, for instance.
In combination with healthy food choices and exercise, green tea may give an extra push to your weight loss. If substituted for coffee, it may make you feel just a little better all around. However, care should be taken when you make your green tea choice! If you don’t like the taste of green tea, you can purchase extracts in pill or drop form. If you want to drink your green tea, be careful of the pre-prepared tea often found in the juice aisle. Always check the ingredients list to see whether it is sweetened, and if it is, what sweetener is used. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot with green tea that is loaded with high fructose corn syrup! The best bet is to check the bagged tea aisle and find tea that is unsweetened. Many people enjoy the taste of green tea without any sweetener at all, or you can add your own sweetener—something like Stevia to cut back on calories.