Green Tea Can Help You Lose Weight and Burn Fat, According to Studies
The health benefits of green tea are impressive: Studies show that it helps your body fight disease, lowers the risk of cancer, and even helps your body kick fat-burning into high gear, making it easier to lose weight. Here's how it works, how to use it safely, and what you need to know about drinking green tea for fat-burning effects.
Chances are if you have been paying attention and like to read up on ways to be healthier, you've heard about the benefits of green tea. The active ingredient in green tea is a polyphenol called Epigallocatechin Gallate (or EGCG for short). That's one reason Matcha tea is popular – it contains the highest amount of EGCG of any tea on the market.
EGCG has been shown to help animals lose body fat by increasing their metabolism. Green tea is associated with dramatic weight loss in the lab. Now human studies are beginning to show that this works for us as well.
Green Tea Can Help Aid in Weight Loss
Black, green, and oolong tea all come from the same plant leaves, but the amount of EGCG is higher in green tea due to the way it is processed, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have been shown in studies to reduce cell damage, fight inflammation, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. EGCG especially has been found to help control blood sugar, which can help with weight loss.
During the processing of teas, some of the polyphenols are destroyed, so tea powders, decaffeinated teas, and bottled tea drinks may not deliver as many polyphenols as tea bags steeped in hot water. Green tea has more EGCG because it is less processed than black, keeping the polyphenols intact.
The longer you steep your tea (at least ten minutes) the more EGCG gets released. Here's what you need to know to try adding green tea to your diet to help your body get the benefits of this powerful polyphenol. Another important note: Some studies suggest that caffeine and catechins, or type of polyphenol, appear to help with weight loss. But, these studies have also found that decaffeinated green tea does not appear to produce the same results
If the scientific studies are reliable, they suggest that EGCG is the closest thing we have found to a magic pill for weight loss (and we don't suggest you take supplements of any kind, even green tea extract since when processed and powdered, the polyphenols are deactivated and destroyed). So what's the best way to add drinking green tea to your day as part of a healthy diet to achieve weight loss, if losing weight is on your list of health goals?
First, let's examine the studies and what they tell us about tea and body weight.
Tea Linked to Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Another new study just published has found that people who drink tea (black, oolong, or green) are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don’t drink tea or drink very little tea. Looking at data from over 1 million people who had been followed in 19 studies, the researchers found that people who routinely drink several cups of tea daily were 17 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes over 10 years.
How much tea does it take to lower your risk? Four or more cups a day were required to see such dramatic results. But even less tea had a beneficial effect, the researchers suggest.
Green Tea and Metabolism
We found other studies that have shown that green tea helps speed up fat metabolism, which helps promote weight loss when paired with a healthy diet high in plant-based whole foods and low in nutrient-void processed foods such as sugar, white flour, and junk food snacks.
The fact that EGCG promotes fat burning and natural weight loss in mice has been known for years. So how do you use this information in your life, if losing weight is on your list of health goals? Yes, you may want to drink more green tea, but you can do it without having to attach an IV drip of Matcha to your arm.
Here's the research, backed by science and repeated in several studies.
How Green Tea Works in the Body
Green tea helps turn up the body's natural fat-burning process. It also has other remarkable health benefits, studies have shown, from metabolizing fat to fighting tumor growth.
Green tea has been shown in studies to contain a remarkable compound called EGCG, or Epigallocatechin Gallate, which is such a powerful polyphenol that it has been shown in the lab to halt tumor growth in its tracks. Other teas, such as Oolong are also healthy, but green tea has the most EGCG of any other tea.
EGCG has been called a "chemopreventative" polyphenol since it has been shown in cancer studies to hinder growth. The way it does that is to use a "fuel gauge" pathway called AMPK in the body that essentially keeps tabs on when fuel is plentiful (so cells are prompted to grow) and when fuel supply is short (so cells are instructed not to grow).
While this has major implications for cancer, checking it from growing and proliferating, EGCG also manages to help send a message that "fuel is short" which causes the cells to instead start burning fat.
EGCG Prompts the Body's Fat Burning Signal
Studies show that when EGCG is present, it uses your body's natural pathways to signal to your body that "fuel is scarce" which then turns on your natural signals to start fat burning instead of looking for ready energy.
This means that drinking green tea, even as little as two cups a day, can help your body burn more fat, especially belly fat. In one often-cited study, subjects who were given green tea extract lost between .2 and 3.5 kg more in 12 weeks than those not given green tea extract. While 3.5 kilograms doesn't sound like a lot, this means that by changing nothing else (diet or exercise) you can lose six pounds in 12 weeks with the help of green tea.
How to Prepare Green Tea for Best Results
When it comes to brewing your green tea, don't overboil the water, since if you put the teabag in boiling water it can damage the catechins, according to The Times of India. Instead, boil the water first and let it cool off for several minutes before pouring it onto your teabag.
The latest research also suggests that you drink it after a meal, for best results. Other studies suggest drinking green tea first thing in the morning, to turn up your metabolism. Skip the sugary matcha drinks that add sweeteners and creamers, since those dull the impact.
Choose a green tea with caffeine since the studies show that for weight loss, catechins and caffeine worked together to help speed up the metabolism. One important thing to note about most of these studies is they were done with green tea extract, not brewed tea. You can drink 2 to 3 cups of tea a day to get the desired effect. Green tea extract has been shown to lower cholesterol in study subjects and also help lower blood pressure among obese study participants.
Editors' Note: Before you take any supplement, even one that sounds natural such as green tea extract, check with your doctor and be aware that caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Additionally, polyphenols are delicate plant compounds that get destroyed and deactivated in the process of making pills, powders, and other supplements.
Drinking all the green tea in the world will not work without also eating a healthy diet high in plant-based whole foods, and getting daily exercise. There is no "magic pill," not even EGCG, so if you are hoping to be healthy for three days, instead of trying to restrict calories, eat a diet of whole foods, especially plant-based meals full of salad greens, vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and legumes.
How to Add Green Tea to a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss
If you want to get healthy, banish the bloat, and perhaps even lose a little weight, try this plan, with tips on how to eat to be your healthiest, which means eating a diet of whole foods, mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grains like quinoa, and legumes, which are full of fiber, complex carbs, and plant-based clean protein.
The idea is to skip added sugar, and processed foods like chips, as well as ditch meat and dairy (which cause inflammation) and focus on whole plant-based foods. For snacks, count on whole fruit, nuts, and seeds that are high in nutrients and fiber, and keep you full longer.
5 Tips to Lose Weight and Be Your Healthiest
With the research to support green tea for weight loss in mind, we came up with 4 tips for healthy eating, including drinking green tea while giving up the usual suspects that cause weight gain: Sugar, refined carbs, full-fat dairy, and red meat, both of which can be inflammatory and are high in saturated fat, the unhealthy kind.
If you decide to try it you can enjoy eating a healthy diet while sipping green tea instead of your usual beverage and if you stick to the plan, chances are on the fourth day you will feel lighter and have more energy to help you power through your walks, workouts and evenings of dancing or taking after-dinner walks with your best friend.
1. Eat Whole Foods, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much
The prolific author and food philosopher Michael Pollan famously said that everything he's ever learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." That's about as good as it gets when you try to clean up your act and do a healthy version of a "detox diet" for three days.
Eating clean does not mean not eating. The research tells us that detox diets don't work, but the urge to detox is a healthy one. How to split the difference? Tell yourself: If I could grow it from the ground, I can eat it. Then choose the most natural, minimally processed foods you can find and eat those. And keep portions in check.
The 12 healthiest foods to eat to detox your body while still eating healthy
2. Eat vegetables and have a salad to keep blood sugar under control
Nutrient-dense vegetables and greens. When you want to lose weight, add a salad to every meal, or make a meal out of a salad. A study found that people who eat a salad, even if they also eat a full-calorie meal, have lower blood sugar after the meal than if they had left off the salad entirely.
Don't be shy about starting a meal with a salad, or even if you are full, do add a side salad. These high-fiber, nutrient-rich greens help add healthy bacteria to your gut microbiome and neutralize whatever else you are eating, so your insulin does not spike, your body does not get the signal to store fat, and your healthy gut keeps your body moving food through the digestive system at the right speed for burning fuel without storing it or getting hungry.
3. Eat fruit and don't worry about fructose in whole fruit
People who eat dried fruit daily have smaller waists and lower BMI than those who don't, according to a study. Eating 2 servings of whole fruit a day is linked to being slimmer and healthier than not eating fruit. Don't be scared of fructose, the natural sugar in your berries or peach. It burns slowly, like a candle, giving you energy for hours. High fructose corn syrup is another story since it's a super-condensed version of actual fructose. The sugar in a pear or apple comes naturally packaged by Mother Nature in a snack full of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy vitamins that your body needs for energy and to fuel a healthy immune system.
4. Add legumes, nuts, and seeds to every meal for plant-based protein
When you eat plant-based, everyone will ask you, where do you get your protein? The fact is, vegetables are high in protein, as are legumes, nuts, and seeds. So to follow a plant-based approach, even for just three days, make sure to get a healthy dose of protein in every meal or snack.
Most people get too much protein in a day. Women only need 45 to 50 grams of protein a day and men need 55 to 70 depending on their level of activity and their overall size and whether they are training for an event. The average American gets more protein than their body needs, and when that happens you either store it as excess calories (and may gain weight) or just don't use it and it gets passed from the body as waste. Your body "tops off" at the recommended daily amount, so more is not better.
5. Drink 2 to 3 Cups of Green Tea a Day
Start your day with a cup of steeped green tea, and then drink a cup after each meal. It may not be the "magic pill" but green tea is so full of healthy antioxidants, it certainly can't hurt.
Here are the 20 vegetables with the most protein per serving.
Here are 15 legumes with the most protein.
Here are 11 nuts with the most protein.
Here are 6 seeds with the most protein per serving.
Bottom Line: To be healthy, lose weight and burn fat, drink two to three cups of caffeinated green tea a day and eat a whole-food, plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruit, salad greens, and clean protein such as legumes, tofu, and quinoa. That's a great start!
If you want to try a 2-week Clean Eating Plan, check out our free meal plan and keep going!
For more great expert advice, visit The Beet's Health & Nutrition articles.