What if you were told that drinking green tea is one of the best things you can do for your body, and it may help you lose weight in a safe and healthy way? Wouldn’t you rush out to the supermarket to buy some right away? Many supporters of the Green Tea Diet claim that drinking just four cups of green tea a day while eating other healthy, nutritious foods can aid in weight loss naturally. It might be called green tea, but the stuff is liquid gold to many people. If you haven’t heard of or tried green tea before, here’s your chance.
What is Green Tea?
Green tea (Latin name: Camellia sinensis) originated in China and India and has been used for its health and medicinal benefits for several centuries. But, in the United States, it’s only just recently become popular – not unlike any number of other specialty food items that slowly but surely make their way to North America from other parts of the world. In fact, the first time you remember hearing about green tea may have been seeing it on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant. These days, however, you don’t have to go too far to find it. Many supermarkets, warehouse clubs and health food stores sell green tea in a variety of forms, such as:
- Loose tea leaves
- Tea bags
- Bottled ready-to-drink tea
Green tea is also available as a nutritional supplement (extracts and capsules). Choosing one of these alternative forms may be an option for you if you want to reap the health benefits of the beverage but don’t like drinking tea. However, research suggests that taking too much of a concentrated green tea extract over time may lead to liver damage. (1) Consult a doctor first if you choose to go this route.
“So, what exactly ARE these health benefits?” you may ask. Studies suggest that green tea lowers “bad” cholesterol and increases “good” cholesterol levels. (2) It may protect you from developing cancers of the breast, bladder ovaries, colon, esophagus, pancreas and lung. Green tea eases inflammation associated with digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, and because it’s a diuretic, may help manage heart health in people with congestive heart failure (along with medical treatments prescribed by your doctor, of course). (3) Green tea may help control blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes, has been studied for its anti fungal properties (4), and may help you lose weight.
“How does green tea do ALL that?” might be your next question. The key ingredient in green tea that’s responsible for all of these positive health benefits is something called “polyphenols.” Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants are nutrients that reverse, prevent or neutralize a type of cell damage in the body called “oxidative stress.” Oxidative stress is what happens when your body can’t keep up with the amount of free radicals it’s forming. Free radicals are essentially unpaired molecules; when too many of them stack up in your body, cell damage can occur. The results of oxidative stress vary in intensity and in seriousness. In some cases, oxidative stress can lead to something as benign as skin wrinkles. In others, serious diseases may develop. Antioxidants help your body fight the free radicals to prevent or neutralize cell damage to keep you healthier (and looking younger).
What is the Green Tea Diet?
The Green Tea Diet is a combination of drinking green tea and eating nutritious foods that are designed to fill you with essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to improve (or maintain) your health and well-being. The duration of the Green Tea Diet varies from user to user, but generally is followed for about seven days to as long as 17 days at a time.
The Green Tea Diet isn’t about counting calories or cutting out all of your favorite goods. It’s about learning new, healthier eating habits. There are four basic types of foods to eat:
Fruits and vegetables
Fresh produce is a mainstay of the Green Tea Diet; dried or canned fruits and vegetables generally contain high levels of sugar and sodium which can counteract the benefits you’re getting from the green tea and other superfoods. Experts often recommend sticking with fiber-rich foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, apples, pears, bananas, melon (cantaloupe and honeydew), oranges and other citrus fruits. Fiber fills you up so you are more able to resist snacking and is a key component for any healthy weight-loss plan. Watermelon is a good choice because of its high water content. If the more exotic fruits appeal to you, try coconut and kiwi as well.
Eating fat may sound counterintuitive for a weight-loss, healthy-eating plan, but it’s really not. Fat is essential to the human diet; the issue is that most Americans consume much more fat than they need and often don’t eat the right kinds of fat. The editors of “Eat This, Not That” call this element of the Green Tea Diet “green fats” not because they are green in color (although some may be) but because the fat content comes from plant-based foods. Examples include olives, coconuts, avocadoes and tree nuts.
Green fats don’t contain saturated fat – the type you’re likely to find at your local fast food joint – and so aren’t as likely to clog your arteries and increase your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Many of these healthier, non-saturated fats are high in omega-3 fatty acids too, another essential nutrient that helps reduce inflammation and boosts your mood.
As with fat, everyone needs protein in their diet, but there’s a healthy way and a not-so-healthy way to do it. Again, when following the Green Tea Diet, green proteins are the way to go. Green proteins can be plant-based, such as spirulina, nuts, tofu, and tempeh, or they can be certain animal-based proteins (we’ll get to that in a moment). Carbohydrate-rich sources of protein are fine too, such as rice, peas, and lentils, but they are not complete proteins. Complete proteins are those that also provide essential amino acids; plant- and animal-based proteins are complete.
Animals that are grass-fed and free-range qualify as green proteins, as well as fish. The key to protein intake is to limit the amount of fat you consume as the fat you get from sources of protein are typically not green fats. In other words, cheese, eggs should be eaten in moderation or even excluded for a time while focusing on the Green Tea Diet.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten to talk about the green tea aspect of the Green Tea Diet! You don’t need to go crazy with the amount of tea you drink; four to five cups a day is the recommended amount that can help you protect yourself from chronic disease and lose weight. For many tea drinkers, this averages out to be a cup of tea with each meal and a bedtime cup as well. If you want to mix it up a little, try a green tea smoothie for breakfast by combining freshly brewed, chilled green tea with low-fat or fat-free yogurt (Greek yogurt is full of protein) and your favorite berries.
The type of green tea you choose (for example, steeping tea leaves or drinking bottled tea) is up to you. The one caveat: steer clear of green teas that contain a lot of sugar; this may include a number of ready-to-drink options at the supermarket or convenience store. Sugar adds empty calories to your diet and will likely counteract any weight-loss efforts you make.
The other thing to watch out for with green tea is the caffeine content. Some people with chronic health conditions are cautioned to limit the amount of caffeine they consume, while others know from experience that caffeine makes them jittery. Green tea contains caffeine, but you can also buy decaffeinated versions. Read the packaging carefully to make sure you are buying the type of green tea you want in terms of the caffeine content.
Does it Work?
The effectiveness of the Green Tea Diet, like any eating plan, varies from person to person. Studies have shown that diets rich in green tea can aid weight loss by increasing your metabolism. (5) People who exercise in addition to drinking green tea often lose more weight than those who do not.
Many people who follow the Green Tea Diet are likely to lose several pounds during their 7-17 days – especially those who have changed their way of eating significantly and continue to do so in the longer term. The Green Tea Diet is high in lean proteins, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables, all elements of a heart-healthy diet that prevent heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions caused by obesity. Adding the metabolism boost of green tea to these foods is just another perk.
Who Can Benefit From the Green Tea Diet?
Almost anyone can benefit from the Green Tea Diet. You’re not denying yourself any essential food groups while following this eating plan, and all of the foods are nutritious. However, if you have dietary restrictions or food allergies, you may not be able to eat everything that’s recommended. Always check with your doctor before starting a new eating pattern to be sure it’s safe for you.
Pros and Cons of the Green Tea Diet
When deciding whether the Green Tea Diet is right for you, carefully weigh the pros and cons. Changing your diet requires knowledge and commitment and isn’t something to do on a whim.
Ask About the Green Tea Diet
For people who already eat a primarily plant-based diet, the Green Tea Diet isn’t very different than what they’ve already been doing. For others, it could be a significant change in the way they eat. If the Green Tea Diet sounds like something you want to try, you may have questions. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about it to make sure you’re healthy enough to make a significant change in your diet. Here are some questions to ask of yourself and your healthcare provider that may help guide your decision.
- Do I have any health conditions that would make the Green Tea Diet dangerous for me?
- Can I stay on the Green Tea Diet for longer than 17 days? How long?
- Should I exercise while on the Green Tea Diet? Why or why not?
- I’m a vegetarian/vegan. How can I make sure to get enough protein?
- Are there any foods I absolutely can’t eat while on the Green Tea Diet?
Is the Green Tea Diet Right for You?
Only you can decide if the Green Tea Diet is right for you, based on your lifestyle, the type of eating habits you want to develop, and your overall health. While the science says that green tea carries a variety of health benefits, you know if you have the ability to stick to a predominately green diet for several weeks at a time. Even if you don’t go full tilt with the Green Tea diet, try a glass of green tea with your next meal. You may just like it!