When people introduce tea to their daily diet, they may wonder how many calories tea will contribute. Maintaining an overview of how many calories you’re taking in versus how many you’re losing is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. But can the calories in tea interfere with a healthy diet?
A cup of unsweetened black tea has approximately two calories in it, making it one of the most low-calorie drinks you can drink other than water. However, many sweeteners such as sugar and honey that are commonly added to tea can increase the number of calories the tea has.
Tea can be a great drink replacement if you’re on a diet, especially when using it to replace a more high-calorie beverage. Keep reading to learn more about the calories in a cup of tea and how you can make tea a healthy part of your daily calorie intake.
How Many Calories Are in a Cup of Tea?
Unsweetened tea doesn’t have much in the way of calories since it’s just an infusion of hot water and leaves. Both an unsweetened cup of black tea and an unsweetened cup of green tea have just two calories.
At two calories, these beverages may as well not have any calories in them at all, considering you burn 45 calories an hour doing nothing. This is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
With a resting calorie burn of 45 calories an hour, two calories from a cup of tea will barely even make a dent in your daily caloric intake. It’s only when you start adding other things to tea that the calories in it start to climb.
Why Do Green and Black Tea Have the Same Calories?
Anyone who has ever had black and green tea knows that these two tea varieties look and taste drastically different from one another. However, you’d be surprised to learn that these two types of tea have the same number of calories (2 calories per serving).
The reason these two types of tea have the same number of calories is that the only major difference between green tea and black tea is in how they’re processed. Black tea has gone through oxidation, which changes its flavor and appearance compared to green tea varieties. This oxidation process does not affect the number of calories that the tea has.
Both black and green tea come from the same plant, the camellia sinensis – that’s why they have the same number of calories.
How Many Calories Does Milk Add to Tea?
One of the most popular add-ins for black tea and black tea mixtures is milk. While milk can help add a creamy mouthfeel to tea and can cut some of the bitterness in lesser-quality tea blends, adding milk to your tea can significantly increase the number of calories in it.
For example, a mug of chai tea with whole milk added has 200 calories. This means if you add milk to your cup of tea, you could potentially be taking in more calories than a can of soda. Using lighter dairy products such as 2% milk or skim milk can decrease the number of calories, but either way milk will add a lot of calories to your tea.
Don’t drink dairy? Keep in mind that even if you choose plant-based milk vs cow’s-milk, you still can really add on the calories if you put a lot in your tea.
How Many Calories Does Sugar Add to Tea?
Out of all the things you could add to tea to increase its calorie count, sweeteners are the biggest culprit next to dairy products. Each teaspoon of white sugar adds 15.4 calories to a cup of tea.
This might not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that most people add way more than just a teaspoon of sugar to their cup of tea. There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, so each tablespoon of sugar you add to your cup of tea adds over 45 calories.
Is Drinking Tea with Sugar Bad for You?
Many popular tea varieties are dressed up with sugar and milk or cream after being served, but is this an unhealthy practice? The truth is that adding milk or sugar to your tea is perfectly fine as long as you’re aware of how the calories in it fit into your daily meal plan.
If you already consume a high-fat, high-calorie diet loaded down with sugar, another mug of tea that has two or three tablespoons of sugar in it isn’t going to do you any favors. However, if you normally eat healthy low-calorie foods, adding a few teaspoons of sugar to your morning cup of tea isn’t going to crash your diet.
Can Tea Cause Weight Gain?
Unsweetened tea on its own is very unlikely to cause weight gain. However, tea that has been dressed up with dairy products and sugar can be a contributor to weight gain, especially if it is consumed in large amounts.
A 200-calorie mug of sweetened tea with whole milk might not sound like much, but have three or four of them over the course of the day and you’ve added a lot of calories to your daily intake.
Here are a few ways you can avoid gaining weight while drinking tea:
- Avoid or reduce sweeteners. If you purchase high-quality varieties of tea, they shouldn’t have the bitterness in them that requires you to cover up their flavor with milk and sweeteners. If you must have sweeteners in your tea, try reducing the amount that you add slowly over time to reduce your calorie intake.
- Try artificial or alternative sweeteners. Using artificial sweeteners or alternative plant-based sweeteners like stevia can help keep your added calories low.
- Replace whole dairy with light dairy. Cream and whole milk are delicious in tea, but if you’re watching your caloric intake, try replacing them with skim or soy milk.
- Increase your amount of exercise. If you feel deprived by removing sweeteners or dairy products from your daily cup of tea, another way to avoid gaining weight while drinking it is to increase your daily exercise. The more exercise you have each day, the more calories you’ll burn, and the more leeway you’ll have for higher-calorie beverages.
- Switch to a tea type that doesn’t require dairy or sweeteners. Herbal teas such as peppermint tea and lemon tea are flavorful on their own without the need for added flavorings like sugar or milk.
Tea can cause weight gain in excess just like any other food or drink, but there are ways to drink it every day without adding hundreds of extra calories to your daily intake.
Does Green Tea Help With Weight Loss?
Adding too much dairy and sugar to your tea can hinder weight loss goals, but there are some types of tea that are associated with burning calories rather than packing them on.
Green tea in particular has long been associated with increased metabolic activity and decreased appetite. This can make it a good choice for people on a diet as well as people who are prone to binge eating episodes.
Here are a few of the ways that drinking a cup of green tea can help you burn calories :
- Increased metabolic function: Green tea contains high amounts of catechin, a chemical that increases the body’s ability to break down excess fat.
- Caffeine intake: Caffeine speeds up your body’s metabolic processes and causes you to burn calories more quickly whether you’re exercising or not. Caffeine generally increases the amount of energy your body is using at any given time.
- Increased production of cholecystokinin (CCK): Drinking green tea causes an increase in the small intestine’s production of the CCK hormone, which decreases your appetite. This makes you less likely to binge when you’re watching what you eat.
Since green tea is also usually consumed plain without sweeteners or dairy products, this means that it’s a great substitute for other types of tea that you might be tempted to bulk up with extra calories. The caffeine in green tea is also more gentle than the tea found in other low-calorie beverages such as black coffee, which can make it a better choice for evenings.
Tea Has Fewer Calories Than Most Beverages
Even though you can pack in the calories in tea if you make it sweet and add a bunch of dairy to it, tea in its natural form can act as an aid for burning calories instead. If you’re trying to make tea a healthy part of your weight loss program, avoid heavy sweetened black teas and go with green teas or herbal teas instead.