Health Column: Can green tea help people lose weight?

The following nutritional advice comes from Karen Collins at The American Institute for Cancer Research.

Q: Can green tea really help people lose weight?

A: Some studies suggest that two to four cups of green tea daily could provide some extra help when you cut calorie consumption and boost your activity to lose weight, but don’t expect it to produce a major loss. Natural compounds in green tea, especially a polyphenol known as EGCG, may support weight loss.

Studies that do show an effect of green tea or isolated EGCG show an average of about an extra one to three pounds of weight loss over several months, especially among those who are moderately obese. Some vitamin supplements or products that claim to promote weight loss list EGCG or green tea extract content but may contain an amount well below levels linked with weight loss in controlled studies. If you enjoy green tea, drinking two or three eight-ounce mugs or three to four six-ounce cups freshly brewed, not bottled, each day provides levels of EGCG associated with these modest improvements in weight loss.

Extracts or isolated EGCG in appropriate amounts may help, but when you get these compounds from drinking tea you may end up with additional help toward your weight loss goal. You’ll also reduce your total calorie consumption if you drink green tea plain or with just a teaspoon of sugar or honey instead of a sweetened beverage.

Q: Is it true that wraps are a lower calorie choice than regular sandwiches?

A: At some restaurants, the wraps are lower in calories than the traditional sandwich choices, but not always. A wrap reduces the excess calories that can come with oversize sub or sandwich rolls. However, just as important are total portion size and what’s inside.

At restaurants offering both traditional sandwiches and wraps, when wraps are smaller, they are usually lower in calories. But at restaurants where the two end up in equal size portions, the calorie comparison varies with what’s inside. For chain restaurants, you can often check the sandwiches’ calories online or at the restaurant.

When you make a wrap at home, it might be easy to think of each tortilla as a piece of bread, which would make two wraps the equivalent of one typical sandwich. But check your tortilla package: A 10-inch (plate-sized) regular tortilla or an eight-inch, thicker “gordita-style” tortilla is likely to contain 140 to 170 calories, making just one the equivalent of two servings of grains. As long as you’re not piling on other grains by adding rice or eating the wrap with chips, that’s nutritionally sound for a healthy meal, particularly if you choose whole-grain tortillas. For most of us, however, two wraps that size would push calories inappropriately high. If you like the feeling of abundance from having two wraps in a meal, choose the smaller six-inch corn tortillas, which are also excellent choices because they are whole grain and low fat.

Karen Collins is a registered dietician and certified nutritionist with The American Institute for Cancer Research, the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.