- A cup of chai can increase metabolism
- Chai can increase thermogenesis
- Chai can improve insulin sensitivity
- Chai can help you to feel full
- Chai can be low in calories
As knowledge of the adverse effects of processed products increases, popularity in natural, healthy living has risen exponentially. This has led to a growing trend in adopting organic, fresh produce to not just lose weight, but to help people improve their health in general. Which leads to the question, is chai good for weight loss?
Chai’s natural ingredients have garnered lots of attention in the plant based community, and amongst anyone seeking healthier sources alternate to highly caffeinated, sugar-laden energy drinks.
Yet misconceptions surrounding chai are common, with many people failing to realise that the differences between a traditional Indian chai and a westernised chai latte can be vast, especially in terms of preparation and sugar content; many chai latte’s are prepared with powders and syrups, rather than freshly ground spices, and can include excessive amounts of sugar.
With almost three quarters of people aged 45 to 74 either overweight or obese in the UK alone, those looking to lose weight must refrain from consuming sugar-heavy products, as they are often high in calories.
But can a traditional chai help? Freshly ground spices, brewed with black tea and milk? Although western chai lattes have overly sweet connotations, its authentic counterpart has spicy, earthy flavours which truly set it apart as an alternative drink, particularly with the inclusion of a plant based milk.
So how can Chai help you lose weight?
1. A cup of chai can increase metabolism
Cinnamon, one of the key spices in chai, not only acts as a natural sweetener but studies have shown it can also increase metabolism; cinnamon contains compounds called cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which have been shown to have potential metabolic benefits. These compounds may help stimulate the production of heat in the body, which can increase metabolism and burn more calories.
Additionally, cinnamon has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, which can also have an impact on metabolism. When blood sugar levels are stable, the body is better able to use glucose for energy, which can help boost metabolism and prevent the storage of excess glucose as fat.
The black tea used in a cup of chai can also promote an increase in metabolism. Black tea contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant that can increase energy expenditure (calories burned) and stimulate the metabolism. Caffeine can help increase the breakdown of fat in the body and release it into the bloodstream to be used as fuel. Therefore, it could be argued that the answer to the question, "Is chai good for weight loss?" may be, yes.
Chai’s aromatic spices not only add a delicious flavour to a cup of tea, but have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries - with good reason. Studies have shown that many of the spices found in chai may help to increase metabolism, and therefore help to lose weight. For example, black pepper contains a compound known as piperine, which studies have shown have the potential to increase the metabolic rate of resting muscle fibres. Piperine can also increase the absorption of nutrients from food, particularly fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. This can lead to an increase in metabolism, as the body requires more energy to process and utilise these nutrients.
Some of chai's most plentiful ingredients
2. Chai can increase thermogenesis
Thermogenesis is the process by which the body generates heat. It is a natural metabolic process that occurs in response to various stimuli, including physical activity, digestion, exposure to cold temperatures, and the consumption of certain foods and drinks. When the body produces heat, it requires energy, which is obtained from the breakdown of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Ginger, the throat soothing, soul warming ingredient that provides the typical “gentle burn” in a Chai Guys classic masala chai, is one of the main components in chai that can increase thermogenesis. Ginger has been shown to not only increase the rate at which the body burns calories, but it can activate brown adipose tissue, which is a specialised type of fat tissue that produces heat.
The digestive benefits of ginger know no bounds, and studies have shown ginger can also increase the absorption of nutrients from foods, in turn increasing energy expenditure and thermogenesis. A study on the effect of a hot ginger beverage on thermogenesis in 2012 concluded that just 2g of ginger powder dissolved in hot water can increase thermogenesis after a breakfast meal, and suggested a potential role for ginger in weight management. In a Chai Guys masala chai, there is generally around 5g - 8g of ginger per cup.
Although our masala chai blend includes ginger root, this is another reason we always recommend adding your own fresh ginger to your home-brewed masala chai. It doesn’t elevate the flavour, it brings with it health benefits which cannot be overlooked.
3. Chai can improve insulin sensitivity
Some of chai’s ingredients have been further shown to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This is vital for weight loss, as when blood sugar levels are stable, the body is less likely to store excess fat. Cinnamon has been shown to have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance in several ways:
- Increased glucose uptake: Cinnamon has been found to increase glucose uptake in muscle cells, which can help to lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Reduced insulin resistance: Cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by reducing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes.
- Enhanced insulin signalling: Cinnamon has been found to enhance insulin signalling, which can help to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin signalling is the process by which insulin binds to its receptor on cells, triggering a series of reactions that result in glucose uptake and other metabolic processes.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
4. Chai can help you to feel full
Rooted in Ayurvedic principle through an exquisite use of Asian spices, a piping hot chai is said to be able to ignite digestive fires, increasing circulation to the digestive system while promoting an efficient breakdown of foods. Yet chai is also a drink rich with nutrients that can increase satiety (feelings of fullness). Often made with protein rich milks, such as whole milk and oat milk, a cup of chai can help to stave off snacks and appetisers for long periods of time, and this is in part due to a type of protein called casein. Slow-digesting and therefore appetite suppressing, casein forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, which slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. This can lead to a slower and more sustained release of nutrients into the bloodstream, which can help to regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety.
Chai’s anti-inflammatory spices such as cardamom - the most important spice in our popular Karak Chai - and ginger may also increase feelings of fullness. For instance, cardamom contains compounds called volatile oils, which have been shown to stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes and bile acids. This can help to improve the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from food, which can lead to a strong feeling of satiety and satisfaction. Ginger has also been shown to have appetite suppressing properties, due to it containing the compounds gingerol and shogaol. These compounds can regulate the levels of leptin and ghrelin; hunger hormones that play a role in keeping your appetite in check. Ginger has been shown to reduce ghrelin levels (which can decrease appetite) and increase leptin levels, which when high, can leave the body satisfied and reduce any unwarranted potential calories from that tempting packet of crisps lying in your cupboard. A cup of chai can not only have numerous health benefits, but can actually be the perfect between-meals beverage to counteract any unnecessary snacking desires. Maybe treat yourself to a dipping biscuit once in a while though. At Chai Guys, we’d at least recommend a lotus biscuit as the perfect compliment to your health befitting chai. Just on occasion.
5. Chai can be low in calories
Here is where you have to choose your chai carefully. The traditional brewing of an authentic, Indian chai compared with the artificial, processed crafting of a coffeehouse chai latte signifies that chai’s calorie content can be everything from surprisingly low to staggeringly high. Often made with syrups and pre-made chai powders, the westernised chai latte is a beverage designed to savage with sweetness, and some chai latte’s have been known to contain over 70g of sugar per serving. This can result in a drink that could contain a shocking 300 calories. However, authentically brewed Indian chai, made earthy with fresh spices and black tea with dashes of milk and sugar, can be much lower in calorie count. In an 8oz Chai Guys masala chai, there are only 120 calories, with a 12g sugar count. This calorie count can be lowered still. With a plant based milk, and the lessening of sugar, a chai loses its typical saturated fats, and its calorie content can lower significantly to 100 - 115 calories. If you are looking for a low-calorie alternative, you can also try making chai with just tea, spices, and water. This will be a calorie-free beverage that still has the delicious taste and aroma of traditional chai.
A typical looking "chai latte"
So, is chai good for weight loss? Although brewed in cauldron-like pots, chai alone is not a magical potion that will cut the pounds. Yet its diversity of plant based ingredients doesn’t mean it can’t help with losing weight. When incorporated into a healthy, stable diet, chai is a drink that cannot be overlooked when it comes to potential weight loss benefits. With a plethora of ayurvedic ingredients at its disposal, chai’s health giving properties will come thick and fast to any who decide to integrate it into a balanced lifestyle.
You can read more about the health benefits of chai in our blog.
Is chai good for weight loss?
A fragrant cup of chai is not only delicious, but its ingredients may provide a host of weight loss benefits when consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle. In summary, a chai can help to:
- Increase metabolism
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Burn fat
- Increase thermogenesis
- Decrease appetite
- Improve insulin sensitivity
As aforementioned in the article above, chai alone will not help you to lose weight, yet when combined with regular exercise and incorporated into a healthy diet, chai can provide numerous health benefits, not just help to lose weight.
How much chai should I drink if I want to potentially aid weight loss?
There is no specific amount of chai one should drink, but moderation is key when making dietary and lifestyle changes in an effort to lose weight. Although chai may contain many ingredients that can help to lose weight, the milk and sugar found in chai can lead to a high calorie intake if consumed in excess. At Chai Guys, we would recommend 1-2 cups per day as a good rule of thumb.
What ingredient in chai is the most beneficial for weight loss?
Ginger is the spice with the most scientific backing as the best ingredient in chai for weight loss. A review of 14 studies in humans showed that supplementing with ginger can significantly decrease both body weight and belly fat, while other studies have concluded that ginger may help to lower weight by increasing metabolism and fat burning. While there have also been significant weight loss studies on chai’s other ingredients, ginger is the ingredient with the most human based studies.
Are there any potential downsides to drinking chai for weight loss?
Chai typically contains milk and sugar, which can add calories and could offset any potential weight loss benefits of the tea itself. Additionally, consuming large amounts of tea can have negative effects on sleep quality and hydration levels, which can impact overall health. Like anything, the key is in moderation. Too much of chai can negate its healthy, plentiful properties.
Can chai be consumed at any time of the day for weight loss benefits?
We would recommend chai in the mornings, early afternoon and late afternoon. A late night chai can be cool and ambient, but it may disrupt sleep, which can have negative effects on weight loss efforts. A golden chai in the golden sun is best.
By Charlie Lau