When making lifestyle changes to help yourself lose weight, one of the first things that comes to mind is often diet. However, it is easy to forget that what you drink is every bit as important as what you eat. Managing your fluid intake is a vital part of maintaining energy levels, aiding digestion, and preserving your general wellbeing.
Many weight loss programmes advocate drinking water, or carefully balanced smoothies and shakes, containing a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, one regime that has come to light more recently is the “red tea detox”. But does the programme really work, and what makes this particular tea so unique?
Before we get into the details of the red tea detox itself, we should take a look at what detoxification actually involves. These diets are typically short-term programmes which generally advocate a strict regime of temporary fasting, and the consumption of only a very limited range foods. Often, these diets focus on the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables, and generally will advise the exclusion of foods such as wheat, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol.
The idea behind these diets is that they enable the body to rid itself of “toxins” that accumulate over time. However, the removal of waste products is something the body already does naturally, and there is no solid scientific evidence that detox diets provide any significant benefit in this respect. However, that is not to say that there is nothing to be gained from this type of weight loss programme.
Reducing your alcohol, caffeine and sugar consumption, managing your fluid intake, and motivating yourself to follow a structured regime can all contribute to your overall good health. Having the right mindset, and taking positive action to effect a change in your life can be hugely beneficial, and can actually improve the results of your weight loss programme as a consequence.
However, when selecting a detoxification programme to follow, it is important to be wary of crash dieting, or severe calorie restriction, as this can lead to malnutrition, fatigue, and serious or even fatal health complications.
Another point to bear in mind is that these diets often present rapid weight loss in the first couple of weeks, largely as a result of fluid and carb stores being depleted before body fat begins to be converted. Unfortunately, this weight is easily put back on if you stop dieting, which can be extremely discouraging.
Nevertheless, if followed mindfully, detox diets can help to reduce insulin resistance, and may improve your overall energy levels. Just take care to manage your calorie intake sufficiently to ensure that you are still getting enough nutrition to promote general health, repair, and maintenance of your body. If you begin to feel fatigued, sluggish, or nauseous, speak to your doctor immediately and consider increasing your calorie intake.
The red tea detox programme has been put together by Liz Swann Miller, author of several books relating to diet and detoxification. It provides suggested recipes, along with a workout regime, and guidance on the mindset required to stick with the regime. At the core of the programme is the African red tea, with which you are advised to drink with each meal, and instead of alternatives such as caffeinated or carbonated beverages.
Much like rooibos, this red tea does not contain caffeine, and has lower tannin levels than other varieties of tea. Technically, these classifies it as a tisane, rather than a tea, which is traditionally reserved for infusions of camellia sinensis. It also contains flavonoids such as aspalathin, for which rooibos is currently the only know natural source, and nothofagin, which is only otherwise found in the heartwood of red beech trees.
These flavonoids are believed to contribute antioxidant and antimutagenic properties to the tea. Meanwhile, as this tea has a tannin content of only around 4.4 percent, it tends to taste sweeter and less astringent than other varieties. What this means for the detox is that it works as a sensible alternative for someone who wishes to reduce their caffeine intake, and still enjoy a nice cup of tea.
Furthermore, the incorporation of a structured mindset, healthy meals, and a regular workout regime all combine to create a programme that could help someone to achieve their weight loss goals. However, it is worth remembering that this does not hinge on the tea itself, so if it turns out not to be for you, don’t feel like you’ve failed or let yourself down. It’s far better to find a programme that makes you happy, as you will find it easier to stick to, and ultimately will see better results. Read our review on the Red Tea Detox for more information.
It is also worth stopping to talk about the pros and cons of increasing your antioxidant intake. It is widely held that antioxidants may help to promote long-term health by acting as electron donors to potentially harmful chemicals known as “free radicals”. These chemicals can enter the body from the air, or in food, and are also created as byproducts in the process of converting food into energy.
Of course, the body has mechanisms for dealing with this problem, drawing antioxidants from food, and generating molecules designed to counteract free radicals. However, there are hundreds of varieties of antioxidant, and they each act differently, and may be more or less effective at dealing with any given free radical. This means that while the body is pretty good at rounding up what it needs, bulking out our diets with antioxidant rich foods might not make much difference if they’re not the variety needed at the time.
This still wouldn’t be a huge concern, if it weren’t for the fact that excessive consumption of antioxidant supplements could also have negative health implications. Among the concerns raised by past studies of antioxidant supplementation are the incidence of skin cancer, and the possibility that beta-carotene could increase lung cancer incidence in at-risk groups, such as smokers.
As with all things, the sensible approach is to strike a balance. Free radicals are an inevitability, but by eating a healthy, balanced diet, with a good range of food groups, you give your body the best chance of pulling together the resources it needs to protect itself.
Similarly, while there are pros and cons to consuming high quantities of antioxidant-rich foods, don’t feel you should abandon them completely. They are still an important part of a healthy diet, and should be incorporated into your regular meals.
In short, as is the case with many detoxification diets, the claims surrounding the red tea detox may not be backed up by robust science, but that does not necessarily mean that you can’t make it work for you. You should approach any weight loss regime with care, and this one is no exception.
However, if you like the tea, and enjoy the workout regime and the foods suggested, this might be a good baseline to work from. You can always make changes to suit your lifestyle, schedule, and personal nutritional requirements, as long as you consider the health implications of these choices, and avoid dangerous practices such as crash dieting.
Your body is pretty adept at telling what is good for it and what isn’t, so if something doesn’t feel right, take a step back, and consider whether you might need to make some changes to your regime. Remember, dieting is about making a change, not a sacrifice, and it should not be a miserable experience. Your mental health and wellbeing are every bit as important as your physical health, and each affects the other implicitly.
To sum it all up, while there may be some benefits to be garnered from the red tea detox, these are more related to the act of taking control of your eating habits, and managing your fluid consumption more efficiently. If you enjoy the tea itself, then that is an additional bonus.
The most successful weight loss programmes are those that you can enjoy along the way. Regimes that make you feel unhappy, stressed, or unwell will ultimately do more harm than good, and may leave you feeling discouraged if you don’t achieve the desired results.
Finally, whichever method you choose for losing weight, you should always keep in mind that each individual has unique nutritional requirements; the amount and variety of food your require is affected by by your age, fitness, activity level, medical conditions, and a range of other factors. Even your budget and day-to-day schedule can impact the type of programme you may be able to follow.
The best solution is to discuss your plans with your doctor, so they can advise you on the safest and most appropriate weight loss programmes for you, and provide support and guidance as you make progress towards your goal.
EHI Primary Care is run by Cathy, a 20-something fitness guru and yoga enthusiast. This is my blog, where I cover all sorts of topics around my healthy lifestyle.