Featuring a rainbow of brightly-hued teas with names like Tiger Tea, Sweet Tart and Wonder Woman with promises of energy, focus and revved metabolism, stores selling loaded tea have been popping up across the country. It’s become wildly popular, but is it for the right reasons?
Tea is the quintessential health beverage: simple, pure, and packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals.
But ‘Loaded Tea’ isn’t just pure tea. Instead, it’s a blend of caffeine and herbal stimulants, containing most of the same ingredients in energy drinks: caffeine, guarana, ginseng, taurine, inositol and high levels of niacin, which can elicit a skin-tingling sensation.
Nutrition Stats: 20-24 calories, 0 sugar, 160 to 200 mg caffeine (compared to 35 mg for cup of tea, 100 mg for coffee, and 80 mg caffeine for Red Bull).
What’s in it: Exact formulations vary by store; most include add-ins like sugar-free syrups along with:
- The option of Herbalife’s Liftoff energy tablet containing multiple stimulants, plus corn syrup solids, the artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda) and the artificial food dye yellow #6.
- Herbal Tea powdered concentrate: the first ingredients are maltodextrin and fructose, followed by powdered tea extracts and added caffeine powder.
Note: Herbalife products today do not contain the same combination of stimulants that were found in Herbalife products in the 80’s and 90’s.
The issue: The multiple stimulants found in loaded tea can leave us feeling jittery, spiking our heart rate and blood pressure. They can also interfere with our sleep, leading to a cycle of energy highs and lows that leaves us feeling sluggish, craving carbs, and looking for another caffeinated pick-me-up.
Can loaded tea have a place in a healthy diet?
Think of loaded tea along the same lines as an energy drink, versus a true, pure tea. If you do opt to drink loaded tea, limit it to one a day, and preferably not after lunchtime. Consider drinking only half, saving the other half for the next day. Or dilute it 50-50 with an herbal iced tea to give more volume, making it easier to save the other half for the next day.
For more on loaded tea, tune into Molly’s FUELED Wellness + Nutrition podcast where she and Ochsner Eat Fit RD Maria Sylvester Terry explore more details of the relationship between loaded tea and Herbalife, including the history of the company and the lack of transparency.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.