HealthTalk: Beware dieter’s tea ingredients
By: By KAREN COLLINS, MS, RD, CDN American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I recently heard that dieters’ teas can contain dangerous ingredients. Can that be true?
A: Yes. Tea is not regulated like medicine, so just as some supplements can pose risk, dieters’ teas may promote weight loss in risky ways.
Sometimes these teas use ingredients that are laxatives or diuretics. This produces water loss, which you see on the scale as weight loss. However, it’s vital to remember that this kind of weight loss is not loss of body fat and is sure to be temporary.
The risk comes in when fluid loss is substantial or leads to loss of electrolytes like potassium. This can create problems with heart rhythms or pose other heart-related strains.
Examples of laxative-type ingredients in some of the common dieters’ teas include malva (Chinese mallow), buckthorn, cascara, frangula and rhubarb root (da huang, Chinese rhubarb).
Another problem these pose is that with continued use, you can become dependent on them for bowel function. Diuretic ingredients in dieters’ teas include dandelion root, juniper berry and uva ursi. These ingredients produce only water loss, not body fat loss, and some have caused liver damage.
For a safer approach, drink regular black, green or herbal tea as a beverage. Simply by switching to a zero-calorie drink to replace higher calorie choices, or drinking tea instead of eating when you may not be hungry.
It won’t be fast, but it will be safe and lasting.
Q: What are wheat berries? Is it true that they are a super-healthy choice?
A: Wheat berries are the whole-grain kernel of wheat — including the bran, germ and endosperm. That means they are great sources of antioxidant phytochemicals as well as vitamins and minerals. And just a half-cup of cooked wheat berries provides at least 4 grams of dietary fiber, comparable to what you get in two slices of many whole-grain breads.
Look for wheat berries in the “natural food” section of your supermarket. As with regular brown rice and whole-grain barley, this is not a quick-cook dish (about one hour).
Cook a large batch and refrigerate to use within a couple days. Or package it in meal-size portions and freeze for up to a month. Wheat berries also come out well cooked in a slow cooker for eight to twelve hours.
You can use wheat berries as a side dish, as a “bed” for stir-fries or chili, or added to stew or soup. They have a satisfying, slightly chewy texture and subtle nutty flavor that also make them delightful in a salad with apples, cranberries or other fresh or dried fruit.