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Superfood: Green Tea

Take a cue from ancient China for a drink that's got it all. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer.
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Looking for the next natural health remedy? Consider taking a cue from ancient China. Asian cultures have used green tea for thousands of years as a remedy to address everything from cancer prevention and heart disease to controlling body weight [1].

Green To The "Tea" — The Need-To-Know

Before bagging up all the tea in China, know all teas are not created equal. Green tea is made by steeping the unfermented leaves of the camellia sinensis plant in hot water (which reportedly yields the highest level of antioxidants compared to other types of tea) [2]. Black and oolong teas, the two other main varieties, are made from partially and fully fermented leaves. But what makes these little green leaves so special? It all goes back to our very good friends, antioxidants. These little guys and their cousins, phytochemicals, are what give green tea its purportedly magical powers. And the main superhero here is Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a powerful phytochemical that slows irregular cell growth, which could potentially help prevent the growth of some cancers [3].

While studies have suggested that green tea can help with a variety of health issues, it's hardly the end-all, be-all for every problem out there and might actually have a few negative side effects. Some studies have even suggested green tea can block the effects of anti-cancer medications, possibly negating its own usefulness for those battling malignant cancers [4].

Go On Green — Your Action Plan

Consider replacing that morning coffee with green tea (or at least the second or third one). Two to three cups of green tea per day (the equivalent of 240-320 mg polyphenols) has been recommended to reap maximum health benefits.

So what’s the best way to get that daily dose? While green tea frappuccinos (440 calories a pop? Wow), ice cream, and bottled versions are all appealing, one study suggests sticking to the traditional hot version provides the biggest antioxidant punch [5]. But refrain from drinking that tea scolding hot— one Chinese study showed drinking the tea at very high temperatures can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, especially for those that also smoked or drank alcohol [6]. Plus, drinking tea piping hot has other potential downsides... such as, oh, that whole "scalding" thing.

Updated December 2011

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Works Cited +

  1. Beneficial effects of green tea - a review.. Cabera, C., Artacho, R., Giénez, R. Departamento de Nutrición y Bromatología, Facultad de Farmacia, Campus Universitario de Granada, Granada, Spain. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2006 Apr;25(2):79-99.
  2. Determination of tea components with antioxidant activity.. Cabrera, C., Giménez, R., López, M.C. Department of Nutrition and Bromatology,School of Phramacy, University of Granada Campus de Cartuja, Granada, Spain. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2003 Jul 16;51(15):4427-35.
  3. A comparison of the morphological changes associated with conventional and sustained treatment with pigallocatechin3gallate, thymoquinone, and tannic acid on lncap cells.. Richards, L.R., Jones, P., Beghuzzi, H., et a. University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi. Biomedical Sciences Instrumentation. 2008;44:465-70.
  4. Green tea polyphenols block the anticancer effects of bortezomib and other boronic acid-based proteasome inhibitors.. Golden, E.B., Lam, P.Y., Kardosh, A., et al. Department of Pathology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA. Blood, 2009 Jun 4;113(23):5927-37. Epub 2009 Feb 3.
  5. Degradation of green tea catechins in tea drinks.. Chen, Z., Zhu, Q.Y., Tsand, D., et al. Department of Biochemistry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2001 Jan;49(1):477-82.
  6. Green tea drinking habits and esophageal cancer in southern china: a case-control study.. Chen, Z., Chen, Q., Xia, H., et al. School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Southern Medical University, China. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2011;12(1):229-33.

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