The Truth About the Health Benefits of Tea
Does it really fight cancer?
The way scientific studies and health gurus alike have touted the perks of tea over the past few years, you’d think the stuff was some kind of all-powerful magical elixir. Improving heart health, reducing cancer risk, warding off dementia and diabetes—there’s barely a health benefit that hasn’t been credited to tea. It’s true that the brew has disease-fighting antioxidants, and, as far as anyone can tell, should be great for us. “The science is certainly promising,” says David L. Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “But the hype goes beyond it and tends to make promises which the science can’t yet deliver.” (No, tea probably will not cure depression, eliminate allergies, or boost your fertility!) We talked to the experts and weighed the studies to separate the truth from the hype.
Why tea is so hot
First, a definition: When scientists talk about tea, they mean black, green, white, or oolong teas—all of which are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal brews, like chamomile and peppermint, are not technically considered tea; they’re infusions of other plants with different nutritional characteristics. If you’re not sure what kind you’re drinking, check the ingredients for the word “tea.”
What makes the four tea types different from each other is the way the leaves are prepared and how mature they are, which affects both flavor and nutritional content. Black tea is made from leaves that have been wilted (dried out) and then fully oxidized (meaning that chemicals in the leaves are modified through exposure to air). Green tea’s leaves are wilted but not oxidized. Oolong tea is wilted and then only partially oxidized, and white tea is not wilted or oxidized at all.
All four types are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. It’s the polyphenols that have made tea the star of so many studies, as researchers try to figure out whether all that chemical potential translates into real disease-fighting punch. Most research has focused on black tea, which is what about 75% of the world drinks, and green tea, the most commonly consumed variety in China and Japan. Green tea contains an especially high amount of antioxidants—in particular, a type of polyphenol called a catechin, the most active and abundant of which is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). That’s why there are five times more studies on green than black tea each year—and likely why you’re always hearing about the power of the green stuff, says Diane L. McKay, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Boiling down the hype
The most promising claims about tea drinking include these perks:
• Cancer prevention:
A 2009 review of 51 green tea studies found that sipping three to five cups a day may lower the risks of ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers, but not breast or other cancers, says lead author Katja Boehm, research fellow at the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. As for black tea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deems it “possibly effective” for reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, and “possibly ineffective” for lowering the risk of stomach and colorectal cancers.
• Brain benefits:
Downing from one to four cups of black or green tea a day has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to the NIH.
• Heart help:
“Drinking tea may be helpful in preventing or delaying certain risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides,” says McKay. One Japanese study found that adults who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had a 26% reduction in death from heart attack or stroke compared with those who had one cup or less; the effect was greater in women than in men.
More research needs to be done on other potential benefits. One small study suggested that the catechins and caffeine in green tea may give dieters a small metabolic boost that could amount to burning a few dozen extra calories per day. There’s also a slim file on how drinking tea may help ward off osteoporosis and reduce the incidence of cavities, due to the fluoride it contains. And EGCG, that green-tea antioxidant, has been found to increase the number of important immune-boosting cells (called regulatory T-cells)—but only in one animal study.
All this sounds pretty compelling. So why aren’t major health organizations advising us to drink tea like crazy? It’s a matter of needing more hard-core evidence. “There are pearls of real promise here, but they have yet to be strung,” Dr. Katz says. “We don’t have clinical trials in human patients showing that adding tea to one’s routine changes health outcomes for the better.” The vast majority of the research conducted has been observational, meaning scientists can’t know if the medical boosts seen in tea drinkers are definitely a result of that habit, or some other factor that makes these people healthier. And many of the studies that have looked at specific compounds in tea have been conducted in labs or on animals, not on people. “These chemicals act as antioxidants in a test tube, but they may not do the same in your body,” explains Emily Ho, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition and exercise science at the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences at Oregon State University. “You have to take the claims with a grain of salt.”
That said, experts agree that a daily cuppa, or five, won’t hurt you, and may well help fight disease. (If you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, go for decaf—it has antioxidants too, though fewer than the caffeinated kind.) “Tea is probably better than a lot of other beverages,” says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at UT South-western Medical Center and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Just make sure you’ve got other healthy lifestyle habits—you can’t count on tea alone to prevent cancer.”
Kick Start Your Metabolism
Shared with Us By Green Health Spot
After eating way too much I thought I would write down a few tips to kick start your metabolism so that you can stay slim this Summer and weather the assault of sweets, snacks and parties. Many of us use the excuse of hot and humid weather to keep us from exercising and leading the active lifestyle that is best for our health. As most of know to minimize high calorie foods and to exercise during Summer I’m listing some things below to help your metabolism that you might not have known about.
The first is your thyroid gland. Your thyroid is pivotal in getting your metabolism working for you even when you aren’t working out. We all have friends who eat tons of food and never gain an ounce. One major advantage they might have over you is that their thyroid is optimized. Optimizing your thyroid function isn’t difficult but there are some key pointers for you to know. First are the signs of a weak thyroid: including weight gain, difficulty with weight loss, constipation, dry skin, dry hair and nails, lethargy, depression and tendency toward feeling hot and high cholesterol. Common nutrient deficiencies associated with thyroid deficiency include iodine, selenium, vitamin E, Riboflavin, niacin and the amino acid taurine. Many people are hypothyroid and do not know that they are. The conventional medical philosophy to rely on TSH as the key monitor of thyroid function disregards issues with conversion from T4 to T3 and the utilization of T3 in the cell. I’ve discussed more about why your thyroid meds might not lead to you feeling great here in this video.
Second major aspect of health to look at is your adrenal function. Elevated cortisol levels will lead to increased abdominal fat accumulation and fatigue. It also worsens thyroid problems. If you are battling belly bulge, you would do well to get your adrenals tested. If your doctor cannot do this for you, feel free to contact our office for assistance. Ensure that you are eating regularly and sleeping well. One key sign of excess cortisol production is waking in the middle of the night and inability to fall back to sleep quickly.
Third cause of weight problems is blood sugar problems. This is tied to adrenal problems and having a carbohydrate rich diet. Cut the sugar, soda and sweetened coffee drinks to get a head start. Also cut out dairy products from your diet to help drop those unwanted pounds. Eat high protein snacks (avoid soy products), eat frequently and get lots of sleep.
Finally, the unknown kicker on weight gain is the accumulation of water due to allergies, food sensitivities and chemicals in the body. Identify the foods you are sensitive to and use NAET to desensitize your from the foods that give your body trouble. NAET can also desensitize you to chemicals, pollen, dust mites and vitamins. Surprisingly many people have trouble dealing with nutrients common to many foods, thus leading to water weight gain as well as a slowing down of your metabolism.
Get healthy for the new year and together we can put some accuracy into the term “preventative” health.
Brought to us by Mambosprouts.com
Navigating Milk Alternatives
If you decide to give up dairy milk, what will you pour over cereal, pair with a freshly baked cookie, or put in your morning coffee? Milk serves many purposes for the average American, so if dairy is out, we need alternatives. Fortunately, your problem isn’t finding an alternative to cow’s milk; rather it’s navigating through the sea of options!
And you needn’t worry about your bone health, as fortified milk alternatives, like cow’s milk, generally deliver about 30% of your daily calcium and up to 45% of your daily vitamin D per serving. Ready to find the right “milk” for you? Here’s a brief overview:
Made from filtered water, soybeans, and evaporated cane juice, an 8-oz. serving of original sweetened soy milk contains 100 calories, 4 g fat, 8 g carbs, 6 g sugar and 7 g protein. Flavors include plain, vanilla, and chocolate. Opting for USDA organic soymilk─such as that offered by Organic Valley─will protect you from GMO’s, pesticides, etc.
This alternative consists of filtered water, almonds, and evaporated cane juice. An 8-oz. serving of original almond milk contains 60 calories, 2.5 g fat, 8 g carbs, 7 g sugar and 1 g protein. Blue Diamond has largely perfected the art of almond milk with their best-selling Almond Breeze, available in original, vanilla, unsweetened, and chocolate flavors.
Rice milk─made from filtered water, brown rice and safflower oil─is tasty and refreshing, though high in carbs and sugar, and rather thin in texture. A serving will typically contain about 23 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 2.5 g fat, and 1 g protein. Rice Dream is a high-quality brand, with original, vanilla, unsweetened, and chocolate flavors.
While it’s made from the seeds of the edible part of the cannabis plant, hemp milk does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Available in original, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, hemp milk has about 100 calories per serving, along with 9 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 5 g fat, and 2 g protein. See if the herby-nutty flavor appeals to you.
Calling all coconut lovers! New Blue Diamond Breeze Almondmilk Coconutmilk Blend has 50% more calcium than cow’s milk, along with 7 g carbs, 3 g fat, 6 g sugar and 1 g protein. Available in original, vanilla, and unsweetened flavors.
As you can see, options abound. Many families stock an array, including soy, almond, and hemp milk, as kids and adults may have different preferences. With all these great choices, you can easily leave cow’s milk behind for good─and never miss the mustache!