Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Forget the eggnog — load up on healthy green tea

Mon, Dec 13 - 4:53 AM

I’M A HUGE fan of green tea, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I think you should. It’s packed full of anti-oxidants. These are naturally occurring good biochemicals that mop up other naturally occurring nasties called free radicals.

Many experts believe free radicals are a major factor in the development of coronary artery disease, blood clots, macular degeneration, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and many cancers. I’ve always liked my fruit and veggies — after all, they are high in anti-oxidants. Then I discovered that green tea contains 10 times more antioxidants than antioxidant-rich blueberries, pomegranates and cranberries. And because green teas are minimally processed (its leaves are withered and steamed), its antioxidants are about twice as concentrated as those in black teas (whose leaves are crushed and fermented).

Many studies have looked at how green tea battles cancer: one Japanese study of nearly 500 Japanese women with Stage I and Stage II breast cancer found that drinking green tea before and after surgery was associated with lower recurrence of the cancers. Studies in China have shown the more green tea that participants drank, the less the risk of developing stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer. A recent analysis of 22 studies that investigated the correlation between high tea consumption and reduced risk for lung cancer concluded that increasing your intake of green (but not black) tea by two cups per day may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by 18 per cent.
With regard to green tea and heart health, it’s known that lifestyle and overall diet are far more critical than any one food group. Green tea’s antioxidants are dilators that will certainly improve the flexibility of blood vessels and make them less vulnerable to clogging.

A Dutch study of more than 3,000 men and women did find that the more tea consumed, the less severe the clogging of the heart’s blood vessels, especially in women.

Green tea has also been linked to weight loss, but the evidence is less clear. Green tea and its extract have been shown to fight lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and obesity, two risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. In one Japanese study, 240 men and women were given varying amounts of green tea extract. Those who got the highest amount of extract lost the most fat and weight and had lower blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol.

Besides being calorie-free, green tea appears to stimulate weight loss through the action of plant-based compounds called phytochemicals that temporarily cause the body to burn more calories and melt fat. The benefit lasts only a few hours, so researchers concluded it may help to drink green tea at least twice a day.

So how much is enough? Research shows that regular tea drinkers (two or more cups a day), have less heart disease and stroke, lower cholesterol, and that they recover from heart attacks faster. In a study that involved 500 Japanese men and women, researchers found that drinking at least four cups of green tea every day may be related to the reduced severity of coronary heart disease among male participants. Personally, I drink six to eight cups per day in place of the recommended six to eight glasses of water.

One area that most experts do agree on is that the effect green tea extracts and supplements have on the body is unknown and may actually cause damage. If you’re going to reap the many rewards of green tea, drink it straight-up: no pills, powders, pipes or potions.

So this season lay off that ‘liquid heart-attack’ called eggnog and just enjoy a really nice hot cuppa with your Yuletide turkey!

Alex Handyside is a Certified Senior Adviser and the owner-operator of ScotiaCare Homecare & Caregivers.


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