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Green Tea

Cancer fighter, weight loss aid, and all-around super food? Time to tee up the evidence.

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
5-minute read
Episode #38

Probably Not a Magic Bullet

I doubt that green tea will turn out to be the magic bullet against all disease. But I think the evidence will ultimately confirm that drinking green tea is a really healthy habit, just like eating your vegetables, flossing, and wearing your seat belt.

In the meantime, the market has been flooded with products by people trying to make as much money as possible from the health halo surrounding green tea before we all lose interest and move on to the next health craze.

Should You Drink Green Tea to Lose Weight?

In particular, a lot is being made of research showing that green tea can help you lose weight. While there is some evidence that EGCG could promote weight loss, you really have to read the fine print.

For example, one study found that people who drank green tea and engaged in moderate intensity exercise for three hours a week lost slightly more weight than those who exercised the same amount but didn’t drink green tea. In a different study, however, researchers found that giving green tea extracts to overweight people who weren’t dieting or exercising had no effect whatsoever.

In other words, if you are dieting and exercising enough to lose weight, drinking some green tea might give you a little incremental boost. But simply drinking green tea or taking green tea extracts is not going to magically melt off the fat. Sorry, Garrison.

Finally, to answer some of Martin’s questions, you get the biggest dose of EGCG in green tea that is brewed from tea bags or loose tea leaves. Decaffeinated and flavored green teas have quite a bit less EGCG, and those bottled, sweetened green teas that are so popular now contain the lowest amounts. In fact, I’d say the nutritional downside of the sugar in these beverages far outweighs any benefits you might get from the remaining antioxidants.

What About Green Tea Pills?

And what about these capsules that are supposed to provide the benefits of several cups of green tea in a single pill? Well, we don’t yet know how green tea extracts might affect your health over the long term. But if the past is any guide, I’m not all that optimistic.

We have this tendency to take whatever we think is the healthiest part of a food and put it into a pill. I guess this is meant to save everyone the trouble of actually eating healthy foods. But that never seems to work as well as we hope it will. For one thing, whenever we set out to extract the magic compound from a food, we inevitably leave out some other compound that turns out to be just as important.

Also, just because something is good for you, it doesn’t necessarily follow that taking a super concentrated form of it is better for you. And finally, when we actually eat healthy foods, instead of trying to take them in pill form, there’s a greater likelihood that we eat these foods instead of less healthy foods—and that may be at least half the benefit.

If you’d like to enjoy the health benefits of green tea, I suggest you buy some loose green tea or tea bags and enjoy a cup or two a day. Home-brewed iced green tea is also terrific. I’ll include some links in the show notes to more on the art of brewing and enjoying green tea, along with some of the research on green tea.

And for a Quick Tip on making green tea that tastes better (not bitter), head on over here.

Administrative

This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, reminding you that these tips are not intended as medical advice.

If you have a nutrition question for me, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com and include the topic of your question in the subject line of your email.

You can also leave me a voice mail at 206-203-1438. Better yet, post your comments and questions on the Nutrition Diva page on Facebook. I answer a lot of listener questions in my free weekly newsletter, so if you’ve sent a question my way, be sure you’re signed up to receive it.  Additionally, I can be found on Twitter.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!

RESOURCES:

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green Tea and Weight Loss

Enjoying Green Tea

Green Tea image courtesy of Shutterstock

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