Science to Plate – Green Tea

Next in our Science to Plate series is green tea. This ancient resource is one of the longest-standing anti-cancer foods with a ton of research behind. Not only is green tea easy to consume, it is also inexpensive. Therefore this anti-cancer drink is an easy way to make a significant contribution to your nutrition. The cancer fighting component of green tea is the catechins. specifically epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. It essentially blocks the receptors that cancer cells would send to create new vessels. Green tea also acts as a housekeeper by cleaning up toxins around the body. The body of research supporting EGCG/Green tea is so broad and deep that I won’t spend the time convincing you of its benefit, but will instead focus on how to work green tea into a daily routine and address common questions.

Some anti-cancer literature advises to brew tea for 10 minutes to release all the catechins. After looking into this further, it appears there is only a very slight increase in a 10 minute vs the standard 4 minute steep time (some studies showed no difference). There is however a difference in  palatability (taste) of the 4 minute tea since a 10 minute steep creates a bitter flavor. Therefore, my conclusion is to go ahead and obey the general 4 minute steeping instructions. This was again confirmed in talking with the tea expert/owner of Hugo tea, an organic tea company located in Kansas City. His suggestions for maximum ECGC benefit is to resteep the same leaves 1-2 additional times. This works better than bitter tea. There is also debate on various temperature recommendations.  A couple different research studies show, standard 212℉ yields the most catechins, although 170-185℉ is generally recommended for green tea. The difference was still slight so nothing to worry too much about, but as a rule of thumb, boiling water is still okay for green tea. One of the most interesting practical green tea applications I found was that adding milk to the tea can decrease the potency of catechins so making a green tea latte won’t be the best route.

Green tea is quite low in caffeine and quite a few children drink it with no stimulating effects. Decaffeinated tea is available, but the catechin content can be decreased by up to 70% in the decaffeinating process. Green tea generally has 8-20mg caffeine and a cup of coffee for comparison is about 140mg. Green tea extract supplements can also pack the ECGC benefits in supplement form. This can be the preferred route for some, but for others it is just as easy to get tea in throughout the day in drinks. This article troubleshoots and clarifies some green tea information using information from ConsumerLab.com.

Here is a recap of the basic facts gleaned after looking deeper into both standard practices of green tea in conjunction with anti-cancer recommendations for green tea:

  • Choose only organic tea; avoid decaffeinated
  • Steep for 3-5 minutes in boiling hot water
  • Do not add milk
  • Steep leaves multiple times for more catechins
  • 1-3 cups daily (~200mg ECGC)
  • Cold storage (iced green tea) does not affect antioxidants

Now, you’re probably thinking, but my 3 year old is not going to sit down for an afternoon cup of tea. How do I actually get this into my child? First of all, any amount of green tea is going to provide cancer fighting catechins. Even though research shows the most benefit at around 200mg of ECGC (1-3 cups of tea) daily, any amount will still provide support, so don’t feel pressure to make it to a certain amount each day. If supplement forms are used, then drinks can be used as an additional benefit and fun drink with kids.

Here are a few ideas of how to incorporate into daily life:

1. Make iced green tea and sweeten lightly with a squeeze of orange and a touch of Stevia. Serve with afternoon snack in a fun cup. Why not have a tea party everyday?

2. Freeze iced green tea in popsicle molds. You can make layered popsicles by filling molds ½ way, freezing and then filling up with different liquid and freezing. You can make the top of the popsicle green tea and the bottom a flavor they prefer or recognize. Stevia sweetened coconut milk or cream can be added to make a creamier popsicle.

3. Bake concentrated matcha green tea powder into foods like this chocolate chip brownie recipe.

4. Freeze green tea in ice cube trays and use as ice cubes in cups of water.

5. Let hot tea cool to room temp and dilute with water to diminish the flavor.

For the kiddos, just making up a name and calling it something different can entice them to try it or make totally rad to drink. Be creative and don’t stress about the details.

Enjoy!

-Blakely Page, RDN

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