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    Archive for the ‘green tea’ Category

    Who Said It?: Reveal

    perricone_oprah_5-300x230“Coffee has organic acids that raise your blood sugar, raise insulin. Insulin puts a lock on body fat. When you switch over to green tea, you get your caffeine, you’re all set, but you will drop your insulin levels and body fat will fall very rapidly. [You will lose] 10 pounds in six weeks [if you replace coffee with green tea], I will guarantee it.”

    This quote comes from Dr. Nicholas Perricone, specifically from a 2004 appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.

    As with other doctors who are a staple on the media mogul’s program, Dr. Perricone is a source of nutrition soundbites that are TV-friendly, albeit not entirely accurate.  Never mind, of course, that Dr. Perricone is a dermatologist who for many years was invited to sit on Oprah’s couch to dispense nutrition advice.

    Let’s examine Dr. Perricone’s statements piece by piece.

    “Coffee has organic acids that raise your blood sugar.”

    True, coffee raises blood sugar levels ever so slightly.  The same can be said about plenty of healthful foods — nuts, seeds, beans, fresh fruit, whole grains, and root vegetables.  This concept of “raising blood sugar”, by the way, is nothing more than the glycemic index.

    Additionally, if Dr. Perricone is so concerned about coffee’s glycemic index, why is he such a fan of wild blueberries, which raise blood sugar levels more?

    “When you switch over to green tea, you get your caffeine, you’re all set, but you will drop your insulin levels and body fat will fall very rapidly.”

    This, of course, assumes you are drinking coffee and green tea on their own, without any milk — dairy or otherwise — or sweetener.  Add dairy, almond, soy, oat, or any other milk to your tea and your blood sugar will rise to some degree.

    If you like your tea plain but accompany it with food (whether it’s oatmeal or a chocolate chip cookie), this talk of “dropping insulin levels” also becomes a moot point.

    The above statement also makes the erroneous assumption that weight loss is simply about dropping insulin levels, rather than lowering caloric intake.

    It is absolutely possible to lose weight while eating foods with high glycemic indeces, provided that calories are also being lowered.

    Allow me to clarify.  It is true that plenty of fiberless and overly processed foods — white flour, white sugar, refined grains — raise blood sugar levels significantly.

    However, fruits are far from low-glycemic.  In fact, ice cream has a lower glycemic index than watermelon.  If weight loss was your goal, would you consider a cup of watermelon or a cup of Ben & Jerry’s to be the wiser choice?  Not to mention — have you ever heard of anyone gaining weight as a result of drinking unsweetened black coffee?

    Remember, too, that a food’s glycemic index can be altered by a variety of factors.  A potato’s glycemic index, for instance, is different if you eat it with its skin and top it with olive oil than if you peel and mash it.

    “[You will lose] 10 pounds in six weeks [if you replace coffee with green tea], I will guarantee it.”

    If this were a money-back guarantee, Dr. Perricone would have to file for bankruptcy.

    The notion that all it takes to lose 10 pounds — in six weeks, no less! — is a switch from coffee to green tea is not only science fiction, it is also infuriatingly misleading.  Talk about setting people up for failure.

    Of course, this “promise” wasn’t met with an ounce of skepticism.  Oprah vouched that she would give this a try, and the audience responded with applause.  Because, as we all know, if “a doctor on TV” says something, then it MUST be true (even though sixty percent of doctors in the US don’t have a single nutrition course built into their medical school curriculum, and thirty-five percent can take one course as an elective).


    You Ask, I Answer: Antioxidant Loss in Decaffeinated Tea?

    800px-tea_bagsI’ve recently switched to decaf green teas and am concerned that I might not be getting the same amount of antioxidants/polyphenols because of the process used.

    I’ve read that chemical processing removes a great deal of these along with the caffeine. My vendor lists the process for their teas as non-chemical Carbon Dioxide.

    Am I really losing that much by drinking decaf teas?

    I’ve also read that by steeping for 30 seconds and tossing the water out to steep again a second time removes a great deal of the caffeine because it’s very water soluable.

    I wonder how much caffeine that simple water based process can really remove.

    — Angelo Iacovella
    Doylestown, PA

    In the same way that different cooking techniques affect the nutrient content of food differently, the same applies to decaffeination processes.

    The most common form of decaffeinating a beverage is through the use of ethyl acetate, a chemical solvent.

    Since that is the most common form, it is also the process that has garnered the most research attention.

    The general consensus is that this form of caffeine extraction significantly reduces polyphenol and antioxidants levels in green tea (loss figures range from 40 to 75 percent per 8-ounce cup).

    This is not to say green tea becomes “unhealthy” or nutritionally worthless, but rather that its health-promoting properties are diminished.

    Keep in mind, though, that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds also offer a wide array of polyphenols and antioxidants.

    Green tea offers some wonderfully healthy compounds, but it is not a magical potion.

    Carbon dioxide decaffeination is more expensive, and therefore far less common.  A small number of studies have looked at its effects on specific antioxidants and components found in green tea (mainly cacethins).

    The good news?  This process is less harsh on the studied components.

    The “not quite spectacular” news?  There is no research that demonstrates what effect, if any, carbon dioxide decaffeination has on other health-promoting components found in green tea.

    Let’s now answer your question regarding levels of caffeine extracted from throwing out water used to steep tea for 30 seconds.

    As that is not my field of expertise, I got in touch with three food chemists, all of whom are very familiar with the chemical properties of caffeine.

    Their consensus?  While caffeine is water soluble, thirty seconds is not enough time to warrant a substantial loss.

    One of them made mention to a study from approximately ten years ago (although he did not remember the journal in which it was published) which found that steeping a tea bag for five minutes resulted in two thirds of the caffeine content leeching out into the water.


    In The News: That’s More Like It

    The Los Angeles Times shares encouraging news today — “Coca-Cola Co. and joint-venture partner Nestle agreed to pay $650,000 in a settlement with 27 states over claims that Enviga green tea burns calories, resulting in weight loss.”

    If you are not familiar with Enviga, it is a flavored sparkling green tea in the Nestea line of products.

    The claim? Drinking three cans per day helps burn anywhere from 60 to 100 calories.

    Coca Cola based that claim on the presence of EGCG, an antioxidant in green tea which has been the focus of several metabolic and weight loss studies (here is my take on the research literature.)

    The man behind this lawsuit is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who added that moving forward, “any marketing of Enviga or a similar beverage that uses the terms “the calorie burner,” “negative calories” or “drink negative” must clearly disclose that the product doesn’t lead to weight loss without diet and exercise.”

    Small Bites salutes — and thanks — you, Mr. Blumenthal.


    You Ask, I Answer: Tea & Coffee

    I’ve read a lot about the supposed health benefits of tea (especially green) and coffee [in regards to] cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease [risk].

    Any hard data on this?

    [If so, do the health benefits] apply to all kinds of teas and coffees?

    What about decaf varieties?

    — Corey Clark
    (location withheld)

    There is plenty of data in the scientific literature showing the health benefits of coffee.

    Coffee beans contain a wide array of antioxidants, polyphenols, and health-promoting compounds.

    Consistent consumption of 16 to 24 ounces of coffee a day has been linked with decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

    Additionally, the antioxidants in coffee have been shown to reduce inflammation and inhibit cellular tumor growth.

    What these studies basically show is that healthy individuals (although not pregnant women) who drink coffee regularly do not need to be concerned with cutting it out of their diet for health reasons.

    That said,the percentage of the population that is sensitive to caffeine should certainly avoid it.

    Luckily, both caffeinated AND decaffeinated coffees and teas share the same amount of flavonoids and antioxidants.

    Speaking of teas, all varieties (green, white, and black) offer plenty of flavonoids and antioxidants. Herbal teas, however, offer significantly lower amounts.

    The biggest issue with these beverages is what people are putting into them (syrups, tablespoon upon tablespoon of sugar, mounds of whipped cream, etc.) that often turns them into calorie, sugar, and fat-laden drinks that do more harm than good.


    You Ask, I Answer: Green Tea & Weight Loss

    Do you think all the hoopla about drinking green tea has merit for weight loss?

    — Beth (last name withheld)
    Portland, ME

    This is one of those situations where the science certainly looks promising, but when I consider what we currently know about human application, I think people are jumping the gun.

    There is yet to be any major study showing how green tea affects human weight loss.

    For example, a well-known 1999 human study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which concluded that flavonoids present in green tea (known as cacethins) had metabolism-boosting properties only consisted of ten subjects.

    The most extensive studies on this topic have been done on mice.

    One of the latest studies, published in the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, focused on mice with a genetic predisposal to obesity.

    That study, like several others, showed what appears to be a strong link between a polyphenol in green tea known as EGCG (that stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate, in case you were wondering) and weight.

    More specifically, the mice on a diet supplemented with EGCG gained less weight than those whose diet did not contain the extract.

    It is worth pointing out that in that particular study, the mice on the EGCG diet consumed the human equivalent of seven cups of green tea.

    Which leads me to why I find blanket statements like “green tea burns fat” to be overly simplistic.

    First of all, it appears that to experience any of the thermogenic (body temperature raising) effects, humans need to drink at least seven cups a day.

    Second, from the limited studies on humans, it appears that these components in green tea raise calorie expenditure through thermogenesis (essentially heat production) by approximately 4 percent.

    Now it’s time for some math.

    Let’s assume that within a 24 hour period of complete rest (think doing nothing but laying on a bed — this is known as your basal metabolic rate) your body burns 1,500 calories.

    If you apply the four percent increase from that particular human study, you can conclude that consuming seven cups of green tea a day would raise that total to 1,560 calories.

    Keep in mind, though, that if you sweeten each of those seven cups of tea with just one teaspoon of sugar, you are tacking on 112 calories to your day.

    So, here is my stance. If you enjoy sipping green tea, that’s great.

    It’s a wonderful beverage that, when consumed plain, offers not only a variety of polyphenols and antioxidants, but also an absence of calories.

    However, as regular readers of this blog know, I oppose the attribution of weight-loss characteristics to specific foods, as it is ultimately overall eating patterns — and caloric intake — that affect weight.

    So, if green tea is not to your liking, you are not at a weight-loss disadvantage.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 12-ounce Cosi blueberry promeganate smoothie contains 544 calories.

    (Note: a 12-ounce can of regular Coca Cola clocks in at 143 calories)

    It goes to show — high caloric values aren’t just found in large portions.

    (Sidenote: Get the 20-ounce “gigante”, and sip away 1,087 calories!)

    It’s crazy to think that this 12-ounce beverage packs almost twice as many calories as a large fountain beverage from McDonald’s.

    Cosi advertises it as a “blend of frozen fruit with a green tea base,” which helps to explain the astounding caloric value of this smoothie.

    Bases are often sugar-loaded flavor agents.

    They were smart in choosing a green tea one because it delivers sweet flavor while still sounding “healthy.”

    A lot of people have this concept that anything with green tea in it is automatically healthy or low-calorie. I’m afraid that ain’t so.

    Food companies know this, which is why I was not surprised to see Haagen Dazs’ new green tea ice cream flavor at the store earlier this week.

    The fact is, smoothies are not an optimal source of nutrition.

    The overwhelming majority are excessively sugared (we’re talking 6 to 8 tablespoons of sugar on average for a 12 ounce!) and don’t deliver any of the fiber present in a piece of fruit.

    Since liquid calories (particularly those from fruit smoothies, which are lacking fat, fiber, and protein) are not as effective at providing a sense of fullness, it’s very likely you will be hungry soon after finishing such a concoction.

    If they are one of your favorite beverages, feel free to have them, but keep in mind that save one or two exceptions, you are buying an overly sweetened, high-calorie treat, not liquid nutrition.


    Eat Your Tea

    Convenience is a huge factor behind our food choices.

    Whether you’re pressed for time or away from a kitchen for a few days, snacking on-the-go is part of many people’s daily routine.

    It certainly doesn’t help that most convenience foods comes in the shape of chips, cookies, candy, sugary sodas, and protein bars that are often loaded with sugar and saturated fat.

    Alas, I am happy to add Tzu (The Tea Bar) to my Hall of Fame – which currently includes Lara Bars, Clif Nectar Bars, and Pure Bars.

    I knew Tzu was worth looking into when I stumbled across it at my local deli and read the ingredient list: sprouted whole grain brown rice, whole grains (oats, buckwheat), whole grain rye, sesame seeds, green tea leaf, green tea powder, konnyaku fructose, flax seeds, sapporo brewer’s yeast, and bamboo salt.

    Do you see all the pluses? No artificial ingredients, no syrups, no sugary soy and rice crisps, no hydrogenated oils, and fructose is not one of the first five ingredients.

    I do wish the flax seeds were included in their ground state (since, in their entirety, they are completely undigested by our bodies), but I consider that to be a very promising ingredient list.

    The nutrition profile is very nifty, too. Each bar contains a mere 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 35 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of sugar.

    It also offers 4 grams of fiber, 60% of our vitamin C needs, 15% a day’s worth of calcium, 20% of the daily magnesium recommendation, and 20% of the recommended daily intake of selenium.

    The best thing about it is — this is all done with real food (not by injecting synthetic vitamins and minerals into the bar, as so many other products do)!

    As you all know, I do not recommend a product on my blog until I taste it. Tzu passed that exam with flying colors. If you like the taste of green tea, you will absolutely love this bar.

    So what about the inclusion of green tea?

    At 3 grams per bar, that’s equal to 2 cups’ worth. Most studies showing health benefits (mainly on cardiovascular health) from green tea involved participants drinking 4 to 6 cups a day.

    While Tzu bars contain a fair amount (which, if anything, helps rather than hurts), their virtues go well beyond that, as they are low-fat, low-calorie, tasty, and a good source fiber, vitamins and minerals.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A standard shrimp tempura roll provides 550 calories.

    From a strictly caloric standpoint, that’s equal to 13 Chicken McNuggets!

    Sushi can actually be very nutritious, thanks to its healthy proteins and fats (especially avocado), but tread carefully when it comes to rolls with tempura (a.k.a. “deep fried” — a real shame to do to something as healthy as fish) and/or eel (which is cooked in a special sauce that contributes calories and added sugars).

    Best bet? Start off with a high-fiber appetizer like edamame, steamed broccoli with garlic, or steamed spinach to make up for the white rice’s lack of fiber. Then, choose any rolls that do not include tempura or mayonnaise.

    Every sushi place I have ever gone to serves green tea for free, so have a cup or two along with the beverage of your preference for some bonus phytonutrients.

    Above all, savor and enjoy!


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