Now that the holidays are behind us, let’s get back to celebrating life with some simple, health-promoting anti-cancer recipes. Instead of wine and canapés, treat yourself to a Berry Merry Tea Party—a handful of goji berries along with a cup of the finest tea. Here’s the black and white—and green and red—on your tea choices.
For any of you with cancer, please read the last three questions first.
Q: What are the differences in black, green and white teas?
All true tea—be it black, oolong, green or white—comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences are due to the amount of processing.
White’s the least processed. The leaves are simply picked and air-dried. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a tea fanatic, it’s got the most antioxidants and the least caffeine of all the forms (although some people dispute that low caffeine claim.)
Green’s next—processed a tad more and the most studied. It, too, is filled with healthy antioxidants called catechins, which can inhibit cancer cell activity, help boost immunity and reduce inflammation, says Weil.
Oolong’s next—and then black, and both of these undergo a fermentation process that destroys some of the anti-oxidants but actually creates new ones.
Q: There are so many types of green tea. What are the best ones?
In his book “Foods that Fight Cancer,” University of Montreal food researcher Dr. Richard Beliveau lists the key catechin content of various choices. In general, sencha and gyokuro teas come out on top. Coincidentally, these are among Dr. Weil’s top picks for their taste.
Before you purchase your next tea leaves, ask to see a comparison of catechins, especially EGCG ( epigallocatechin gallate), the one with the highest anti-cancer activity.
Q: But senchas and gyokuros come from Japan, right? Shouldn’t we be avoiding teas from Japan?
To be perfectly safe, you may want to avoid teas grown in the Shizuoka region of Japan, its largest tea-growing area. Initially, some samples from there showed evidence of Fukushima’s footprint, but the most recent samples have all come up clean. If you’re concerned, ask for teas grown in other regions of Japan that are south of and far from Fukushima — especially the Kagoshima prefecture, the second largest tea-growing area and on another island thousands of kilometres away.
(Check out these maps, recommended by a reputable radiation expert and estimating the deposits of Fukushima radiation on land nearby and dispersal in the air eastward, over the Pacific. Scientists who tracked the actual dispersal explain the pattern in this article and discuss a windshift during a critical period that brought radioactive matter back westwards onto some eastern parts of the main island, Honshu. Again, based on the clean test results of its agriculture and livestock, Kagoshima was likely not affected–although a good case could be made that the whole world has been affected and the story is not over.)
Q: And what about decaffeinated teas? How good are they?
When green tea is decaffeinated, it loses some anti-oxidants; black tea loses more. Look for brands that use the effervescence method of decaffeinating (water and carbon dioxide, which minimizes the loss) instead of other chemicals.
And keep in mind that green tea contains only about 20-25 percent of the amount of caffeine in brewed coffee.
Q: And herbal teas?
They’re not true teas; instead, they’re made from herbs and spices, which are also good for you. Plus, they don’t have caffeine. Drink up!
Q: And roibois (meaning “red bush”) tea?
Now we’re getting into the “teas to avoid” category. Again, it’s not true tea; it comes from a plant that grows in the wild in South Africa, and it appears to contain copper. There’s some research showing that copper drives angiogenesis—the process by which cancer grows and spreads, and thus people with cancer should avoid eating foods high in copper. (It’s really the copper to zinc ratio that seems to matter; lots more on that coming soon.)
Q: Any other advice for people with cancer?
If you’re on chemo, you must talk to your doctor beforehand. Many types of chemo target a particular detox process that green tea also acts on, and too much green tea may thus inhibit the ability of the chemo to work.
Q: So what about amounts? How much green tea max should we be drinking?
Somewhere between 2-4 cups a day seems to be the general expert opinion, although the amount of antioxidants will differ, depending on the quality of the leaves and the amount of brewing time.
Next post: This anti-cancer recipe continues with “How to Brew the Perfect Cup”