By Dr. Carolyn Anderson
This blog is part of the Preventative Lifestyle: Keeping Your Body Healthy (and cancer-free) blog series. While researching ways to help my cancer-stricken mother, I found a variety of things that can help reduce our risk of cancer. While we cannot guarantee that we will never get cancer, it is important we do what is within our power to lower our risk. Please consult with your doctor before making any significant lifestyle or dietary changes.
The Healthiest Starbucks Drink
When talking about saving money, one of the first things that experts usually urge us to ditch is our daily Starbucks habit. While the savings can add up, your $5 daily drink could also be an investment in your health if you order the healthiest drink on the menu.
If you order a detoxifying, epigallocatechin gallate rich tea with a side of soy at Starbucks, the barista might look at you a bit funny so it’s probably best to call it by its non-scientific name, a Soy Green Tea latte.
The Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is a popular drink in Japanese and Chinese restaurants and we are learning more and more about its phenomenal health benefits. Just as curry is one of the reasons East Indians have lower rates of many cancers, green tea could be one of the reasons why the incidence of certain cancers is lower among the Asian population.
When researching nutrition during my Mom’s battle with cancer, I kept finding astounding facts on just how great green tea is for your health. Green tea helps prevent your risk of cancer and other diseases in a variety of ways.
One of the main benefits of drinking Green tea is that it contains many polyphenols called catechins. One of these catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is known to be a powerhouse of anti-cancer properties.
Drinking 3 cups of green tea per day seems to be enough to raise the levels of EGCG in the blood. It can then spread through the body via the capillaries and adhere to the surface of cells. EGCG on the cell surface can block receptors that allow cancer cells to spread (1). EGCG can also block the receptors on cells responsible for causing new blood vessels to form (2), without these blood vessels cancer cannot grow. When EGCG was isolated in the lab it slowed the growth of many cancerous tumors such as breast, prostate and leukemia (3).
The catechins in Green tea have also been found to inhibit nuclear factor kappa B, which is a factor that triggers inflammation and is thought to be one of the key components is the growth and spread of cancers.
Another health benefit of green tea is that it acts as a powerful detoxifier. It activates the liver to rid the body of many toxins that are known to cause cancer.
You may be wondering why black tea is not as beneficial and it has to do with the fermentation process necessary to make black tea. The catechins are destroyed through this extra processing step. Like many things, the least processed version is the healthiest choice for you.
Maximizing the Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea
Green tea, like many other compounds found to be of nutritional benefit, is more effective when combined with other compounds such as soy. A study at Harvard University revealed that the combination of green tea and soy provides more protective effects against breast and prostate cancer then when each is taken separately (4 & 5).
For the ultimate Starbucks “cancer-preventing” Latte, order a Soy Green Tea latte (made with Matcha Japanese green tea) and skip the sweetener.
If you’d like to save money and decrease your risk of cancer you can always make green tea at home. If possible, buy Japanese green tea (Matcha, Sencha etc…) since it seems to be a greater source of EGCG than Chinese green tea. Let the green tea steep for ideally 10 minutes (but at least 5min) to release all the catechins and drink it within an hour of preparing it. If you are sensitive to caffeine, the decaffeinated green tea still contains all the polyphenols, look for one that is naturally decaffeinated.
While any amount of green tea is beneficial, you want to aim for 3 cups a day. A study out of Japan on women with breast cancer that had not yet metastasized found that women that drank three cups of green tea a day had 57% fewer relapses than those who drank just one cup a day (6).
Drinking green tea might be one of the easiest and most relaxing ways you can improve your health. With this knowledge, you can now consider your Starbuck’s habit an investment in your health.
About the Author: Dr. Carolyn Anderson is an eye surgeon who founded Impowerage to raise money for macular degeneration research. She practices cataract surgery in Langley, BC and is a professional speaker who speaks on managing your energy. She recently co-wrote a book, “Pushing to the Front: Front Line Strategies from the World’s Leading Experts, with Brian Tracy.
- Jankun et al “Why Drinking Green Tea Could Prevent Cancer” Nature 387, no 6633(1997):561 )
- Cao and Cao, “Angiogenesis Inhibited by Drinking Green Tea”, Nature 398, no.6726 (1999): 381.)
- Demeule et al “Dietary Prevention of Cancer: Anticancer and Antiangiogenic Properties of Green Tea Polyphenols, Medicinal Chemistry Reviews-Online 2 (2005); 49-58
- Zhou et al, “Combined Inhibition of Estrogen-Dependent Human Breast Carcinoma by Soy and Tea Bioactive Components in Mice,” International Journal of Cancer, 2004; 108(1): 8-14
- Zhou et al, “Soy Phytochemicals and Tea Bioactive Components Synergistically Inhibit Androgen- Sensitive Human Prostate Tumors in Mice”, Journal of Nutrition 133,no. 2(2003);516-21.)
- Inoue et al, “Regular Consumption of Green Tea and the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence” Cancer Letters 167, no.2 (2001): 175-82.