Even More Evidence of Cancer Prevention!

by Anamika Holke

Throughout the course of a days dietary intake beverages can add a considerable portion of calories to the average diet.

The carbonated sodas that we all enjoy are, of course, high in calories (usually present in the form of sugary corn syrup) can contribute to obesity, tooth decay and other health problems.

The USDA’s 2005 dietary guidelines encourage us to switch to healthier alternatives of drinks and foods to moderate our intake of sugar. Janet King, chairwoman of the guideline committee, told food journalists to be on the lookout for a new set of beverage guidelines that have been submitted to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  King recently gave a speech at the Association of Food Journalists’ annual conference in San Francisco.

Choosing beverages wisely can make the difference between a balanced diet and one that is out of whack. A 12-ounce can of regular soda adds 120 to 140 calories and zero nutrients to the diet. Although 100 percent fruit juices are a healthier choice, they also can tally up calories quickly. For instance, one cup of cranberry juice cocktail with sugar contains 147 calories.  Lighter juice versions with artificial sweeteners are also available.

In search of a zero-calorie beverage, many Americans have learned to guzzle unsweetened iced tea on a regular basis. In fact, in this country 40 billion of the 50 billion cups of tea consumed each year are served over ice, according to the Tea Council.

If you’re looking for zero calories, green tea is your best option.  It has possible health benefits unlike iced tea. It is rarely served with milk or sugar and contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols.  These antioxidants may help prevent some types of cancer.

It is thought that these polyphenols scavenge for free radicals before they have time to cause injury to the cells. Green tea has about 30 percent to 40 percent polyphenols compared to black tea that has just 3 percent to 10 percent polyphenols. The average cup of green tea contains 50 milligrams to 150 milligrams of polyphenols, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (www.umm.edu).

The American Institute for Cancer Research conducts some research that focuses on the link between diet and health.  Their studies on lab animals have found that polyphenols can reduce the number and size of tumors. However, human studies have yet to reproduce the same results, leading the FDA to refuse health claims for green tea.

So should Americans try to adopt the green tea habit?

“Drinking massive amounts of green tea will never be able to save us from the ill effects of overeating a poorly balanced diet and living a sedentary lifestyle…. However, for those of us who would like to do a little more to reduce the risk of cancer, replacing three or four cups of coffee or soda per day with green tea is a reasonable step that may bring health benefits,” writes Karen Collins, a nutrition expert who wrote a column that appeared on the AICR’s Web site (www.aicr.org) in September.

Green tea is traditionally served hot in Asia and sometimes used as a health remedy.  Americans have acquired a taste for convenient health drinks.  Several versions of iced green tea have provided an on the go option instead of traditional hot green tea.

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