I'm a firm believer in the idea that every food is a superfood. There is no such thing as a "superfood" in the sense that we use the word today; not one food is a magical potion that can act as a cure for all things bad in the world. Eating goji berries everyday isn't going to bring world peace, just like cacao nibs aren't going to suddenly to give you a six pack, either. 

However, every single food that mother nature has blessed us with contains nutrients that all work synergistically to nourish us, protect us, provide for us, and help keep us alive. To me, every food is a superfood, in that every food has components to it that can be advantageous to our health. Just because bananas aren't trendy, that doesn't make them any less of a superfood as say, acai, for example. They are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can all provide many benefits.

platter, Fruit, fruits, cheese, cracker, crackers, display
Amber Holte

Green Tea

Having said that, there is a particular beverage that has gotten all the attention these past few years due to its abundance in anti-inflammatory compounds, and according to everyone, "works for everything." That beverage is the ever so popular green tea. Just like any other food, it's not a superfood in the sense of the word we all use in 2018; it will not cure any disease, clear your face, and bring love and harmony to everyone it comes in contact with. Remember that many factors play a role in longevity and the prevention of diseases; you can't just drink green tea and be a sedentary individual who barely sleeps, skips most meals, doesn't manage stress well...and expect to live to 130. And let's not forget about the huge role genetics plays. 

tea, green tea

So, has the attention green tea has received been all hype, or is it actually as beneficial as they say?

What Is It

Green tea is a tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant. In contrast to black tea, the leaves of this plant do not go through an oxidizing process. This is what differentiates green tea's color and flavor from its black and oolong partners, which also come from the same plant. Green tea naturally contains caffeine, although much less than coffee. It is most popular in Japan.

The reason that green tea gets so much press is because of its high catechin content. Catechin is an antioxidant, which means it helps protect our bodies from free radicals that can damage our cells. Out of all the catechins present, it is highest in Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG.

tea, afternoon tea, tea time, green tea, tea cup, tea pot
Jocelyn Hsu

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been used in many studies to see if its potential benefits are as great as people think. Here are some of the claims you might have seen being made about EGCG, explained. PSA: There's way more than just three, but I'll only be talking about these.

1) It Helps Prevent Cancer

Some say that ECGC helps prevent cancer. This claim comes from the realization that very few people in Japan get cancer, where green tea is a typical beverage of choice. However, this doesn't actually prove whether it helps prevent cancer or not. Some clinical studies in mice have shown that ECGC prevents tumor formation. 

2) It Helps You Lose Weight

According to some studies done on mice, ECGC speeds up their metabolic rate, which has been noted to be helpful with weight loss. One study showed that rats given ECGC lost 21% of their weight, but by a mechanism that researchers aren't sure about yet. Some say it might have to do with suppressed hunger hormones.

3) It Helps Treat Diabetes

Some studies on animals show that ECGC inhibits some carbohydrate-digesting enzymes from working, which means some carbohydrates and sugar aren't broken down and sugar isn't released into the bloodstream. This mechanism helps control high blood sugar levels in people with Type 1 Diabetes, who do not produce any or enough insulin to remove excess levels of sugar out of the bloodstream and into our cells. 

So, there's been studies done. But, is the research enough to convince us to drink 10 gallons of green tea a day?

Mackenzie Huggins

The Problem

As you probably realized, most studies done on the benefits of ECGC have been done on animals. And of the studies done on humans, they haven't been properly done to completely make us all believe that there is a definite correlation between ECGC and increased health. 

Again, I emphasize something that I am taught every day as a dietetics and nutrition student: health is a combination of many factors. These studies on humans do not take into account the lifestyle the participants engage in, which can definitely alter the results. Maybe, it's not the ECGC that provides the benefits, but the fact that that the particular individual is super active and eats a well balanced diet.

Weights, girl, workout, outside, outdoors, strenght, pilates
Julia Gilman

In Summary

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is to make sure to do your own research. Just because health coach X on Instagram is telling you to drink seven cups of green tea a day, it doesn't mean you need to, and that if you don't, you'll be less healthy than your green-tea-drinking peers.

First, take into account the limited research that has been done. Second, we should remember, as mentioned before, that all foods are superfoods. Catechins, in particular ECGC, can be found in other foods besides green tea. You can find them in blackberries, other fruits, and even red wine. 

Therefore, yes, green tea is definitely high in antioxidants, and studies do show that the catechin ECGC may have implications for disease prevention and weight loss. It's definitely a million time better to be drinking a cup of green tea instead of a tall glass of soda.

But, if you're not drinking it now, there's no reason to add it in if you don't feel like it, or don't like the taste. There are definitely other ways of getting in antioxidants, and this can be done with simply adding more fruits and vegetables to our diets.

herb, vegetable, lettuce, local vegetables, fresh vegetables, produce, farmer's market
Sam Jesner

Please don't let anyone online without a legit medical and/or dietetics degree tell you what to eat and what not to eat without doing your own research first. Not drinking or eating a trendy food will not make you a bad person. 

So, what to take away? Drink it, but there's no reason to go overboard by drinking 40 gallons per day. And be careful of any green tea drinks on the market that are trying to be sold due to their "health benefits." Many commercial green tea products are laden with added sugar and more added caffeine, and probably don't have as high of a antioxidant content as freshly brewed leaves.

teacup, flowers, Spring
Rebecca Buechler

Enjoy a hot cup when you wake up in the morning with some honey added for sweetness, or brew some tea bags and then cook your oatmeal in it. There are endless ways one can reap from the potential benefits of green tea; all it takes is some creativity. Happy tea-ing!