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posted: 2/15/2012 6:00 AM

Health benefits in green and black teas

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  • Photos.comGreen tea

      Photos.comGreen tea

 

Q. Is green tea really that much healthier than regular black tea? I want the health benefits, but prefer the flavor of black tea.

A. You may get health benefits from both. More laboratory studies have investigated the compounds, especially EGCG, in green tea. However, although green and black teas contain a different balance of phytochemicals, according to USDA analysis, green tea is only slightly higher in antioxidants than black tea.

In laboratory studies, green tea and its EGCG can decrease growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction. Human studies are less clear about cancer protection. For decreasing risk of heart disease, human studies so far do show more benefit from green tea than from black tea. One problem is that many of the green tea studies are conducted in Asia where more people drink green tea frequently. So the benefits seen may somehow include the effect of lifelong green tea consumption (as opposed to the effects of starting to drink it in middle age or later) and may also reflect other aspects of an Asian diet that researchers may not have been able to adjust for in analyzing the data.

Green tea is a great health-wise beverage choice, but since the evidence is still somewhat unclear about its benefits or how much we need to drink to attain them, if you really prefer black tea, enjoy it and know that you are getting antioxidant compounds there, too.

Q. Is adding some parmesan cheese to salads or pasta a healthy way to add flavor?

A. Sure. Both calories and fat, especially saturated fat, can add up from all regular cheese, including parmesan. But 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese adds only 22 calories, just under 1 gram of saturated fat and only 76 milligrams (mg) of sodium. With a flavorful cheese like parmesan or Romano, one tablespoon or less is plenty.

If adding some grated parmesan to salads or vegetables helps you to enjoy them so much you eat larger portions of these healthful foods then go for it! A diet with plenty of leafy greens and other low-calorie vegetables is linked to health benefits including lower risk of cancer, heart disease and more.

Note that using parmesan cheese in small amounts like this for flavor is lower in fat and calorie content than in baked dishes that include the parmesan name (like Eggplant Parmesan, which are generally smothered in mozzarella and parmesan cheese). Standard recipes for these kinds of dishes are not at all low fat.

If you are taking a type of medication called an MAO inhibitor, you should not eat aged cheeses like Parmesan.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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