Tea contains compounds that may lower cancer risk, but don’t drink it too hot.

Hot tea is the beverage of choice in many cultures around the world, and there may be more to this staple than just a bit of internal warming. Many studies over the years have suggested that tea could help prevent cancer.

“Teas – like other plant foods, herbs and spices and vegetables and fruits – contain some natural components that may be beneficial in terms of immunity and cancer-fighting potential when looked at in terms of a healthy diet,” says Stacy Kennedy, senior clinical nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. And it’s believed that phytochemicals or phytonutrients are the source of these protective qualities. “Phyto is just the Greek work for plant. It’s an umbrella expression for all the different things” that make up a plant’s goodness including antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, flavanols, catechins and polyphenols, among others.

The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that “thousands of phytochemicals have been identified so far, and scientists have only begun to investigate their promise,” but it’s believed that many of these compounds have health-boosting qualities, which is why they’re often cited in discussions of “superfoods.”

Jessica Swift, a registered dietitian and owner of Chef Jess, a meal delivery, catering and nutritional counseling service based in Washington, D.C., says that phytochemicals are “what protects the cells” from environmental damage that otherwise could result in mutations leading to cancer. “Cruciferous vegetables are really good” for providing the phytochemicals our bodies need to restore and repair themselves, Swift says. Other rich plant sources of these compounds include berries, leafy greens, garlic, nuts and seeds.

But tea – because it’s brewed by steeping leaves of certain plants in hot water – is also a great way to consume many of these compounds. “Specifically in green tea, there are some compounds that may have what we call antiangiogenics activity which is another way of saying ‘making it harder for [a cancer] tumor to make its own blood supply,’” Kennedy says.

Another benefit tea can offer is simple hydration. Swift says that side effects of some cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and other medications, can alter the way foods taste, making eating and drinking normally a challenge. “Especially during chemo you can get dehydrated.” Tea could be a solution for some patients who aren’t getting enough fluids. Kennedy recommends trying herbal teas “for dealing with the taste changes associated with chemotherapy. Sometimes [taste aversions are] a real barrier to getting the hydration that you need, so it can be a nice tool” to fend off dehydration.

Credit : health.usnews.com

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