"It's the healthiest thing I can think of to drink," says Dr. Christopher Ochner, nutrition research scientist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. What trendy advance in food technology is Ochner talking about? Plain green tea, which has been regularly consumed in China for over a thousand years.
Google “green tea health benefits” and you’ll find a lengthy list of dubious New Age-y claims, suggesting that regular consumption might help with everything from cancer to belly fat. However, research demonstrates that green tea improves blood flow and lowers cholesterol, in the process lowering blood pressure and decreasing risk of congestive heart failure. It does also seem to stabilize blood sugar for people with diabetes.
Oh, and there’s the brain benefits.
Multiple recent studies have suggested that consuming a compound found in green tea—EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate—reduces the formation of amyloid beta proteins, which occurs when certain larger proteins break down. These amyloid beta proteins accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, and are believed to clog up the works and help bring on the disease. Inflammation is also thought to play a role in dementia, and green tea is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
With no calories or sugar of its own, you can feel free to guzzle basically as much green tea as you’d like—as long as you drink it in the morning, before the caffeine can interfere with your sleep patterns. If straight green tea is too bitter for you, check out your local hippie grocery store to experiment with different blends. (And of course, check any pre-bottled tea for added ingredients, including sugar.)
Now, what to pair with your mug of green tea?
How about carrots?
One of the EGCG studies also examined the effects of a substance called ferulic acid, found in, among other foods, carrots. Mice bred to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s were fed either ECGC, ferulic acid, both, or neither. The mice fed both regained their ability to navigate a Y-shaped maze as well as a healthy mouse.
Of course, as with any mouse study, we have to take the findings with a certain grain of salt. Mice aren’t people. Still, in the meantime while we wait for human trials, increasing your carrot count can’t hurt; they’re loaded with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants.
And if munching on some raw carrots feels too much like eating rabbit food, check out this easy, tasty carrot ginger soup that’s perfect for a gray day.