Green tea vs turmeric vs cocoa
Nutritionist Georgios Tzenichristos reveals what is best for your post-Christmas detox
With Christmas over and New Year resolutions looming, most people are looking to popular superfood ingredients, especially turmeric, matcha tea and cocoa, to help them detox from the festive excesses. London-based nutritionist Georgios Tzenichristos has looked into the benefits and nutrient content of each of these popular superfoods and has come to some interesting findings.
According to Georgios, each of these food ingredients have a key active molecule, responsible for the vast majority of their health and detoxifying benefits. Turmeric has curcumin, green tea has a molecule called EGCG, while cocoa contains flavanols, all at different concentrations in relation to each other. So which super-ingredient is more "super" than the rest?
EGCG vs curcumin vs cocoa flavanols
“I am a big fun of all three nutrients, but in terms of simplicity, concentration and cost, it’s a no brainer”, Georgios simply comments. “If I had to choose one of those famous super ingredients, that would be the humble green tea. A cup is easy to prepare, costs next to nothing and provides you with a whooping 7% active molecules (EGCG), the most of any other drink or food. This is in contrast to turmeric, which is a hassle to prepare and only contains 2% active (curcumin). Plain cocoa fares even worse, as it usually needs milk and sugar to be palatable and only contains 0.5% actives (flavanols). For comparison, blueberries, the kings of antioxidants contain just 0.2% proanthocyanidins.”, Georgios informs.
All three superfood actives have quite similar and diverse health benefits, with curcumin more known as an anti-inflammatory, EGCG well known as an all round health booster and cocoa flavanols renowned for their cardiovascular health benefits. So looking at the evidence, no scientist could really decide on which ingredient is best, quality-wise.
Quality vs concentration?
However, quantity-wise, things are much simpler. Looking at the concentration of each active, it is quite easy to pick a winner: green tea contains 14x more polyphenols than cocoa and 3.5x more curcumin (and 35x more than blueberries). Green tea takes five minutes to prepare, is super cheap and is widely available. On the other hand, curcumin needs another drink, such as a protein shake or a latte, to be added to, and will stain your teeth and everything it gets in contact with. And cocoa needs a protein shake too or milk and sugar - not the best way to “detox”.
“With five cups of green tea a day you can get 350mg of EGCG, i.e. an amount compared to that used in clinical studies. On the other hand, to have 1000mg of curcumin used in many studies, you need 20 spoonfuls of turmeric. That’s a lot of turmeric lattes!”, Georgios adds. “And you don’t even need to use matcha tea to get the benefits. Matcha is very hip and Instagrammable but it typically contains the same amount of EGCG as a normal quality green tea, with just a lot more caffeine, at 10x times the price. Not really worth it.”, Georgios says.
High flavanol cocoa
“High flavanol cocoa, on the other hand, may contain as much actives as green tea: a whooping 8% flavanols. But it is more costly, almost impossible to source (most commercial varieties contain just 1-2% flavanols) and still needs a drink to be added to, such as a protein shake or milk, as well as sugar or stevia, so it does not really compare well”, Georgios explains.
The ultimate detox drink
So if you are looking for a drink to help you detoxify and fill your body with antioxidants this year, green tea is the simplest and most effective choice. On the other hand, if you are a perfectionist and are looking for the ultimate “detox drink”, why not add some turmeric, matcha tea and high flavanol cocoa in a whey protein shake, sweetened with some stevia? It may not taste or look great, but it will provide you with the ultimate in antioxidant (polyphenol, more correctly) goodness.
Happy New 2018!
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