Are you one of the many people who enjoy iced tea as a summer refresher? Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, but did you know it can also provide some health benefits?
Tea contains flavonoids – anti-oxidant compounds that are beneficial in protecting cells and tissues from the damage that can lead to chronic disease. Black tea and green tea are made from the same tea leaves, but for black tea the leaves are fermented. White tea is from the same plant, but is grown and processed slightly differently. All teas (including decaffeinated types) contain the flavonoids epigallo catechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epigallo catechin (EGC), and epicatechin.
Iced tea is often enjoyed as a change from soda. Commercially bottle iced tea is widely available. Look for a tea with no added sugar to save calories. (Tea itself has no calories.) Sweetened teas often have about the same calorie and sugar content as soda. Some brands, for example Honest Tea, are more lightly sweetened. Be careful about portion sizes. Bottled/canned iced tea sometimes comes in large containers, so the total calories and sugar content may be more than you expect. When comparing containers, remember to multiply the calories per serving by the number of servings per container. Everyone loves the "bargain" of a big can of ice tea for 99 cents, but each can contains several servings and as much as 17 teaspoons of sugar!
You can brew your own tea using boiling water and loose tea or tea bags. This can then be chilled or poured over ice to make iced tea. You can also make sun tea by leaving a container of water with tea bags sitting in the sun. The FDA does not recommend this popular method, however, because sometimes undesirable bacteria can develop in sun tea. The FDA recommends using the boiling water method or allowing tea to steep in the refrigerator rather than the sun.
If you make your own tea you can flavor it with lemon or fresh mint sprigs for a refreshing calorie free drink. If you prefer a sweetened tea you can add sugar, honey, or an artificial sweetener and sweeten to your taste.
There are many powdered iced tea mixes, including those that make single servings. Some are sweetened with sugar and some with artificial sweeteners. They may have various food additives or artificial colors in addition.
You may have heard that caffeine has a dehydrating effect, but studies have not shown this to be a significant issue. So it is OK to use iced tea as part of your summer hydration plan. Sip and enjoy!
copyright 2016 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN