Tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage in the world, taking a back seat only to water. The popularity and variety of bottled teas has grown, fueled by the news that tea drinking has been linked with several health benefits. “Tea contains antioxidants (specifically, polyphenols) that can reduce the risk of many types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, and degenerative diseases,” explains Tanya Freirich, MS, RD, CDN, a dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
In addition, studies have found that sweetened beverages, including sugary sodas and some fruit drinks, are associated with several chronic health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, pre-diabetes and diabetes, and a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Since this information has come to light, many health-conscious consumers have switched from high-sugar drinks to low- or no-sugar bottled teas.
The benefits of tea
Phytonutrients called polyphenols are found in all brewed teas, including green, black, oolong, and white tea. Research suggests that polyphenols are key to tea’s health benefits. Other studies have found links between drinking tea and lower cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of stroke. Drinking tea also helps you meet your fluid needs and helps keep you adequately hydrated.
Check your serving size
The nutritional information in our chart (below) is based on the suggested serving size on most tea drinks: 8 ounces. However, most bottles are larger and provide more than a single serving of tea. Be aware that, if you drink the entire bottle, you’re consuming multiple servings, and you should multiply the calories and sugar accordingly. “Some bottled teas contain as much added sugar as sodas,” says Freirich, “so always read the nutrition label and ingredient list to check for sugar and calories.”
The healthiest tea is DIY
Although bottled teas are convenient, they may fall short when compared to tea brewed in your own kitchen. When tea is bottled and processed to make it shelf-stable for months, the polyphenol content can be significantly decreased. An average cup of brewed tea has 50 to 150 milligrams (mg) of polyphenols, while some bottled teas contain only 3 to 81 mg per 16-ounce bottle. Although most labels don’t identify the amount of polyphenols in bottled tea drinks, it’s important to check the ingredient list to ensure the beverage contains real tea or tea leaves; otherwise, it’s just a “tea-flavored” drink.
The best tea drink is the one you brew at home. Simply place four tea bags into a glass pitcher, add one quart of boiling water, allow it to brew, and serve the tea over ice. Or, make your favorite tea one cup at a time. Enjoy it hot or pour it over ice in a large glass. You can even create your own blends, such as lavender or peppermint herbal teas combined with green or white tea. For extra flavor, add slices of cucumber or citrus and herbs such as fresh mint or basil. Adding lemon juice increases your absorption of some of the antioxidants in tea. For a sweet twist, add a bit of your favorite fruit juice or fruit purée.
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