When tea is just colored water and when it’s really beneficial

November 02, 2010
Volume 07    |   Issue 44

If you buy a bottle of green or black tea to quench your thirst, it may do just that. But if you’re choosing to drink tea for its beneficial polyphenols and other antioxidants, you’re wasting your money. You’re not getting a beverage with beneficial nutrients. You’re throwing your money away on colored water.

Researchers of a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed some stunning information. They found that you have to drink 20 bottles of tea to get the same amount of antioxidants in a single cup of brewed tea!

For this study, the researchers measured the levels of polyphenols in six different brands of green and black teas. They purchased all of these at a supermarket. Half of the bottles had no detectable amounts of antioxidants at all. The other half had levels of polyphenols that were so low it was doubtful that they could have any health benefits.

But that’s not all. Bottled teas are not only low in antioxidants. They’re frequently high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup (soon to be called “corn sugar”). That makes them little more than sugar water.

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When you brew a cup of either green or black tea, you’re getting from 50 to 150 milligrams of polyphenols. But some of the bottled teas tested for this study contained as few as 3, 4, and 40 milligrams.

One reason few people know that bottled teas are low in antioxidants is that they print their polyphenol content on their labels. This makes the polyphenol count look high. Don’t let this fool you. There are no industry or government standards for either measuring or listing polyphenols. So you can’t trust these labels.

What’s so special about polyphenols? They protect your cells from free radical damage. And they protect against cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory conditions.

One way you can know whether or not tea is high in polyphenols is how they taste. Polyphenols taste bitter and have a dry, astringent quality. To avoid these undesirable properties, many manufacturers just water down their teas. Or mask their taste with high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners.

If, like me, you like the taste of cold bottled tea and you want its beneficial antioxidants, brew a cup of tea at home and put it in a BPA-free (plastic, glass, or stainless steel) bottle. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight and keep it handy for those thirsty moments.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on colored water.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,



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