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Bottled Tea: What is Missing?

Tea Bagsphoto © 2010 Kate Ter Haar | more info (via: Wylio) We have all heard the numerous studies and stories that tout the health benefits of drinking tea. Did you know that second to water, tea is the most highly consumed beverage in the world? But when it comes to bottled tea, this is definitely a case of: “Buyer Beware.” A recent study found that bottled tea contains very low levels of antioxidants when compared with brewed tea.

Recent studies have raved about the antioxidant properties of tea as an effective aid in battling cancer, reducing heart disease, and preventing risks of other illnesses. Further, studies have revealed that tea is an effective metabolism booster and it is suggested that those working towards weight loss should consume more tea. In the United States alone, the sale of tea has quadrupled in the last two decades. What naturally followed such a demand? Manufacturers creating bottled tea as a healthy choice in lieu of soda and juice.

But, is bottled tea really all that healthy? In the age where packaging catches the eye quicker than the list of ingredients, recent researchers have put it to the test. Research presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed bottled tea may not be living up to the antioxidant properties their reputation purports. Polyphenols, the healthy antioxidants in tea, are scarcely found in most bottled teas. This recent study tested six brands of bottled tea purchased from the supermarket, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to measure the polyphenolic content. Shiming Li, Ph.D., who reported on the research, was surprised by the low pholyphenol content and stated: “Someone would have to drink bottle after bottle of these teas in some cases to receive health benefits.”

Further, taste matters. When you drink regular tea straight, you know that it often has a bitter and astringent taste. What’s responsible for that taste? Polyphenols. Yet many people dislike the strong taste of tea. Manufacturers are aware of this and respond by using less tea and adding more sugar per bottle. Now you have added sugar and extra calories, and you have lost significant antioxidant content. Keep in mind that while bottled tea often lists polyphenolic content on its labels, the amounts are not regulated by the government. The bottom line is that there is no bottled tea out there that is going to bring you more benefits than the fresh tea you brew at home.

What do do? Brew it yourself! Get all the antioxidant benefits at a fraction of the cost when you brew your own tea. In the study mentioned above, of the six bottled teas, the best-case scenario of antioxidant content was just over 80 milligrams of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle; the worst was a mere 3 mg of polyphenols. Compare this to home-brewed tea (black or green), which can have 50 to 150 milligrams in just one cup.

To make your own tea in bulk, simply bring water to a boil, then pour into a separate bowl and steep 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh tea or herbs per cup of water. To extract the most beneficial compounds, cover it and let it steep for three to five minutes. Then strain into glass pitcher and put in the refrigerator, where you can drink at your leisure or pour into a thermos for traveling. Prefer tea bags? Use one tea bag per cup of water.

Benefits of tea?

• Green tea: increases mental acuity and protects against heart disease; just add a twist of lemon to help absorb the antioxidants into your bloodstream

• Mint tea: settles the stomach and alleviates gas

• Ginger tea: soothes digestion and fires up your energy

• Chamomile tea: calms the nervous system and relaxes the muscles; drink an hour before bedtime.

To add sweetness, use a little honey, stevia products or a stick of cinnamon.

Sources: Dr. Maoshing Ni; health.yahoo.net

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