Iced tea may have a bad reputation for containing sugary syrups and artificial colours
Iced tea may have a bad reputation for containing sugary syrups and artificial colours. But when prepared traditionally, this popular summer drink is far from unhealthy. Like its hot counterpart, when brewed from real tea leaves, iced tea packs a healthy antioxidant punch.
Discovered accidentally in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor when a leaf serendipitously fell into his cup of hot water, tea has been renowned for its health benefits for millennia.
Rich in natural flavonoids and low in calories, iced tea makes a healthy alternative to sweet sodas and fruit juices.
Brew it yourself
When it comes to antioxidant content, not all teas are created equal. Commercially bottled and instant teas often contain more sugar than they do real tea. To ensure you are getting all the benefits iced tea has to offer, avoid store-bought preparations and brew your own.
The following tips will help you get the best flavour and maximum amount of flavonoids from your tea.
When consumed regularly, both black and green tea have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol levels, reducing triglycerides, and improving blood flow.
In one population-based study, Japanese researchers found that adults who drank more than five cups of green tea a day had a 26 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those participants who drank less than one cup. A scientific review also suggests that individuals who consume three or more cups of green or black tea daily reduce their risk of stroke by 21 percent.
Emerging research suggests the polyphenols in tea may slow cognitive decline and ward off cell damage that leads to neurodegenerative diseases.
Preliminary studies have found that both black and green tea may inhibit an enzyme associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Of the two teas, green tea was found to be more effective, inhibiting the enzyme for approximately one week. Black tea was shown to inhibit the enzyme for a day.
Green tea’s brain-boosting benefits don’t stop there. Green tea polyphenols have also been shown to protect the brain from Parkinson’s disease. In one animal study, Chinese researchers found green tea polyphenols inhibited nitric oxide from causing cell death in dopamine neurons. The loss of dopamine-producing brain cells is directly linked with the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Japanese researchers found that when obese participants drank tea containing 583 mg of catechins—polyphenolic antioxidants—for 12 weeks, the group lost more overall body fat than the participants who consumed only 96 mg of catechins. The participants who drank the catechin-rich tea also benefited from a greater decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol.
Green tea contains particularly high amounts of the catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Multiple studies have linked consumption of EGCG to increased calorie expenditure and fat oxidation.
White tea, which contains even more catechins than green tea, is also showing promise as an effective defence against fat. In one laboratory study German researchers found that white tea may inhibit the development of new fat cells, while encouraging mature fat cells to break down.
Had a bad day? A tall glass of iced tea might make you feel better. Evidence suggests regular tea drinkers may respond better to stress than non-tea drinkers.
In one study researchers from the University College London put participants through a series of stressful tasks. Fifty minutes after completing the tasks, the individuals who had drank four cups of black tea daily for six weeks felt more relaxed and had significantly lower cortisol levels than those who did not drink tea.
Healthy herbal teas
US Department of Agriculture researchers found three popular herbal teas to be just as good for us as they taste. In the laboratory study, peppermint tea was shown to have strong antioxidant properties that ward off disease-causing tumours, microbes, and viruses. Camomile tea was also found to have antimicrobial properties, and teas containing hibiscus were shown to lower blood pressure.
In other studies, red rooibos (bush) tea is proving to be rich in heart-protecting antioxidants.