Most of us know that tea is brimming with antioxidants and health benefits--or is it? A recent study found that bottled tea contains very low levels of antioxidants when compared with brewed tea.

Bottled Tea: What’s Missing

It is no coincidence that tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world, after water. In recent years numerous studies have touted antioxidant-rich tea as an effective aid in combating cancer, reducing heart disease, and preventing other illness risks. In response to these findings, tea sales in the United States have increased fourfold in the past two decades. With the increasing demand for tea, manufacturers began supplying bottled teas as a health-conscious alternative to soft drinks and sugary juices.

But how healthy is bottled tea? Research presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed that health-savvy consumers of bottled tea may not be getting their antioxidant bang for their buck. The healthy antioxidants--called polyphenols--that are responsible for tea’s ability to protect our cells from free radical damage are barely present 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.”

Would You Like Tea with Your Sugar?

Bottle tea-makers know that taste matters. The healthy polyphenols in tea are what give tea its bitter and astringent taste. Since not everyone is a fan of these flavors, manufacturers respond in kind 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 may be incorrect; there are currently no industry or government standards for listing the polyphenolic compounds of a given product.

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.

If You Want Something Done Right, 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.

Some tasty tea options that bring many benefits to the table include:

• 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.

• Herbal combinations: Consider trying the Tao Tea Collection, a set of healing bagged teas for internal cleansing, calming your emotions, and promoting balance.

Add a twist of lemon, a sprig of mint, rosemary, or a handful of fresh basil for an aromatic flavor burst. The possibilities for combination are endless! To add sweetness, use a little honey, stevia products or a stick of cinnamon.

Not sold? Think about this: While buying a bottled tea from the store could cost upwards of three dollars, a tea bag won’t set you back more than a quarter.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!


(c) Ask Dr. Mao, Yahoo Health 

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.