Is Iced Tea Good For You?
Summer is almost here and with it a whole ton of heat waves and hot long days. What pairs perfectly with our warm weather struggles? Yeah, you guessed it, iced tea!
The refreshing flavor of crisp iced tea helps keep us feeling cool and revitalized by replenishing our body's fluid levels during the warmer months.
We just can’t get enough of iced tea. Iced tea is incredibly popular, and in fact, Americans are much fonder of iced tea than they are of hot tea.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, approximately 75-80% of tea consumed in America is iced.
However, while iced tea is clearly a favorite that we all love and can’t get enough of, there is a problem that plagues many people’s minds while sipping on iced tea on a warm day: ‘Is iced tea good for me’? Iced tea may be the perfect summertime drink — cold and refreshing, and works wonderfully with many added fruits and flavorings, but if you drink iced tea all summer long, are you making a healthy choice?
Well, iced tea is a great source of hydration. Actually, The Harvard School of Public Health lists tea as the second best source of hydration second only to water. Typically made using black, white, or green tea herbs, iced tea can also provide a plethora of health benefits from the tea’s vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In terms of comparing the herb health perks of hot tea and iced tea, they have nearly identical health properties, especially considering iced tea is usually just chilled tea that was brewed hot originally.
Nonetheless, people usually expect iced tea to be sweet or have some extra fruit flavor, so iced tea usually features some kind of sweetener, especially a fruit-flavored syrup, for extra taste.
This is especially true when buying bottled iced tea. Some bottled iced teas have more sugar, additives, and artificial flavoring than soda. And when ordering iced tea from a café or restaurant, there’s usually no way of knowing what you’re getting in your iced tea as there are no nutritional labels.
So, when answering the question of whether ‘iced tea is good for you’, our answer to that question is yes and no… iced tea can be excellent for you but is not always so healthy. It depends. Some iced tea options are better than others. Here’s what we want you to consider before drinking your next glass of iced tea this summer.
What To Consider
Consider the Added Sugar
When loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners, the amazing health properties that come from drinking tea, which have the potential to help boost your immune system, fight off inflammation, improve heart health, and even potentially even reduce your risk of cancer, can be ruined because high sugar intake reduces the absorption of crucial vitamins and minerals.
One may think that grabbing an instant iced tea packet or a bottle of iced tea is a healthier choice than drinking soda, but many times you’ll get just as much sugar. While tea herbs have potential benefits, as we just mentioned the influence of excess sugar on vitamins and minerals intake is significantly negative and detrimental to overall health.
Just to give you an idea of just how much sugar can be in iced tea, let’s look at an example.
For your reference, the American Heart Association recommends that men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day and that women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) of added sugar per day.
Using instant iced tea packets or drinking bottled iced teas can get you well over this recommended added sugar max. For example, Tazo Hibiscus Passion Iced Tea has 3.5 servings per container and contains 16 grams of added sugar per serving. A bottle of Pure Leaf Raspberry Tea will set you back a whopping 46 grams of added sugar.
Brands might advertise that they only contain real sugar like cane sugar or coconut sugar. However, it’s still added sugars and many times a heck ton of added sugar, so we still need to be cautious.
Make sure to also be wary of those same brands that label their iced teas as “less sweet” or “slightly sweetened”, as they can still be very high in sugar - it’s relative to the original iced tea. Take for example Gold Peak Slightly Sweet Tea: it still has 24 grams of sugar because it’s compared to the whopping 48 grams of sugar in the brand’s Sweet Tea.
Iced tea might be a delicious beverage but it is so very often sweetened iced tea, especially in the South, and sadly this high sugar content wrecks the tea’s health benefits.
It doesn’t have to be all bad though. Opt for unsweetened iced teas. If a bottled iced tea is labeled “unsweetened” it will be either very low-calorie or calorie-free and won’t contain any added sugar. If you like having some kind of sweetness you can always mix in a teaspoon of pure maple syrup or honey, this will give you some sweetness, but with a lot less sugar, unlike the presweetened iced teas.
Learn about healthier natural sugar alternatives, so you can ditch sugar and make better choices for your health: Sugar Alternatives 101: Find The Sweet Spot For Your Health
Consider That There Will Be Fewer Antioxidants
Antioxidants are natural molecules that help neutralize free radicals in the body cells and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation. One of the most popular health perks of tea is the incredible number of antioxidants you can get from tea herbs.
Many teas contain high concentrations of antioxidants such as EGCG and catechins. If you’re looking to drink a dose of antioxidants by drinking iced tea, be warned that there might not be as many antioxidants in your iced tea.
As we mentioned earlier, hot tea and iced tea should have comparable health properties because iced tea at the end of the day is chilled tea that was brewed hot originally. However, many powdered instant iced tea mixes and bottled teas are actually low in antioxidants when compared to freshly brewed tea.
Instant iced tea is often highly processed and made with spent tea leaves or fermented leaves. The liquid extract is concentrated under low pressure and converted to powder by the spray-drying process. This processing can cause instant iced tea to lose over 90% of its antioxidant content.
Bottled iced teas also struggle with keeping their original antioxidants. According to a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, commercially produced bottled green tea beverages contain fewer flavonoids called catechins than that found in the original green tea. The study suggested that other ingredients used in the production of iced tea drinks such as flavorings and sugars dilute antioxidants and might even interact with green tea catechins and affect their stability. Storage and transport might also play a role in degradation.
All-in-all, if you want to enjoy the antioxidant benefits of iced tea, brewing your own iced tea or even opting for freshly brewed iced teas when eating out will help you reap the antioxidant health benefits when you drink iced tea.
Consider More Teas Than Green
One last thing we want you to consider when drinking iced tea for wellness is to consider more than just green iced tea. Most people pick it just because green tea is touted by many health communities and influencers as the healthiest tea because it has been shown to have stronger antioxidant properties than black tea, but the truth is you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one tea.
There are thousands of different types of tea, with each variety yielding a unique flavor and health capabilities.
Don’t get us wrong, green tea is amazing and a great source of the powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). However, we encourage you to explore different tea herbs and blends. Different herbs have different incredible healthy abilities for your body to enjoy and flavors for you to try. Tea blends are especially great for iced tea as they can make for exciting and flavorful iced tea without the addition of sugar.
Here at Wise Ape Tea Co., we actually have the perfect teas for you to create some amazingly yummy healthy wellness-driven iced teas. Wise Ape Tea combines premium tea with adaptogenic herbs, crafted to create bright, flavorful organic wellness-driven tea combos.
What To Do: Brew Your Own
Don’t be blinded by iced tea’s health halo. Many bottled iced teas, iced tea powders, and cafe-served iced tea can be not so healthy, due to them potentially being highly processed and loaded with flavorings and sugars.
Luckily though, this doesn’t mean we have to stop drinking iced tea all summer long. Iced tea can be an incredibly healthy beverage. Not only is iced tea a sweet way to change up your pace of drinking plain water to keep you hydrated but it has many other benefits including strengthening immune system, boosting bone health, and improving overall cardiovascular health by encouraging higher fatty acid oxidation and metabolic activity.
The best way to reap all the incredible benefits of drinking iced tea is to make your own unsweetened iced tea at home. Iced tea is cheap and easy to make at home, and most importantly it’ll be way healthier and should contain a much higher antioxidant content, unlike its processed counterpart.
Opting for unsweetened iced tea will increase your intake of essential nutrients and compounds and lead you to avoid the nutritional disadvantages associated with many processed iced teas.
How to Make Unsweetened Iced Tea?
Wellness-driven homemade iced tea should be healthy and contain little to no calories and sugar. But how do you make a refreshing sugar-free iced tea that’s still fun and flavorful and counteracts tea’s bitter taste without adding artificial flavorings or sugar?
Here’s our recommendation for making healthy and bright iced tea:
Brew your tea bag or loose-leaf tea for about 5 to 7 minutes in hot water. Remove the tea bag or herbs. Let the tea chill in the refrigerator rather than immediately adding ice — to preserve the flavor.
For an extra flavor punch or to counteract any slight bitter taste in your tea without the addition of added sugar, toss in mint leaves, frozen berries, orange slices, or basil leaves. You could even use a small amount of a healthy pure natural sweetener like pure honey, monk fruit, or stevia drops for a natural dose of sweetness. When choosing one of these natural iced tea flavor additions choose one that balances well with the variety of the flavor of the tea you’re using.
Toss your pure natural iced tea flavor addition into a glass with ice, pour your tea in, stir, and voila… a yummy and healthy iced tea you can drink all throughout the warmer months, with all the health perks of hot tea.
If you want to up your flavor game, choose a tea blend that packs a punch and that’ll enrich your tastebuds and body.
As we mentioned earlier, here at Wise Ape we craft tea blends that combine flavor and function. Wise Ape Tea combines premium tea with adaptogenic herbs, crafted to create bright, flavorful organic wellness-driven tea combos, designed to support your brain, body, and wellness evolution.
What is your FAVORITE Iced Tea?
This informative article is written, by Sophia McKenzie. Sophia is head content creator and writer, for several premium websites, where her expertise lies in health, nutrition, and wellness. Her content focuses on providing and sharing doable solutions to help people truly thrive and live their happiest, healthiest, fulfilled lives.