Is Iced Tea Good for You?

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Shapiro_iced-tea_290316Is iced tea good for you? It’s a question pondered by some people who have switched from soda to iced tea.

Regularly consuming soda isn’t good for your health because of the often incredible amounts of sugar in it—in fact, some guidelines suggest that soda contains so much sugar that drinking it should really only be limited to special occasions, if ever.

Soda also contains coloring agents and other added chemicals to enhance the taste and visual appeal, and diet soda is even worse, because it’s often sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, both of which have extensive rap sheets of long-term side effects.
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You might turn to fruit juice, which would seem to be better for you, but that actually has a lot of sugar too (natural though it may be) and you shouldn’t exceed more than a cup a day. Energy drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine along with other additives that can have long-term side effects.

On the other hand, a glass of iced tea, depending on how it’s prepared and how sweet it is, can be ranked as a top beverage, easily be consumed many times a day, guilt-free—it might even have some added health benefits. So the answer to “Is iced tea healthy” is, in some ways, yes.

Iced Tea Calories

Is unsweetened iced tea good for you? As mentioned, the sugar in iced tea is what makes it unhealthy, so whenever possible opt for unsweetened tea. However, “unsweetened” doesn’t mean that it has to be completely devoid of sugar—you can add a bit, but no more than a teaspoon. Unsweetened iced tea has virtually no calories, which makes it a perfect drink for those watching their caloric intake. One cup of unsweetened iced tea has only two calories, which is basically nothing to worry about. Conversely, a cup of sweetened iced tea has 90 calories, so the difference between the two is substantial, especially over the course of a day’s consumption.

Also Read: 10 Amazing Health Benefits of Peppermint Tea

Benefits of Drinking Iced Tea

Nothing quite beats a cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer’s day. It’s undoubtedly refreshing and is a drink most everyone can have guilt free. A long-held belief in both the Ayurvedic tradition and in traditional Chinese medicine is that our bodies deal with warm and hot beverages far better than cold ones. This is because things that are cold are associated with contracting, shrinking, and tightening, and we want the body to stay supple and fluid.

So, is iced tea bad for you? Not at all, but that depends on the tea. It has a few health benefits, especially when considering the other available and unhealthy options.

  • As mentioned, unsweetened iced tea has practically no calories per cup; only two. Though not a health benefit per se, it can certainly be thought of as a dietary aid; a thirst-quencher for those who are watching their caloric intake. By comparison, a 12-ounce can of lemonade has 150 calories.
  • Tea is loaded with antioxidants that help fight off free radicals that contribute to premature aging or cause damage such as cancer. Depending on the type of tea used, the amount of antioxidants will vary. Green tea has more than black tea, and white tea and red tea don’t lag too far behind. Iced tea can be made from all of these tea varieties, so mix it up and try something new. Adding mint and lemon will provide further health benefits such as vitamin C and additional antioxidants.
  • Is iced tea a diuretic? Yes, the caffeine in tea makes it a diuretic, much like coffee. This is a good thing, though, because it helps eliminate excess sodium through urine, however, be careful because too much of it can dehydrate the body. It’s a good idea to balance your iced tea consumption with appropriate amounts of water to counteract the dehydrating effect.

Also Read: 5 Health Benefits of Oolong Tea for Skin, Energy and More!

How Much Iced Tea Is Good to Drink?

Is iced tea bad for your kidneys? Generally, no, but oddly enough, there was one case of a man who experienced kidney failure because of the amount of iced tea he drank, which was about a gallon per day (16 cups). The case was reported in a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it baffled doctors at first because many people in many parts of the U.S. drink copious amounts of iced tea without issue—though perhaps not a gallon per day, as that seems excessive for any liquid. But it did lead doctors to conclude that tea consumption could be a factor in the development of kidney problems, likely because of the oxalate content in the drink. An accumulation of oxalates in the body can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.

On that note, is green iced tea good for you? Where oxalates are concerned, the answer is a resounding yes. Green tea has far less oxalic acid than black tea, and oxalic acid is what binds to calcium to create kidney stones, so if these are a concern for you, switch your iced tea from black to green.

What about store brands? Is Lipton iced tea good for you, for example? Well, like anything you buy off the shelf, the best thing to do is pay attention to its ingredients. Chances are it’s packed with extra sugar and additives, so while you can drink it, the better option is to just make it yourself.

Iced Tea Recipe

There are many ways to make a refreshing batch of iced tea (really, your imagination is the only limit), but below is a basic iced tea recipe to get you started. Try to leave out the sugar to make the tea healthier, or switch it up by swapping out the black tea leaves for green tea leaves.

Smooth Sweet Tea

Boil two cups of water and add it to a pitcher with six tea bags and pinch of baking soda. Steep for 15 minutes. Remove teabags. Add three-quarters of a cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. Add six cups cool water and stir. Refrigerate. Add lemon slices for an added boost of flavor.

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Sources for Today’s Article
“Is Iced Tea Good for You?” MD Health web site; http://www.md-health.com/Is-Iced-Tea-Good-For-You.html, last accessed March 28, 2016.

“Unsweetened Iced Tea,” Fat Secret web site; https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/tea-iced-unsweetened, last accessed March 28, 2016.
“Calories in Iced Tea,” Fat Secret web site; https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/food/iced-tea, last accessed March 28, 2016.
“Which Is Better: Drinking Cold or Warm Water?” Healthy and Natural World web site; http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/drinking-cold-or-warm-water/, last accessed March 28, 2016.
“Iced Tea Danger: How Much Is Too Much?” Quick and Dirty Tips web site; http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/medical-conditions/iced-tea-danger-how-much-is-too-much, last accessed March 28, 2016.
“Iced Tea Recipes,” All Recipes web site; http://allrecipes.com/recipes/16363/drinks/tea/iced/, last accessed March 28, 2016.
“Oxalates in Tea: Comparison of Green, Oolong and Black Tea,” Heal with Food web site; http://www.healwithfood.org/articles/green-tea-oxalates.php, last accessed March 28, 2016.


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Dr. Jeffrey Shapiro, MD

About the Author, Browse Jeffrey's Articles

After receiving athletic and academic awards at Yale and Stanford, Jeff has coached those seeking peak wellness, appeared on ABC News 20/20 and served as a consultant for CBS News 60 Minutes and The Late Show with David Letterman. As the author of many research studies and practicing anesthesiology/critical care medicine for more than 20 years, Jeff can be your guide to common sense decision making regarding drugs, supplements and vitamins. With no corporate sponsors and no vitamins or supplements... Read Full Bio »