Sweet Tea is Lowering Your Standards

Tea is commonly known as a healthier alternative to carbonated, sugary drinks like soda, juice, fancy coffee drinks, and energy drinks. This is pretty much true, if you’re drinking tea the right way. That is, if you are drinking freshly brewed herbal tea, or unsweetened iced tea. However, if you’re drinking sweetened tea, especially canned versions, the truth is, these sweetened tea drinks have almost as much sugar per ounce as a can of soda. This leads to a significant amount of tea drinkers to abusing these drinks, thinking they are taking the healthier route, when really, they are drinking an equally unhealthy drink, and probably drinking more of it thinking there is less harm.

Many people who drink sweet by default wrongly consider unsweetened tea to be bland and won’t drink it unless it has been sweetened. In fact, actually bland, bulk tea manufacturers take advantage of this and load up their products with sugar. McDonald’s, Lipton, and Arizona Iced Tea were the three worst offenders, with 69, 53, and 52.5 grams of sugar in a single serving respectfully. If you are one such individual, you may want to consider weaning yourself off sweet tea and other sugary drinks, or quitting cold turkey. You don’t have to do some fancy detox or fast, or even eliminate sugar entirely, but eliminating one major source of sugar intake from your daily diet can do your body a world of good.

It’s widely known that sodas are bad for you. There is nothing good about them, and are the poster product for empty calories (meaning, unlike a Snickers bar or bowl of fatty ice cream, they contain no nutritional benefit). They are packed with sugar, and many of them have caffeine, which is a highly addictive substance, and rightfully has a bad reputation. However, you often don’t spend too much time thinking about what makes it bad. Sodas are different from other drinks because they are carbonated, leading people to think that if they choose an uncarbonated drink, they are avoiding the bad stuff that’s in soda. However, it’s not the carbonation that makes sodas unhealthy, but the sugar. And similar amounts of sugar can be found in seemingly healthy drinks like fruit juices and sweet tea.

We know that sugar has negative effects, but we also know that the body needs sugar. What many of us don’t know, is how to differentiate between good sugar, bad sugar, too much sugar, and healthy amounts of sugar. Sugar has a whole handful of nasty side-effects that can hurt your body, and shorten your lifespan. It’s bad for your heart, damaging the pumping mechanism in your heart, and increases your chance of heart failure. It depletes leptin in the body, the hormone that tells you when you’ve had enough to eat. It increases the risk of cancer formation, and has negative effects on the liver, not dissimilar to alcohol. Not to mention the health complications from obesity that regular consumption of high-caloric drinks can lead to.

According to reporting from The Atlantic, “The American Heart Association recommends a reduction in sugar consumption from our current 22 teaspoons per day to six for women and nine for men.” We should find it more disconcerting that the average American intakes double and triple the recommended “safe” amount of sugar consumption.

Sugar is made up of two molecules: glucose and fructose. Glucose is an important nutrient, fructose is not. “As it turns out, there’s no biochemical reaction that requires dietary fructose.” Glucose can be found in lots of healthy, natural foods. Fructose cannot. Glucose is so important for the body, in fact, that your liver will produce it if you don’t get enough of it. So don’t think that you are doing your body any favors by drinking a can of soda a day. Even those tasty fruit juices aren’t so good for you.

Tea is good for you, if you aren’t buying sweet tea, or adding a spoonful to your unsweet stuff. Green tea is amazingly good for you, and has many proven benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants and nutrients that are great for your health. It can improve brain function, improve physical performance, and even prevent cancer.  In fact, green tea can actually lower blood sugar levels, and can prevent type 2 diabetes, and improve heart health. Studies show that it can help mitigate effects of starchy foods on blood sugar levels at the very least. But it can’t lower blood sugar if you’re adding sugar.

The problem is, these positive effects don’t really apply when you are sweetening the heck out of your tea. A Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino is not good for you by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just another sugar-filled drink that uses buzzwords to make you think you are being health-conscious. It has too much sugar in it, which negates most of the benefits of green tea. And if you can get yourself to a place where your tea isn’t medium for sugar-delivery, your favorite hot beverage can actually be a healthy alternative—not just one you’re pretending is healthier.

The Harvard School of Public health reports that 12 ounces of orange juice contain 10 teaspoons of sugar. If this is what you’re used to in your regular beverage, you will end up craving this same level of sweetness in your lemonade, cafe-drinks, and yes, even your beloved healthy alternative, tea.

The take-away from all of this is that yes, tea can be very good for you. Tea is good for you, but not if you’re turning it into a sugary drink not much better than soda. All you’re doing is putting your health at risk to mask the complex flavors of what may otherwise be a delicious cup of tea.

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