Many different cultures have enjoyed traditional and herbal teas for centuries. Over time, preparation methods have evolved. What began as a warm beverage in several regions throughout Asia, tea may now be consumed chilled or sweetened. Although scientific research is lacking to distinguish between the pros and cons of sweetened vs. unsweetened tea, a moderate amount of tea is generally safe for most people. Consult with your health care provider prior to ingesting tea.
Although tea is purported to contain zero calories, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clarifies that products contains fewer than 5 calories may be labeled as having zero calories. In actuality, all teas contain marginal amounts of calories. The USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory reports that 1 cup of chamomile tea provides a meager 2 calories. The low caloric nature of unsweetened tea, in conjunction with a nutritious diet and adequate physical activity, may help to promote and sustain weight loss efforts.
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Although the benefits of several types of tea vary, research supports the general consumption of tea as a blood-glucose stabilizer. A study published in the April 2008 edition of "Journal of Food Biochemistry" discovered that tea inhibits the activities of the enzyme known as alpha-glucosidase. Alpha-glucosidase regulates the absorption of glucose by the small intestine. The absorption rate of glucose accounts for blood-glucose fluctuations, which may affect appetite and energy levels. Unsweetened tea is preferable over sweetened tea as sweetened tea contains sugar that may induce spikes in blood-glucose levels. Unsweetened tea is also the safest option for those diagnosed with diabetes.
Flavor is the primary disadvantage of unsweetened tea. Some people are unable to tolerate unsweetened beverages. As such, they may miss out on the antioxidant benefits of tea, such as slowed age progression and cancer prevention. Drinking black tea -- unsweetened or sweetened -- might also cause side effects, because it's higher in caffeine than some other types of tea. If you're sensitive to caffeine, you might feel anxious or face difficulty sleeping.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
Use low-sugar sweeteners to sweeten tea without significantly boosting your calorie and sugar intake. For instance, try steeping your tea long with fresh sugar or lemon slices to add natural flavor and, in the case of orange, sweetness. Alternatively, steep your tea with sliced strawberries. If you're concerned about the caffeine content of unsweetened black tea, opt for decaffeinated teas, or opt-for lower-caffeine options, such as green and white tea. You can also reach for herbal teas, such as peppermint tea, which are naturally caffeine-free.