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updated: 6/20/2012 10:52 AM

Home-brewed tea more antiozidant rich than bottled brands

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  • Home-brewed iced tea is richer in antioxidants than commercially prepared versions.

    Home-brewed iced tea is richer in antioxidants than commercially prepared versions.
    Daily Herald File Photo


Q. Is bottled ready-to-drink tea as high in antioxidants as the tea I brew at home?

A. No, bottled tea is much lower in the polyphenol compounds that give black and green tea their antioxidant power.

Commercial teas do seem to vary somewhat, but even those reportedly highest in polyphenols, and the compound called EGCG in particular, don't contain anywhere near the amounts documented in standard brewed tea. The unsweetened versions are still excellent zero-calorie alternatives to sugar-laden soft drinks when you are not able to brew your own. However, brewing tea at home is both less expensive and higher in antioxidant polyphenols.

Although population studies show inconsistent evidence for tea reducing cancer risk, laboratory research suggests polyphenol compounds may act through pathways other than as antioxidants to reduce development of cancer, though more research is needed.

Brew up a pitcher and refrigerate to have a cool zero-calorie drink handy on hot summer days. Here's how: for concentrate, bring one quart of cold water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 8-10 tea bags for each quart of brewed iced tea. Steep 3-5 minutes. To serve, add to cold water and/or ice cubes. If it seems too hot even to boil water, you can brew tea overnight in the refrigerator by steeping a few tea bags in a pitcher of cold water.

Q. Is there a difference between seltzer, club soda and tonic?

A. All three drinks are clear and fizzy, but there are differences.

Tonic water is the clear standout because it is the only one with calories. Despite the slight bitter taste from added quinine, it is a sugar-sweetened drink with almost as many calories as regular cola. Diet tonic is available with zero-calories because of artificial sweeteners.

Seltzer is a zero-calorie drink because it is simply water fizzed up with carbon dioxide. Sodium content is essentially zero.

Club soda is similar to seltzer, except for various "salts" added to enhance flavor. In this case, "salts" does not refer only to sodium chloride (table salt), but to a variety of different mineral mixtures, that may be sodium-, potassium or magnesium-based. Therefore, sodium content of club soda varies among brands. An eight-ounce glass may contain as little as 10 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is negligible, or as much as 80 mg. Even the latter isn't a lot out of a daily maximum of 1500 or 2300 mg (depending on your age and health), but if you drink a lot it can add up.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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