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posted: 11/5/2012 6:00 AM

Seven tips for tea drinkers

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1. "Tea catechins are stable in dry tea leaves but diminish as brewed tea is held/stored. To make sure you are consuming the tea phytonutrients (flavonoids) that may promote health, brew tea fresh," nutritionist Beverly Clevidence of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service said in an email. To maintain the healthful nutrients in tea, leaves should be kept away from light and heat in an airtight container.

2. Many people believe tea is dehydrating and don't recommend it as a hydrating fluid. But the National Academy of Sciences has refuted that claim, saying tea and coffee are as hydrating as water.

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3. Some avoid tea because of its effect on iron absorption, but the effect is small. If you have iron-deficiency anemia, drink tea between meals to minimize interference, and eat your iron-containing foods with vitamin C-containing foods to maximize iron absorption.

4. Milk (or any protein, for that matter) might bind with and prevent absorption of some flavonoids but could enhance absorption of others. Studies have been too limited to determine the extent of the effect.

5. Drink tea throughout the day to keep the flavonoids in your system and get maximum benefit -- various studies have suggested between one and six cups a day -- but don't forget a balanced diet.

6. Stick with the tea you enjoy most, whether white, green, oolong or black. All impart health benefits, and the studies are not detailed or numerous enough to choose one over another. "While fermentation causes green tea to become black, digestion may convert black tea back to green," said Jeffrey Blumberg, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts.

7. Be wary of bottled ready-to-drink teas or products containing tea extracts or supplements, as there is no way of knowing their flavonoid content, if any. (Many are very low or nonexistent.)

-- Katherine Tallmadge

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