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Green tea has long been touted as a supreme health drink, full of beneficial properties. Thanks to its hyped popularity, green tea is now available in a million variations, from loose, single-estate leaves to bottled varieties in dozens of flavors. To understand whether flavored green tea is as healthy as regular green tea, it is important to understand what makes the tea healthy in the first place.
Green tea comes from the mature leaf of the camellia sinensis plant, which also produces white and black tea. The tea is beneficial thanks to a high natural content of compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown in numerous studies to act as powerful antioxidants and reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and hypertension. It is also believed to stimulate metabolism, and plays a part in many natural weight loss diets. Generally, the more flavonoids, the more effective the tea.
Flavored green teas may have diminished benefits not always due to the fact that they are flavored, but instead that they are so far away from the original flavor-packed leaf. Bottled green tea has likely gone through a variety of processes that greatly reduce the flavonoid content. In studies on green tea products, bottled, decaffeinated, teabag, and instant varieties of green tea have been found to retain far lower levels of flavonoids than fresh green tea made from loose leaves.
Another reason that flavored green tea may be less healthy than regular green tea is that it is often heavily sweetened. Covering up the natural taste of green tea with artificial flavors and tons of sugar or no-calorie sweetener can quickly tip the balance from healthy to unhealthy. In addition to lower flavonoid levels, some bottled or canned flavored green tea drinks have as much sugar as soda. Artificial coloring and flavoring agents may also counteract any benefits, and some health professionals even believe that an excess of such compounds can increase risk for some cancers.
Flavored green tea can be as healthy as regular green tea as long as it is prepared correctly. Using fresh, loose leaf blends is the best way to get all the health benefits with none of the extra sugar or extraneous ingredients. There are many ways to buy healthy flavored green tea, thanks to a growing population of tea merchants that blend and ship loose leaf tea. Check online or at a favorite tea and coffee shop for loose leaf flavored green tea by weight. Some popular combinations include jasmine green tea, citrus green tea, and mint green tea.
There are lots of boutique tea shops around which will sell you wonderful combinations of flavored teas, whether they be green, red, white and black.
One of my favorites was an oolong tea with dried blueberries, which gave it a wonderful color as well as a sweet flavor, without adding any additional sugar or artificial sweeteners.
I don't think blueberries would go as well with green tea, but try it with something like kiwi or melon maybe, fresh or dried.
Buying from those little tea shops will support local businesses as well, since they usually buy in the tea leaves themselves (try to make sure they do it fair trade) and mix their own signature combinations.
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