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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 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.
@irontoenail - Unfortunately, green tea, and all the other hot drinks, have been associated with mouth and throat cancer, simply because people will often drink them when they are too hot.
If people are habitual tea drinkers, putting a bit of cold milk into the tea before drinking it can cool it down enough to make a difference.
They've also shown that the increase of fancy, milk based coffees has directly led to lower levels of osteoporosis in women.
So, don't throw out the milk altogether if you're really attached to it. Maybe have a couple of cups with milk and a couple without milk or something like that.
Or, if you don't like drinking milk in your tea, you might want to consider letting it sit for a while before drinking it.
It's burning that damages the tissues and leads to cancer later on. If your tea isn't hot enough to burn your mouth, then you are fine.
@Iluviaporos - That way you know you're getting relatively fresh whole leaf green tea, instead of the leaf dust they use in tea bags. I know they kind of have to, as people who use tea bags expect the water to darken right away and ground up bits of leaf enable that to happen through the bag.
But it's much lower quality than using the full leaf and it doesn't have as many benefits.
Another way to lessen the benefits of drinking green tea is to have it with milk.
Milk is good for you and tea is good for you, but together they aren't so good. I think the calcium blocks the absorption of the antioxidants or something.
I know most people wouldn't put milk into green tea anyway but it's good to keep that in mind, since it applies to black tea as well.
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.