What instant iced tea is lacking in nutrition and antioxidants, it makes up for in potential dangers. Researchers have found that instant iced tea mixes, unlike freshly brewed teas, contain little to no antioxidants in their chemical makeup. What they found these commercial drinks to contain, however, are things we aren't so sure we want to be drinking: Fluoride, artificial sweeteners and the potentially dangerous preservative BHT.
Antioxidants Down to Dust
When tea leaves are turned to instant iced tea preparations, they are exposed to low pressure before being freeze dried and finally powdered—if it sounds like a fairly processed drink in the end, that's because it is. The USDA found that powdered iced tea drinks lose more than 90% of original antioxidant content, and some have none at all. Additional research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that pre-bottled iced green tea preparations are devoid of the nutritive polyphenols called catechins.
So What Are You Getting?
According to School of Medicine researchers, there are dangerously high levels of fluoride in instant tea and iced tea mixes. While the EPA sets the limit for fluoride consumption at 4ppm, some commercial tea mixes were found to contain upwards of 6.5ppm. Back in 2005, this made new headlines across the nation, as a middle-aged woman suffered from serious spine pain due to hyper-dense bones that came as a result of drinking commercial iced tea.
Inside your instant iced tea, you'll also find any number of additives ranging from artificial sweeteners to artificial dyes to preservatives like BHA. BHA is a controversial additive used to "preserve freshness" in our foods, and it's been linked to all types of organ toxicity. The National Institutes of Health cites several studies showing correlation between BHA and liver, thyroid and kidney problems in lab tests. And under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, BHA is listed as a chemical of potential concern due to its toxic nature and ability to bioaccumulate in the environment. Would you want this potentially hazardous chemical to bioaccumulate in your body over the years? Me neither.
Have a Taste
Here's just a sample of the ingredients from one name brand instant diet iced tea beverage: CITRIC ACID, MALTODEXTRIN, INSTANT TEA, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, ASPARTAME, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL FLAVOR, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, RED 40 LAKE, RED 40, YELLOW 6 LAKE, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1 LAKE, BHA (PRESERVES FRESHNESS).
There are many all-natural instant iced tea products on the market, but again, they'll be devoid of many antioxidants and may even contain harmful levels of fluoride. Do yourself a favor and savor the real deal: Homebrewed iced tea. It couldn't be simpler, folks. Get the skinny on making your own organic iced tea here, and relish in the fresh, delicious taste of the season.