The Best and Worst Supplements, According to Dietitians

Earlier this year, a US scientist sparked a huge transatlantic debate on the topic of tea. In his book Sharp: The Chemistry of TeaBryn Mawr College chemistry professor Michelle Francl, PhD, claimed that a pinch of salt is the key to a perfect cup of tea.

Dr. Francl, who invested three years of research and testing for his book, wrote that the bitterness of the tea is reduced by adding a pinch of salt, because the sodium ions in the salt block the bitter receptors in our mouth.”

The claim sparked so much controversy that the US Embassy in London eventually felt the need to intervene. I social media post, he declared “good people of the United Kingdom that the unthinkable concept of adding salt to Britain’s national drink is not official US policy,” adding, “Let us unite in our fierce solidarity and show the world that when six to tea, we stand as one. The US Embassy will continue to make tea the right way – by microwaving it.”

Although that last statement was a joke, there is one brewing mistake that can have health consequences: water that is too hot. Not only does boiling water scald delicate tea leaves, leaving them with a bitter taste, but multiple studies have also linked drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. According to the authors of one such study, people who drank more than 700 milliliters (or two large cups) of tea per day at a temperature above 140 degrees F had a 90 percent higher risk of developing esophageal cancer than people who drank less tea and at cooler temperatures.

So if you drink a lot of tea, or if you have other risk factors for esophageal cancer, you may want to brew cold, or use lower temperature water.

Brewing methods aside, salt is just one of the unconventional things people add to tea, whether they’re hoping to enhance its flavor or add health benefits. We asked some experts to weigh in on some of those options, and here are the results.

1. Best: Mint

“I simply love the eye-opening aroma it provides,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, chef, nutritionist and author The Plant Diabetes Cookbook. Fresh peppermint has been shown to relieve digestive discomfort in those with irritable bowel syndrome.

Other research has found that the menthol in mint has a calming effect that can help reduce stress.

2. Worst: Salt

While salt may come off in terms of bitterness, from a health perspective, Newgent doesn’t recommend even a pinch. “Since Americans already get too much sodium — 3,400 milligrams (mg) instead of less than 2,300 mg per day — I don’t recommend adding salt to tea,” she says.

Besides, there are better ways to balance bitterness. “Anything sweet, including fruit, will do the trick,” she says.

3. Best: Fruits

The sweetness of fruit is far from its only benefit. Infusing tea with fruit will also add fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. “All fruits will pack an antioxidant punch, especially when they’re in season and at their peak ripeness, nutritional value and flavor,” says Newgent.

Her favorites are wild blueberries with black tea, peaches with white tea, and mango with green tea.

4. Worst: Sweeteners

Americans overdo the sweet stuff as it is, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that adult men consume, on average, 19 teaspoons (CTA) of added sugars per day and adult women 15 CTA. Excessive consumption of sugary drinks is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, so it makes sense to limit sugar whenever possible.

Artificial sweeteners are also controversial, especially when it comes to weight loss.

4. Best: Citrus Juice or Peels

Orange or lemon peel and juice not only enhance the taste of the tea but also have potential health benefits. “Lemon juice with a cup of tea will provide vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Keri Gans, RDN, a New York City nutrition consultant and author The Little Change Diet.

Likewise, citrus peels will provide “polyphenols, vitamin C, and a pleasant aroma,” says Newgent. There is even research linking citrus fruit intake to a reduced risk of lung cancer and neurological benefits

thanks to citrus flavonoids.

5. Worst: Essential Oils

You may see advice on social media about adding these flavored oils to tea or food. Essential oils are extracted from plants, but not all are safe to ingest. You must be sure that what you are using is food grade. Even then, it’s easy to overdo it as essential oils can be very powerful. “Although very limited use of essential oils, such as peppermint or lavender, can be pleasant, I generally recommend against using them in hot tea since essential oils are very concentrated,” says Newgent, and his Use in food is regulated equally strictly by the. US Food and Drug Administration as other ingredients. Also, because they are fat soluble, essential oils are best mixed with foods or drinks that contain some fat, instead of a water-based drink like tea.

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