Summertime Thirst Quenchers: More Than You Bargained For (Part 2)

Last week[1] we looked at iced coffee drinks. I have to admit that, since I’m not much of an iced coffee drinker, I was a little surprised at how the calories and carbohydrate can add up — especially with the frozen cappuccino versions. This week, I thought I’d take a look at iced tea, another popular summertime drink (and one that I happen to prefer!).

First, a little bit of iced tea trivia:

It’s also worthwhile to summarize the health benefits of tea. Tea is rich in antioxidants[2], which are thought to protect the body’s cells against all kinds of harm. Drinking tea may do the following:

(Coffee, too, has some redeeming health qualities, such as reducing the risk of Parkinson disease, diabetes[7], cirrhosis [a disease of the liver], and gallstones).

A new study just published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that black tea contains a substance that works just like the diabetes medicines acarbose (brand name Precose) and miglitol (Glyset), which slow down the breakdown of starch into glucose in the digestive tract.

Iced tea is thought to have the same health benefits as drinking hot tea. But, of course, drinking iced tea laden with sugar isn’t all that nutritious. Take, for example, Snapple Lemon Tea: 8 ounces contain 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrate (all of it coming from sugar). This doesn’t seem too bad, until you remember the cardinal rule of label reading: Always check the serving size. A bottle of Snapple is 16 ounces, and since most people would drink the entire bottle, you’d end up with 160 calories and 42 grams of carbohydrate. On the other hand, Snapple Diet Lemon Tea contains just 10 calories and 0 grams of carbohydrate in 8 ounces, so 16 ounces would contain 20 calories. (This beverage is sweetened with aspartame.)

Snapple also offers an English Breakfast Black Tea that’s “lightly sweetened” — it contains just 40 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate for 8 ounces. But the catch is that the entire bottle is 17.5 ounces; drinking that would give you almost 90 calories and roughly 22 grams of carbohydrate.

Finally, let’s look at iced tea from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and McDonald’s:

Dunkin’ Donuts
Small (16-ounce) Freshly Brewed Sweetened Iced Tea: 80 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate
Small (16-ounce) Freshly Brewed Unsweetened Iced Tea: 5 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate

Grande (16-ounce) Tazo Black Shaken Iced Tea: 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrate

Small (16-ounce) Sweet Tea: 120 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate

And if you’re a frappucino-lover, the Tazo Green Tea Frappucino Blended Crème from Starbucks contains 490 calories and 82 grams of carbohydrate in a Grande (16-ounce) size! Gulp that down!

The good news is that Dunkin’ Donuts offers an unsweetened iced tea. If you choose this, you can then decide to add the sweetener of your choice or to drink it straight. Another option is to brew your own tea at home. This not only allows you to control the level of sweetness, it’s a lot easier on your wallet, too.

One final note: If you drink a lot of tea or coffee (hot or cold), keep an eye on the caffeine. Too much caffeine can make you jittery and nervous, may speed up your heart rate, and can keep you awake at night, so switching to a decaffeinated variety might be a good idea.

  1. Last week:
  2. antioxidants:
  3. heart disease:
  4. cholesterol:
  5. bones:
  6. oral health:
  7. diabetes:

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.