Popularized at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, iced tea is a summertime staple.

After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and in addition to hydration, tea offers many health benefits. The Harvard School of Public Health rates tea, including unsweetened iced tea, as one of the healthiest beverages. All varieties of tea (green, black, oolong, and white) come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. While called "teas" herbal teas are not actually tea, but infusions of various herbs and do not provide the same health benefits as traditional teas.

There are plenty of good reasons to enjoy a cold glass of ice tea this summer, including:

Naturally low calorie

Replacing high-calorie drinks such as soda, sweet tea and lemonade with unsweetened ice tea, you can significantly cut calories. One 12 ounces serving of soda, regular lemonade or sweet tea averages 125 calories, while 12 ounces of unsweetened tea equivalent has only 2 calories. Garnish with fresh fruit, mint or a squeeze of lemon juice to enhance tea’s flavor. If you prefer sweetened tea, you can opt for low-calorie natural sweeteners such as stevia.

Weight loss aide

Drinking very low calorie beverages aids hydration and can help to reduce food cravings and hunger sensation. Recent research has identified stimulant substances found in tea that provide minor increases in metabolic rate and fat burning, aiding weight loss. All tea contains these substances, but green tea has the highest ratio of fat burning substances.

Loaded with antioxidants

Brewed iced tea (green or black) is an excellent source of disease fighting antioxidants. Tea antioxidants help strengthen bones and offer protection against fractures. Antioxidants found in tea may also protect you from several forms of cancers, including breast, skin, prostate and lung cancer. Powered reconstituted teas contain far fewer antioxidant compounds compared to brewed teas. When purchasing bottled tea to enjoy on the go, look for products that indicate “brewed”, not just brewed taste, on the label.

Fights heart disease

Drinking tea may help prevent hardening of the arteries and lower risk for a heart attack. Black tea may also increase your chances of surviving a heart attack. Anti-inflammatory properties of the antioxidants found in tea provide these protective benefits for your heart and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 20%.

Cool recipes for hot summer days

Apple cranberry sparkler

2 cups boiling water

1 Lipton® Iced Tea Brew Family Size Tea Bag

1 cup chilled cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup chilled apple juice

Directions:

Pour boiling water over Lipton® Iced Tea Brew Family Size Tea Bag in saucepan. Cover and brew 5 minutes. Remove Tea Bag and squeeze. Combine tea and juices in pitcher; if desired, sweeten with a low calorie sweetener, and then chill.

Recipe Source: LiptonTea.com

Basil Mojito iced tea


4 cups water

2 Lipton® Iced Tea Brew Family Size Tea Bags

4 – 6 packets sugar substitute or 1/4 cup sugar

4 sprigs fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup lime juice

2 cups chilled seltzer

Directions

Pour boiling water over Lipton® Iced Tea Brew Family Size Tea Bags. Brew 5 minutes. Remove Tea Bags and squeeze; cool 20 minutes.

Add sugar substitute or sugar and basil into 2-quart pitcher and thoroughly crush with wooden spoon. Stir in brewed Tea and lime juice. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in seltzer. Pour into ice-filled glasses and sweeten as desired.

Garnish with fresh basil or mint sprigs.

Recipe Source: LiptonTea.com

Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.meijerhealthyliving.com

Mango iced tea

1 1/2 cups strongly brewed green tea, (3 tea bags to 1 1/2 cups water)

2 1/2 cups mango nectar

Ice cubes

Mint sprigs, for garnish

Mango slivers, for garnish

Directions:

Boil water; remove from heat, add tea bags and allow to steep 5-8 minutes.  Combine tea and mango nectar in a pitcher. Serve over ice, garnished with mint sprigs and mango slivers.

Recipe adapted from: EatingWell.com

Summer tea sangria

4 cups water

2 black tea bags

3 Tbsp. Agave Nectar or sugar

1 peach or nectarine, peeled, pitted or seeded, chopped

4 large strawberries, hulled, halved

1/2 cup blueberries

1 orange, all peel and white pith removed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup red wine (dry or semi-sweet)

Ice cubes

Directions:

Bring 4 cups water to a boil and remove from heat. Add tea bags and allow to steep 3 to 5 minutes. Pour tea into pitcher, removing tea bags. Add agave nectar (or sugar) to taste.  Cover and chill.  (Tea can be made 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Mix fruit in bowl. Divide among four 16-ounce glasses. Pour 1/4 cup wine, then 1 cup tea into each glass. Fill glasses with ice cubes and serve.

Recipe adapted from: epicurious.com