We’re smarter than ever today when it comes to our bodies, especially what we put in and on them.
It’s hard to read the news without learning about a new study about the benefits (or downsides) of coffee — and most of us are more conscious about the potential dangers of artificial sweeteners. If you’ve swapped out your java for tea, good for you, because both black and green tea are wonderful sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect cells and our bodies as a whole from the damaging free radicals generated by sun exposure and natural metabolic processes. (Green tea has a higher concentration of antioxidants, making it the best choice.)
But before you take another sip, how you sweeten your tea (or any drink for that matter) can make a big difference.
Whether you ingest it by drinking or eating, sugar has consequences for your skin thanks to a process called glycation. Within the skin, sugar binds to collagen, making it stiff and brittle. When the collagen breaks, the supportive structure that keeps skin looking smooth, plump and youthful is compromised, leading to visible signs of aging like wrinkles.
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Glycation is only the first problem with sugar. Another issue: The sweetener you choose may reduce the antioxidant power of your tea. A study recently published in the journal Food Chemistry found that milk, sugar and honey significantly reduces the antioxidant benefits of tea, so you may want to think twice about adding a lump or two (or anything else to your tea for that matter). But there’s still a way to sweeten your tea without diminishing its free-radical-fighting benefits: Stevia.
Derived from a plant related to the daisy and ragweed, Stevia has been used as a sweetener (and natural remedy for burns, colic and stomach conditions) in South America for centuries. It’s calorie-free, and is actually 200 times sweeter than sugar, thus you use much less. And it helps you reap the maximum antioxidant benefits from your tea if you prefer it sweetened. You can find Truvia at the supermarket (and more options than you can count at Whole Foods), so consider filling your sugar bowl with this good-for-your-skin alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.