The Surprisingly Healthy Beverage You Can Pick Up At A Vending Machine (That Isn't Water)

It's natural to feel tempted by midday cravings and head to the vending machine for a snack. However, the choices there are often packed with sugar and calories that don't help us reach our health goals. Fortunately, there are plenty of nutritious and wholesome options available that can satisfy your cravings and help you stay on track toward a healthier life.

For example, unsweetened iced tea is a popular choice that is increasingly being made available in vending machines. It is a refreshing, calorie-free, and sugar-free beverage that not only quenches thirst but also supports health goals. Unsweetened iced tea offers numerous health benefits that make it an ideal choice for anyone seeking a healthier drink option. Tea can help boost metabolism, which can aid in weight management (via Forbes). Additionally, regular intake of unsweetened tea may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (via UCLA Health).

The simplicity of unsweetened tea

Unsweetened iced tea is a delightful beverage that has a clean and refreshing taste. It is a healthier alternative to sugary drinks, made with only two essential ingredients: tea leaves and water. The tea leaves' quality is crucial to achieving a perfect brew. Typically, black or green tea leaves (per Good Housekeeping) are steeped in hot water, allowing the flavors to infuse gradually. After steeping, the liquid is chilled to create a refreshing cold brew. 

Unsweetened iced tea is exactly what it sounds like: unsweetened. It has no added sugars or artificial sweeteners, allowing the tea's natural flavors to shine through, providing an authentic and unaltered taste. This guilt-free beverage is ideal for those who want to watch their sugar intake or calorie count, as it has a minimal impact on daily caloric intake. While a 12-ounce can of soda packs in around 150 calories (per Medline Plus), the same serving of unsweetened iced tea contains fewer than 5 calories (per Healthline). Unsweetened iced tea is suitable for individuals with dietary restrictions, including diabetics and those following low-sugar or low-carb diets.

How unsweetened iced tea boosts health and hydration

Drinking unsweetened iced tea comes with several health benefits. One of its most significant advantages is its high antioxidant content. Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in tea leaves (especially in green and black teas), are known to combat harmful free radicals in the body, which can contribute to various chronic diseases (via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health). 

It's essential to keep your body hydrated to support its functions and maintain overall well-being. Unsweetened iced tea is a tasty alternative to plain water. Its crisp, cool flavor can encourage you to drink more, helping you stay hydrated, especially when compared to other caffeinated beverages that may have a diuretic effect. Unlike soda, it has a low amount of caffeine (per Healthline), making it an excellent option to fulfill your daily fluid needs.

A 2022 study published in Nutrients suggests that compounds in tea called catechins may have a number of beneficial effects on diabetes risk factors and complications, including improved insulin sensitivity, powerful antioxidants that can help to reduce oxidative stress, improved mitochondrial function, which is essential for energy production and glucose metabolism, and anti-inflammatory effects that can help to reduce inflammation, which is a major contributor to diabetes and its complications.

Considerations when choosing iced tea from a vending machine

Unsweetened iced tea is a great choice when you're looking for a healthy beverage alternative to sugary drinks. But it's crucial to be aware of a few things before you make your choice. For example, some types of tea leaves used to make iced tea may be higher in caffeine (per Healthline), which can boost energy but might not be the best option for everyone, especially if you're sensitive to caffeine or trying to limit your intake.

Also, be sure to check the ingredient list in the tea you're drinking, as some brands may use additives or preservatives to enhance the flavor or shelf life. And don't forget to choose the unsweetened option because some bottled iced teas can be loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Stick to trusted brands, and you'll be good to go. By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of unsweetened iced tea from vending machines while staying true to your health goals and personal preferences.