Sencha - a cuppa Vitamin C? (ETS image)

Sencha – a cuppa Vitamin C? (ETS image)

For most of us the be all and end all for vitamin C is orange juice. Or you could just use supplements. But what about tea?

Well, first things first. If you want a fairly in-depth look at vitamin C check out this one from the National Institutes of Health, which notes, “Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C endogenously, so it is an essential dietary component.” They go on to give a Recommended Daily Allowance, which varies by age and sex and which, for yours truly, works out to 90 mg a day.

As for where to get your hands on this substance, the consensus is that “Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C.” At the top of the chart? Well, it’s red pepper, of course, which tops orange juice by a narrow margin. Some other surprises on the list (at least for me) – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomato juice, cabbage, and potatoes.

Tea doesn’t come in for a mention on this list, but according to this summary from a Japanese tea company, the amount of vitamin C contained in tea varies according to the type of tea and the amount of processing it has been subjected to. Black tea has no vitamin C while types like oolong tend to have very little. On the other hand, a green tea like sencha – which is a Japanese variety of green tea – is said to have a rather astounding vitamin C content that’s about 1.5 times that of red peppers. Which means that it exceeds orange juice by just a little more than that.

If you go the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference you can find nutrient information on over 8,000 foods. Unfortunately, the 21 types of tea analyzed there are rather heavily weighted toward instant tea. However, the list does confirm that black tea does not contain any vitamin C. Which is the same for a number of ready-to-drink teas that were tested and one fast food variety. Chamomile “tea” also has no vitamin C while hibiscus actually has a somewhat significant amount, though it’s important to note that neither of these are tea, in the strictest sense of the word.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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