Kidney Diet Tips

Food Facts Friday: Tea Lovers Guide

Having options when it comes to what to drink is important. If you’re limiting your phosphorus intake, you likely have heard from your dietitian to limit dark sodas, milk and powdered drinks. You have also likely heard that lemon-lime sodas, lemonade and orange soda are good low phosphorus options. But, what about tea? Tea is packaged in many different ways: fresh brewed, bottled, canned and instant. Some options are good low phosphorus choices, while others contain additives that might add to your phosphorus intake.

Phosphate Additives

There are several reasons phosphorus is added to teas. It is a preservative that prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. Phosphate additives also add tartness that enhances the flavor.

Brewed Tea

Brewing tea at home is a good way to avoid added phosphorus preservatives. Fresh brewed tea, whether its black or green tea, has no phosphate additives and little naturally occurring phosphorus. Fresh brewed tea may also be a great option at restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask how the tea is made. If it’s fresh-brewed in house, it’s likely a great option.

To brew a pitcher of tea at home heat 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 to 6 teabags, depending on how strong you like your tea. Set a timer for 3 minutes. After the timer goes off remove the tea bags immediately. Pour the brewed tea into a pitcher with 4 cups of chilled water. Add sweetener and lemon if desired before serving in a glass with ice.

Instant Tea

However, tread carefully if the tea is made from a concentrate or is considered “instant” tea. Instant teas are often made from a powder that may contain phosphorus additives to help prevent clumping. Instant teas are often found in convenience stores and restaurants. Upon review, several types of instant and teas from concentrate contained the phosphorus preservative “phosphoric acid.”

Bottled Tea

Bottled black and green teas can be a great on-the-go option. However, bottled tea can contain hidden phosphorus. These additives vary between brands and even flavors. For example, a popular brand of bottled tea adds a phosphate preservative “sodium hexametaphosphate” to their bottled green tea. However, another popular bottled tea brand’s green tea does not contain a phosphorus preservative.* Additionally, a wide variety of flavored bottled teas such as mango, lemon and peach flavors contain phosphorus preservatives*. Carefully read the ingredients list and look for the “phos” ingredient. Or, connect with your dietitian for more ideas on bottled teas without phosphate additives.

Canned Tea

Much like bottled tea, canned teas are also a “ready-to drink” option. Canned teas are popular at convenience stores and in the grab-and-go section of the grocery store. Much like bottled teas, check out the ingredients list for hidden sources of phosphorus. Upon review, a popular brand of canned teas did not contain a phosphorus preservative. **

Teas come in many varieties and are packaged in different ways and sizes. Tea, without added phosphorus, is a great drink option. However, some instant and bottled teas may contain phosphate additives as a preservative and flavor enhancer. Become familiar with the food labels of your favorite brands of tea. Reach out to your dietitian if you are unsure whether your favorite tea brand contains phosphorus.

The above tea suggestions are usually served chilled or over ice. Looking for a warmer option? Check out this blog post on herbal teas.

*Comparison of Lipton bottled Green Tea citrus to Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green tea.

** Review of canned Arizona Real Brewed Sweet Tea and Arizona Mucho Mango Iced Tea.

“Brand names have been included in this material for educational purposes only. DaVita does not endorse one brand over another. There are other brands in addition to these that could be equivalent.”

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Haley Justus, RD, LDN

Haley Justus, RD, LDN

Haley Justus is a registered dietitian who resides in the mountains of western North Carolina. She has been a dietitian for 3 years and enjoys helping her dialysis patients make small changes to enjoy life-long benefits of health. In her free time, Haley enjoys hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and two dogs.