High-sugar iced tea is especially bad news for your gut because sugar kills good gut bacteria and leads to inflammation in the body, which throws your microbiome further out of whack. This can lead to all sorts of health issues, from those that are shorter-term but unpleasant (like poor digestion and brain fog) to long-term and critical (such as chronic conditions and disease).
One new brand, Halfday, is changing the iced tea game by perfecting a canned bev that is both super low in sugar and is made with ingredients that actually work to increase the number of good bacteria in the gut, supporting healthy digestion in the process. Made with Jerusalem artichoke inulin—high in prebiotic fiber—the canned iced tea provides a way for iced tea lovers to pack more fiber in their day without sacrificing flavor.
Why prebiotic fiber is important
If you've heard of probiotics before but the term "prebiotic" is new to you, here's what you need to know. "Prebiotics are sourced from insoluble fiber, which, unlike soluble fiber, isn’t broken down by the body before reaching the small intestine," top functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, MD, previously explained to Well+Good. "I’m a bigger believer in prebiotics than in probiotics,” he shared, adding that prebiotics feed the probiotics (aka the healthy bacteria living in your gut).
"Prebiotics are the food source for the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut," nutrition expert Melissa Rifkin, RD, adds, echoing Dr. Lipman. "These bacteria aid in digestion and research suggests they may play roles in your immune system and mood as well. Consuming an appropriate amount of prebiotics through drinks and food will help support the health of the probiotics so they can function properly."
Both soluble and insoluble fiber are important for gut health, and most fiber-rich foods have both types. Jerusalem artichoke inulin is one such source and the reason why Halfday co-founder Kayvon Jahanbakhsh says they incorporated it into the teas. He adds that they also use agave inulin, which is high in prebiotic fiber, too. "My co-founder Michael Lombardo and I really dove into scientific studies to see what the best prebiotic fiber sources to include would be, which is how we landed on them," Jahanbakhsh says.
While prebiotic fiber is important for everyone, Jahanbakhsh is especially aware of its significance. In college, he was hospitalized for three months due to ulcerative colitis, a chronic digestive disease. When he was finally well enough to leave the hospital, gut health became a major focus for him. "Inulin became the cornerstone of my daily tea routine because of how much it supports the gut," he says. It was his brother's idea to bring his inulin tea to the masses.
Watch the video below to learn more about the connection between diet and gut health:
The making of Halfday prebiotic tea
While Jahanbakhsh and Lombardo knew they wanted to make a canned tea that was a good source of fiber, actually getting the end result they wanted wasn't so easy. Jahanbakhsh says it took them three years to perfect the taste while upping the fiber in each can to a full eight grams, a goal that was important for them since most people don't get enough fiber in their diet.
"When making the drink, we asked for everyone's input, including our families and friends, [former] college professors, and beverage industry mentors," Jahanbakhsh says. "We had people taste samples out of mason jars and share their feedback until we got as close as possible to the classic iced tea flavors they knew and loved." In the end, they landed on three flavors: lemon black tea, peach green tea, and green tea with honey and ginseng.
Rifkin, who is unaffiliated with Halfday, says in her opinion as a dietitian, the ingredients in the Halfday drink truly are beneficial for gut health. "Overall, it looks like a good, convenient way to support gut health," she says. Besides being full of gut-healthy prebiotic fiber, she also likes that each can only has three grams of sugar. "There is a very small amount of sugar in each flavor, mostly from the apple and lemon juice concentrated," she says.
Besides being sold online, ($2.99 per can), Halfday prebiotic tea is available in specialty stores across the country. "We wanted it to be easier for people to make a healthier choice with a better-for-you-option that tastes just as delicious as [sweet] tea people know and love," Jahanbakhsh says. We'll cheers to that.
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