Matcha tea health benefits
Your daily matcha latte is more than just a delicious treat to start your morning right. Matcha tea, a powdered form of green tea, has several proven health benefits. While matcha tea originated in China, this type of tea is most associated with Japanese culture. Japanese samurai, Buddhist monks, and everyday people in Japan have enjoyed the energizing effect of matcha tea while reaping the health benefits for over 1,000 years.
Matcha is unique because you actually consume the leaves of the tea when you drink it. It's a powder made of ground tea leaves that you mix into hot water to make your beverage. When you make other types of tea, you simply steep the leaves in hot water and remove them before drinking. Some experts believe that because you actually consume the leaves of matcha, you consume more nutrients from the tea and get more health benefits.
Matcha is full of antioxidants. These substances prevent the oxidization of your cells, which in turn prevents cell damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Some experts believe that matcha has as many as 137 times the antioxidants of other types of green tea.
Antioxidants found in matcha include four different kinds of catechins, a type of flavonoid. In general, flavonoids may help with conditions like:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Bacterial infections
The catechin flavonoids in matcha have been proven to have a cancer-preventing effect. Experts have several theories as to why these chemicals prevent cancer, including:
- They reduce inflammation
- They prevent tumor growth
- They prevent cell damage
- They reduce obesity and the risk of obesity-related conditions like diabetes, which are risk factors for cancer
Another substance found in green tea, L-theanine, an amino acid, may also have cancer-preventing qualities. Two animal studies have shown that L-theanine did suppress cancer growth, but more research is needed in humans.
Inflammation is involved in many conditions. Long-term inflammation can have negative health consequences. The catechins in matcha tea have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help with chronic conditions like arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and cancer. Studies have shown that the chemicals found in green tea can reduce inflammation after major heart surgery and can help with hepatitis.
Improving heart health
In one animal study, mice were exposed to cigarette smoke. They then displayed symptoms of heart disease and high cholesterol. When they were given a supplement of one of the catechins found in green tea, some of their symptoms were reversed. This suggests that matcha may have a protective effect on heart health and may even help to reverse some symptoms of heart disease. More research is needed, though.
Maintaining weight loss or losing weight
Matcha contains polyphenols, chemical substances found in some plant-based foods. These substances may help with maintaining weight loss or losing weight when paired with other lifestyle adjustments. Experts believe there are a few ways it helps:
- Causes the body to produce more heat and expend more energy
- Reduces the growth of fat cells
- Increases the breakdown of fat
- Decreases appetite
Improving cognitive function
Two different studies, one in older people with cognitive decline and one in a younger population, showed that matcha tea had a positive effect on cognitive functioning. L-theanine may be the reason for this. It often helps people feel more alert, calm, and focused.
Matcha also has caffeine, but less than coffee. The typical cup of coffee has between 100 and 120 milligrams of caffeine, while matcha has around 70 milligrams. Caffeine may also help improve cognitive function. Studies have shown that it may improve long-term memory.
Are there any downsides to matcha?
Because matcha has caffeine, people with certain conditions, like heart or sleep disorders, should avoid it. Even decaffeinated matcha options have a small amount of caffeine. Certain medications, like ephedrine and theophylline, may also have a negative interaction with caffeine. Talk to your doctor before adding a daily regimen of matcha.
How to choose matcha
When buying matcha, higher-quality products are more likely to have the most nutrients. The best-quality matcha teas are bright green because the leaves are dried in the shade instead of the sun and because they use younger, more green leaves for a more subtle flavor. Some lower-quality matcha teas use lower-quality leaves and add food coloring, so be sure to read the label to make sure you get the most nutritional value from your tea.
There are three grades of matcha:
- Culinary grade is perfect for cooking with matcha in dishes like matcha-flavored baked goods.
- Premium grade is what you want to buy for your daily matcha drink.
- Ceremonial grade is used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
How to make matcha
Here's how to make a traditional cup of matcha:
- Boil 1/2 cup of water for each mug of matcha.
- Pour the water into a mug and let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder.
- Use a small whisk to thoroughly mix the water and matcha powder until there are no lumps.
- Optional: Add nondairy milk (dairy milks have been shown to reduce the antioxidant effects) and/or a sweetener.
- Take a sip and enjoy.
Other ideas for including matcha in your diet
In Japan, where matcha is popular, you will find many matcha-flavored treats, from candy to cocktails. If you want to have some variety beyond a cup of tea, you can:
- Add some matcha to a smoothie.
- Mix it in with a chia seed pudding.
- Mix it into an acai bowl.
- Add it to granola.
- Add it to oatmeal.
- Sprinkle it on popcorn with salt.
- Make an iced matcha.
- Make matcha flavored baked treats like brownies or cookies.
- Make a matcha latte if you have an espresso machine.
- Mix it into your usual coffee to give it a unique flavor.
- Add it to a soup.
Matcha is a versatile food with many proven health benefits, as well as some health benefits that may be better studied in the coming years. As long as you don't overdo it on the caffeine, adding matcha to your diet may be a delicious way to get more antioxidants into your diet.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation: "L-Theanine."
Cleveland Clinic: "Much Ado About Matcha."
Food Revolution Network: "5 Science-Backed Reasons to Drink Matcha Tea."
Frontiers in Nutrition: "The Effects of Polyphenol Supplementation in Addition to Calorie Restricted Diets and/or Physical Activity on Body Composition Parameters: A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials."
Healthy Women: "Is Matcha Green Tea Healthy?"
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Caffeine Has Positive Effect on Memory."
Journal of Nutritional Science: "Flavonoids: an overview."
Molecules: "Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review."
Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How much is too much?"
One Green Planet: "Ingredient Spotlight: Matcha, the Superfood Green Tea That Will Help You Relax."
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