Matcha’s popularity has exploded lately. Used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha has recently shown up in coffee shops, Instagram stories, and fitness blogs.
But what is matcha, and how can it help you live a healthier life?
Here’s what you need to know about this mysteriously bright green beverage.
Matcha vs. Green Tea
Matcha is a form of green tea, but, as you likely have figured out, it’s very different from traditional green tea.
The first difference you’ll notice between matcha and traditional green tea is that matcha is a much brighter shade of green. That’s because matcha is shade-grown, which allows for an increase in chlorophyll production and a different amino acid profile versus green tea and gives the plant it’s bright green coloring.
The other noticeable difference between matcha and green tea is that matcha always comes in powder form. After harvesting the leaves, farmers steam the tea leaves, then dry them and put them into heated ovens. After that, the veins and stems are removed, and the leaves are ground into a fine powder. This process gives matcha nutrients from the entire tea leaf, resulting in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and caffeine than other types of tea.
What Are The Health Benefits of Matcha?
A lot of people enjoy drinking matcha because of its taste. Overall, it’s sweet and creamy –sort of like a latte version of tea.
In addition to being an enjoyable beverage to enjoy in the morning or when you need an afternoon pick-me-up, matcha also has a lot of health benefits. Here are five health benefits you can enjoy by adding matcha to your diet.
1. Antioxidants for Cell Health
The powerful antioxidants in a single cup of matcha tea can have lasting benefits for your health. Antioxidants are important for stabilizing free radicals that can damage cells and even cause chronic illnesses. (Oxidation is one process that damages cells, hence “anti” oxidant nomenclature.)
Matcha has a more concentrated amount of antioxidants per gram than a regular cup of tea. One that stands out, in particular, is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is a catechin found in tea, nuts, and certain fruits. This powerful antioxidant has been shown to reduce free radicals and slow down cancer growth.
By incorporating matcha into your daily routine, you can increase your intake of antioxidants. Doing so may reduce the amount of cell damage you incur and even possibly prevent some chronic illnesses, and help boost your immune system.
2. Promotes Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States, which should motivate us to do whatever we can to optimize our heart health. Matcha may provide heart health benefits by reducing LDL (i.e., bad cholesterol) levels in the body and naturally lowering blood pressure.
These studies looked at traditional green tea and not matcha specifically. However, because matcha is a form of green tea and has a higher amount of antioxidants than a conventional cup of green tea, it would stand to reason that results may be generalizable to matcha and perhaps even amplified.
3. It’s Great For Your Skin
The same antioxidants in matcha that fight off free radicals at a cellular level that can lower cholesterol also work to improve your skin health. Drinking matcha can help treat acne by reducing inflammation associated with the conditions.
Green tea antioxidants may also have an anti-aging effect on the skin and can help you look more youthful. According to a study, natural antioxidants found in green tea can delay collagen aging, which is duplicated by the combination of vitamins C and E.
4. May Assist With Weight Management
Matcha may affect metabolism and aid in weight loss. Most weight loss supplements use some form of green tea extract because of its natural properties that can impact weight loss.
Green tea has been shown to increase metabolism, albeit slightly while providing a natural source of energy that may lend itself to people pursuing exercise. Studies show that drinking green tea before working out can help you oxidize body fat as you exercise.
5. Gives You Natural Energy and Endurance
If you tend to get jittery after drinking coffee, then switching to matcha might make sense. Even though it has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, you will likely find that you’re more alert after drinking a cup of matcha than after drinking a cup of coffee.
For one thing, matcha doesn’t cause that sharp crash that coffee does. Instead, matcha gives you long-lasting energy that may get you through the day. One study even found that drinking green tea can lead to an increase in energy expenditure for over 24 hours. This is largely due to the presence of an amino acid called l-theanine.
Matcha Side Effects
For the most part, matcha is safe to drink in appropriate quantities. There has been some concern about lead contamination in matcha, which can occur if the tea is grown in an area prone to traffic pollution. Generally, only low-quality, cheap matcha tea is grown in places like this.
Most premium matcha brands sold and distributed in the U.S. have been tested and found to be lead-free or to have an acceptable level of lead under U.S. guidelines. Make sure you are buying a reputable brand of matcha—it’s not worth saving a few dollars to go with an unknown brand that could contain dangerous amounts of lead.
Some of the most common side effects from matcha, like caffeine, may include the following:
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Heart palpitation
The side effects of matcha are primarily due to caffeine. If you are used to coffee, then you may not notice any side effects. If you switch from traditional green tea to matcha, you may notice these side effects from the higher amounts of caffeine you are taking. Start with just a teaspoon or less of matcha per day and assess your tolerance.
Like all caffeine-containing products, careful care should be given when pregnant and nursing. Children should not drink caffeinated beverages or consume caffeinated products.
How to Prepare Matcha for Optimal Health Benefits
It can seem intimidating to prepare matcha at first, but it’s pretty straightforward. All you need are two ingredients: matcha and water.
Start by heating, as you would for a regular cup of tea. As your water is heating up, use a sifter to sift 1 – 2 tsp of matcha powder (you can skip this step if you don’t have a sifter, but you may end up with small clumps). Now, whisk the matcha powder into the water.
A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tsp of matcha powder for every 6 ounces of water. You can play around with these measurements to determine what tastes the best to you. If you’d like, you can use milk or a milk alternative to make your matcha extra creamy.
Bottom Line: Should You Drink Matcha?
Whether or not to drink matcha comes down to personal taste and preference. If you’re looking for a new way to get some energy, then it won’t hurt to try a cup of matcha to see if you like it. For many, matcha is an acquired taste, so if you like the way it makes you feel but don’t love the taste, give it a few more tries and play around with different ways of preparing matcha. You can even add a scoop to a smoothie to get the benefits with less of the flavor.
This website is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or lifestyle habits, always consult your doctor or physician first.