In a world dominated by bottled sodas and energy drinks, there is one type of drink that stands out - green tea. It contains antioxidants and nutrients and gives your health a boost, which is why it is a favourite among health enthusiasts.
However, another tea variation also deserves the spotlight. Say hello to matcha green tea!
Matcha is fast growing inpopularity among health conscious. Just as the coconut water craze has swamped the world over the last few years, matcha green tea is predicted to be the next big wave.
Even bakers are incorporating matcha in their baked goodies and come up with anything matcha-flavoured for those who are after health food. The question now is how different is matcha green tea from regular green tea. At the same time, what benefits can you get from adding matcha green tea to your diet?
Matcha green tea contains more than 10 to 15 times the overall nutrients when compared to the traditional green, white or black tea, as well as when compared to popular fruits and vegetables.
Getting to Know Matcha Green Tea
Did you know that matcha, which literally means “powdered tea”, has been around for almost a thousand years?
These 100 percent natural and organic green tea leaves were used by ancient Japanese as part of their tea ceremony while the Buddhist monks drunk matcha to keep them alert and focused during long days of meditation.
How Do the Leaves Turn into Matcha?
Matcha is a finely milled and processed green tea leaves. The leaves will be de-veined, de-stemmed and stone-ground until they turn into a delicate, jade-coloured powder.
Then the powder is sifted and whisked with hot water to make it in its fine state. Since there is no tea bag, all the nutrients and benefits stay right in the cup for drinking.
What makes it different from green tea is that aside from consuming the entire leaf ground into fine powder, matcha bushes are covered for up to 20 days before harvest to protect the leaves against direct sunlight.
This boosts the plant’s chlorophyll levels, making the leaves darker and more vibrant, and increases the amino acid L-theanine found almost exclusively in green tea. This results in matcha being a lot more nutritionally dense than the regular green tea.
Benefits of Matcha Green Tea
You already know that matcha green tea is better and nutritionally denser than regular green tea. The next question now is what are the benefits you could get from adding matcha green tea in your daily diet?
Here are five reasons why you drinking matcha green tea must be part of your daily habit.
1. Matcha Is an Antioxidant Powerhouse
When it comes to nutrition and boosting your health, the term antioxidant always rings a bell. This is because antioxidants help protect your body against aging and free radicals that could damage your cells and lead to unwanted diseases.
Green tea offers ample supply of antioxidants to keep you healthy. However, matcha has more powerful sources of antioxidants than green tea could provide.
Using the testing method known as oxygen radical absorbance capacity or ORAC, experts from the Tufts University found out that matcha has 20 times more antioxidants than blueberries and pomegranates. It turns out that matcha has a rating of 1384 units per gram, which is a lot higher than the much hyped acai berries.
ORAC VALUES OF POPULAR FOODS
Just in case you have not heard about ORAC, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities in biological samples (foods and beverages). The higher a food's/beverage ORAC score, the more powerful it is in fighting free radicals and preventing age-related degeneration and disease.
There’s more to matcha than that. Matcha contains catechins, a unique, potent class of antioxidants that provide potent cancer-fighting properties particularly EGCg or epigallocatechin gallate. In fact, more than 60 percent of the catechins found in matcha are EGC. At the same time, EGCg and other catechins have the capacity to counteract the effects of free radicals such as UV rays, pollutions and chemicals that could damage your cells and DNA.
Therefore, matcha green tea everyday could help restore and preserve your body’s overall balance and well-being.
2. Matcha Contains a Variety of Nutrients
Matcha contains a high level of easily absorbable dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and protein as well as many other vitamins and antioxidants that outnumber many superfoods including goji, acai berries and blueberries.
One cup of matcha is an equivalent to approximately 10 cups of regular green tea.
3. Matcha Supplies Your Body Enough L-Theanine
There is a reason why Japanese use matcha as an aid to meditation practice or why Buddhist monks drink matcha to remain calm and alert at the same time. The answer is L-theanine.
It turns out that this rare amino acid promotes a state of relaxation and wellbeing. Think about this. When under stress, the beta waves get excited, which is the reason why you are agitated and your hormones are all over the place. If you drink matcha, its L-theanine will do its job by activating alpha waves that could give you a relaxed state of alertness.
You might say that L-theanine is common in all teas. That’s right. However, matcha green tea has five times more of this amino acid than green or black tea.
That’s not all. Aside from keeping you relaxed, L-theanine boosts your memory and learning ability. It also reduces physical and mental stress, bringing a state of "calm alertness". As matcha contains some caffeine, It helps you concentrate more by producing a few hours of elevated energy, without the typical "crash" that happens if one drinks any of the popular energy drinks.
4. Matcha as an Energy Booster
What do you usually take in the morning to give yourself a boost? Coffee may be your pick-me-upper to start the day. The problem with this is it’s not good for you, especially when you go for the instant ones.
In this case, a cup of matcha green tea first thing in the morning is a safer and better alternative. Matcha has caffeine content too, but the one responsible for giving you a boost through the day is the combination of natural properties.
A recent study showed that drinking matcha helps improve one’s physical endurance by 24 percent. This means that even if you don’t work out, a cup of matcha tea could help you get through your everyday marathon, which includes play dates with kids, finishing a job or taking care of the household. Don’t worry too much about the calories. A cup of matcha is not too hard on your tummy so there is nothing to feel guilty or worried about.
5. Matcha Contains Blood-Cleansing Chlorophyll
You may associate chlorophyll as the ingredient responsible for the leaves’ green colour. Did you know that chlorophyll is an amazing nutrient that could benefit your body too?
Because of the traditional method of harvesting, matcha leaves have higher chlorophyll concentrations than green tea leaves. This means matcha leaves are high in alkaline that could help balance pH levels in your blood.
The chlorophyll content also makes matcha a powerful detoxifier with antibacterial properties. It helps get rid of the harmful chemicals and heavy metals inside your body, which makes I an effective detox tool. Wheatgrass can offer the same benefits of providing your body blood cleansing chlorophyll. However, it is more expensive compared to matcha.
If you are looking for a powerful detoxifier that is not too hard on the budget, then matcha is your best choice.
6. Matcha for Weight Loss
Green tea has been well known for its ability to help you lose weight. Since matcha green tea is better, it only follows that it helps you with your weight loss goals, right? The answer is yes. Believe it or not, matcha green tea is your new best friend in the weight loss department.
Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds organs and is harmful. It causes inflammation and insulin resistance which are linked to the incresed risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Any reduction of visceral fat should translate to a reduced risk of many diseases down the line and consequently longer, healthier life.
Matcha is almost calorie-free, which means you don’t have to worry about gaining weight somewhere in between. A number of studies also show that matcha green tea helps boost your metabolism and burn fat easily, which makes it an effective calorie burner. You will find this helpful especially when you’re tired of being on the heavy side of the scale or you simply want to maintain the right weight.
A study conducted by University of Geneva scientists and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999, showed that green tea extract has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond what can be explained by the tea's caffeine content.
It was found that consuming green tea increased thermogenesis (the body's rate of burning calories) by 35-43% (equal to about 75-100kcal) from a typical 8 to10% energy expenditure per day. Although this seems like a small amount, the long term effect can be significant for anyone wanting to shed some kilos.
Another study demonstrated that green tea can boost the fat burning effects of exercise. Men who took green tea extract burned 17% more fat after exercising, in comparison with men who didn’t take the supplement. The study also indicated that exercise and green tea extract can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Did you know that the compounds in green tea increase levels of hormones that tell fat cells to break down fat?
The antioxidant in tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), can help inhibit an enzyme that breaks down the hormone norepinephrine which is used by the nervous system as a signal to the fat cells to break down fat. A higher norepinephrine levels result in more fat being broken down.
7. Matcha Lowers Cholesterol
A 2011 study - that pooled the results of 14 previous trials - featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - demonstrated that administration of green tea beverages or green tea extracts significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL.
On average, those who drank green tea ended up with total cholesterol levels that were 7.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) lower than in the control group. Their LDL, or "bad," cholesterol dropped slightly (by 2.2 mg/dL) as well.
Although the cholesterol reduction with green tea is small, it can be very useful as an important component of a healthy diet.
8. Matcha May Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly
A recent clinical study to investigate the effects of green tea consumption on cognitive dysfunction involving elderly nursing home residents with cognitive impairment, concluded that green tea consumption may be effective in improving cognition or reducing the progression of cognitive dysfunction.
The study was published in Nutrients in 2014 and indicates that green tea can be a great dietary addition for anyone interested in the prevention of dementia.
Choosing a Quality Matcha Powder
If you are looking for the best quality matcha, then the southern area of Japan – Kyushu, Nishio, Shizuoka and Uji – is the best place to go. Japanese matcha is the best, not just because of its superior taste but the method of harvesting that kept matcha’s genuine taste.
At the same time, you are sure that matcha is pure, free from additives and doesn’t contain herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that ruin matcha’s nutritional components.
What if you can’t go to Japan or don’t know anyone who is heading to the Land of the Rising Sun? That’s okay. As long as the matcha powder is certified organic and it came from Japan, then that is good enough too.
Matcha green tea is available as a concentrated powder and can be found at health food stores. I recommend organic matcha, because it is produced without any nasty chemicals.
Simple Matcha Green Tea Latte Recipe
Given all these information, the next thing you need to know is how to make your own matcha green tea latte at home. All you need are:
- Matcha powder
- 2 ounces of water (hot but not boiling)
- 6 ounces steamed milk
- Matcha dust or cocoa powder for dusting
To make your own matcha green tea latte, sift a teaspoon of matcha powder into a cup. Then combine matcha and hot water (let it sit for 5 minutes before adding the tea) until the matcha turns into a smooth paste. Pour the steamed milk over the matcha tea and scoop foamy milk on top. Sprinkle it with cocoa powder or matcha dust on top.
The recipe is good as it is. However, you can add mint, vanilla or almond flavor on the latte or sweeten it with agave nectar or honey. If you prefer the iced version, just add cubes of ice and use frothed chilled milk instead of steamed milk.
Enjoy your matcha green tea latte!
Over the recent years there has been a lot of research confirming the benefits of matcha green tea. I am totally converted to this super healthy food and I love to drink it or add it to snacks or deserts. You can add the tea powder into almost anything.
Make sure to stock up on the organic matcha powder so you and your family can experience its amazing health benefits.
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