Have you heard of matcha? If not, then I guarantee you will be hearing about it soon. Matcha, recently called “the next big thing” by Bon Apetit Magazine, is a green tea powder with many health claims. When I write about an unfamiliar topic, I usually start with a simple Google search to see what information my readers might find if they were to search for a subject. When I Googled “matcha health benefits”, the results show many claims, like fat burning potential, cancer prevention, and energy and concentration booster. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. I waded through all of this information to find the truth about matcha and health.
What exactly is Matcha? Matcha is a green tea leaf that is hand picked and stone ground into a delicate powder. The powder is sifted, whisked into hot water, and enjoyed as a beverage. Because this process is so intricate, matcha that from your local store can vary greatly in quality. Like coffee, matcha can be prepared several different ways. Chalait, a cafe in the West Village of NYC, has an entire Matcha menu, featuring Matcha in 8 different drinks.
Health Benefits of Matcha?
Antioxidants: Because matcha is made with whole tea leaves, it is higher in antioxidants than other green teas. Antioxidants are also found in fruits and vegetables and help protect the body from cancer causing inflammation and free radicals. In other words, a diet rich in antioxidants can help prevent against serious diseases, like cancer.
ECGC: Green tea contains ECGC, a compound that may temporarily speed up metabolism after consumption. Because green tea contains ECGC, green tea extract has been found to increase energy expenditure, aka the amount of calories you burn. Although this compound is not exclusive to matcha and can be found in any green tea, matcha may have up to 137 times more ECGC than other green teas.
L-theanine: Matcha contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which may cause calming effects in the brain. Some sources claim that L-theanine has anti-anxiety properties, but this health claim is a little far fetched. But I imagine that I might feel calm from sitting and sipping a Matcha latte at my favorite cafe!
Caffeine: Matcha has a little less caffeine than coffee, but more caffeine than a cup of tea. An 8-ounce serving of matcha has about 70 mg of caffeine, while an 8-ounce serving of coffee has about 95 mg and an 8-ounce serving of tea has about 40 mg. Many people claim that the caffeine in matcha does not cause a jittery feeling because of L-theanine’s calming effect, but this has never been proven.
Is matcha worth the hype? Overall, the nutrients in matcha seem to promote good health. However, I could only find one study that actually used matcha to test for health benefits, and this study was performed on rats. Yet, there does not seem to be any downside to adding Matcha to a healthy diet. Lastly, if you are thinking about adding matcha to your diet to help with weight loss, don’t expect this to work if you are eating a high calorie diet. Although matcha does have fat burning qualities, it will not burn enough fat to make up for a bad diet. As always, I recommend an overall healthy diet with a little Matcha on the side. And, just as I said in my post about coffee and health, sweet matcha drinks with syrups, whipped cream, or a large amount of whole milk can definitely lead to weight gain. Drink Matcha as a tea in hot water or with skim milk in a latte.
Have you ever tried Matcha? What do you think?
Matcha powder: http://bit.ly/1Vzgnxu
Matcha latte: http://bit.ly/1PdRiIH