Matcha is becoming mega popular, find out what it is…
Let’s Start. What is Matcha?
Matcha is a form of green tea, but instead of seeping tea leaves, you consume the whole leaf in powdered form. The green tea plant is grown a bit differently too from traditional green tea. Tea plants are covered to protect them from sunlight about 20-30 days before they are harvested. Being in the darkness stimulates the tea plants to synthesis more chlorophyll (green pigment) as well as more L-theanine, an amino acid often credited for matcha’s calming quality. Like regular green tea, matcha contains caffeine. The caffeine boost along with the relaxation boost combine to form an alert calmness unique to matcha.
The Potential Health Benefits
You might already know about some of the health benefits of green tea, which of course also apply to matcha since matcha is the whole green tea leaf but stone-ground. Green tea is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants, polyphenols, are thought to help in cancer prevention and protect against heart disease. Additional potential heath benefits include lowered blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation, and metabolism boosting.
Dangers of Matcha
Some studies have found that green tea leaves from China contain higher amounts of lead than those sourced from Japan. The overall consensus seems to be: limit your matcha intake to no more than once a day (a serving size is 1/2 teaspoon) and to avoid giving matcha to children. Additionally, some people are also more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Matcha contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Therefore, caution is warranted to those who want to avoid the negative side effects of caffeine and to those who already know they are sensitive to it.
What Is the Bottom Line?
Matcha is not a miracle food. The truth is that while there are plenty of nutrient-dense superfoods, there are NO miracle foods or supplements. Matcha is not the exception. Importantly, there have not been sufficient scientific studies done on the health effects of green tea. And even less scientific studies done on matcha itself.
However, I personally have chosen to drink matcha. I made this choice because I enjoy the taste and the ritual of preparing it. I experience an elevated sense of alertness without the weird haze that often accompanies regular coffee. I usually drink matcha in the afternoon when I need an energizing push. In my humble nutrition student opinion, I do not think there are any conclusive studies proving that matcha can be harmful to a healthy adult. I drink it knowing that I am possibly aiding my health, but also fully knowing that not much fact has been established firmly about matcha’s benefits.
Pictured: Matcha tea prepared with 1/2 tsp of ceremonial grade Japanese matcha (I use with 3 cups of hot (just below boiling) filtered water
The choice to drink matcha should take into consideration the price of high quality organic matcha (to avoid lead), sensitivity to caffeine, and taste preferences. No amount of matcha can substitute the health benefits of a balanced and varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.