In recent years, the green tea powder matcha has been gaining in popularity in the West and this is mostly due to its supposed health benefits. More and more people have been getting their hands on this green tea now that you can buy it from many online stores.
I think the latte made with this powder at Starbucks helped as well, as do the many cooking shows that have been using it as an ingredient. Whatever the reason, matcha is becoming more and more of a household name and a big reason for that are the numerous health benefits. So let’s examine those and see what a cup of this tea will actually do for you.
The first thing you need to know is this: one cup of matcha is the equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea in terms of its antioxidant content and its nutritional value. The reason for this is simple. This powdered green tea is made from whole leaves that have been ground to a very fine powder that dissolves when put in hot water. As a result, when you drink this tea, you consume the whole leaves, which distinguishes it from other teas were you consume only the essence and discard the leaves. Thus, it makes sense that the health benefits would be much more concentrated. But what are those health benefits exactly?
Probably the most commonly cited benefit of tea, is its antioxidant content. This word has become such a buzzword and any food that contains antioxidants is being touted as a health food. From pomegranates and various other fruits to any number vegetables, the antioxidant content is a big key to their healthiness. But nothing contains more antioxidants than matcha. Its rating, the ORAC rating for those who are familiar with it, is 1300 units per gram, while the often touted blueberries have a rating of only 91 units per gram.
Chief among the antioxidants is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGC). EGC counters the effect of free radicals from things like UV rays, pollution, chemicals, radiation, and other things that can lead to cell and DNA damage. A daily dose of EGC can help preserve our cells and our DNA, which aids greatly in cancer prevention.
Green tea powder is also rich in a rare amino acid called L-Theanine. This amino acid creates alpha waves which lead to a state of relaxed alertness and counters the stress induced beta waves. This is one of the big reasons monks have been drinking this tea for thousands of years and why it is the tea used in the ceremony. Furthermore, L-Theanine may actually help our memory and promote our learning ability, while at the same time counteracting the effects of caffeine. In other words, it helps us concentrate and keeps us alert, while reducing or eliminating the nervousness that comes with the consumption of caffeine.
Matcha also acts as an energy booster, which comes as no surprise given its caffeine content, but it turns out that this boost actually has nothing to do with the caffeine, but comes from the tea’s natural properties instead. A recent study even showed that drinking this tea can boost your physical endurance.
Many people tout green tea as a weight-loss miracle. While that may be a bit far-fetched, the fact that it has zero calories means it will certainly not hurt you. A recent study actually suggests it does much more than simply not hurt you. Apparently, matcha boosts our metabolism and actually helps burn calories by up to four times the normal rate. Unlike many drugs that accomplish the same thing, however, it doesn’t raise the blood pressure or our heart rate.
Finally, the chlorophyll that gives plants their green color and is responsible for the color of tea as well, actually acts as a natural detoxifier. It helps eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body. And since the leaves used to make matcha green tea powder are grown in the shade they are much richer in chlorophyll than other teas.
On thing to note is that with radiation concerns (completely unfounded; matcha comes from areas far from Fukushima) about Japanese tea and pollution concerns with Chinese matcha (this stuff IS polluted), some people are reluctant to buy tea powder for fear that the health benefits are outweighed by the contaminant concerns. If you really want, maybe you can try growing tea on your own…….
Much research is still needed into the health benefits of tea in general and the Japanese powdered tea in particular. Many studies suggest incredible health benefits and none really suggest any detriments, so it certainly makes sense to drink tea. I think, as more studies are completed and released, the news will only get better. So why not start drinking tea now. And if you’re going to drink tea, why not drink the healthiest one. Get yourself some matcha.
For more information on matcha, check out Matcha Source or the wikipedia article on matcha.