I feel like the US is a bit of a “johnny come lately” when it comes to understanding food health. We label “new super foods” onto produce (garlic & pomegranates) and spices ( turmeric) that have been used for thousands of years for their remarkable health benefits. Now we can add tea to the list. Although more than 50% of Americans drink coffee, Americans’ tea consumption is rapidly growing. While tea’s beverage use is documented to approximately 5,000 years ago, many of us are just beginning to realize its powerful health benefits, especially those of Matcha Green Tea.
Compared to black tea, green tea is considered the healthier variety due to the presence of polyphenols: strong antioxidants with cancer-fighting properties. While both come from the same Japanese plant, Camellia sinensis, freshly cut green tea leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation of the polyphenols, compared to oxidized in black tea.
Matcha, however, is derived from grounding full leaves to a fine powder thereby creating a higher potency of nutrients- over 100x the antioxidants of traditional green tea.
Why is matcha powder green? Because the plant grows in the shade, photosynthesis is slowed and increases chlorophyll to create darker green leaves (and you thought you’d never use that 6th grade science class plant unit!).
In addition to polyphyenols which protect against heart disease and cancer, matcha contains a specific class of powerful antioxidants- catechins. Within this group, over 50% of the catchins found in matcha are EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) which the National Institute of Health lists as “the most abundant and powerful antioxidant in green tea for cancer chemoprevention.”
Besides antioxidants, matcha also provides chromium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. It boosts immunity, is anti-inflammatory, and helps reduce stress.
Matcha naturally contains caffeine, and since you’re consuming the actual leaf, the caffeine amount is closer to that of a cup of coffee (or more than double the effects of green tea). Interestingly, the energetic boost is calmed by the presence of the amino-acid l-theanine; think relaxed focused and mentally present not jittery.
With all of these health benefits, then we should drink it all day right? Not so fast.
Matcha packs a powerful punch…not to mention fiber. Better to start small and see how your body reacts. Pregnant or nursing? You may want to consult your medical professional before incorporating matcha into your diet. Though matcha is beneficial for lowering cholesterol and balancing blood sugar, if you’re on medication for either of these you should consult your medical professional regarding specific interactions.
This is my favorite way to incorporate matcha into my day.
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