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What You Should Know about Matcha

By: Annie Cavalier, TWU Dietetic Intern

In the last few years, there has been one ingredient that has really taken the world by storm: matcha. You can find matcha in just about everything now – lattes, tea, energy bars, smoothies, desserts, and so much more.

There are many reasons why I am behind the matcha bandwagon: in addition to providing a delicious, earthy flavor and a vibrant green color to any meal or beverage, matcha is also packed with nutrients and offers a variety of potential health benefits. What’s not to love?

Before we dive into the various health benefits and how you can incorporate it into your life, let’s clear something up… what is matcha?

WHAT IS MATCHA?

Matcha originally comes from Japan and is made from the same plant as all other green, white, and black teas. What makes it different is how it is grown and consumed. Matcha is grown in the shade, protected from the sun, which makes it produce higher amounts of chlorophyll and the amino acid L-theanine, giving it its signature rich green color and several health benefits.1

Unlike other teas in which the leaves are steeped in hot water, matcha is made by grinding the entire tea leaf into a powder which is then added to a variety of drinks and foods. Because you actually consume the entire leaf rather than just the extract, matcha is higher in nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants compared to regular green tea.1 In fact, one study found that matcha had as much as 137 times the amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant, as regular green teas.2

All of these nutrients mean that matcha not only provides great flavor and color to any drink or dish, but it also comes with a long list of potential health benefits ranging from improved cognitive performance, weight management, disease prevention and more.

REASONS WE LOVE MATCHA

Mental Focus and Energy:

If you ever find yourself in need of a mental pick-me-up, matcha may be able to help. One teaspoon of matcha powder contains approximately 70 mg of caffeine,2 a little less than your standard coffee, but the effects are sustained for a longer period of time due to an amino acid in matcha called L-theanine. L-theanine is a natural compound that improves alertness while also slowing the response to caffeine, so you don’t get those jittery feelings and energy crashes that often follow caffeine consumption.

Studies show that the combined effects of caffeine and L-theanine can help enhance mental focus, relaxation, and energy while helping prevent anxiety and mental fatigue.2,3 One study also found that matcha may help improve attention span, motor function, and short-term memory.2

Metabolism Booster:

While there are not many studies done specifically with matcha regarding weight management, research on green tea in general indicates that regular consumption of green tea may increase metabolism4 and improve weight loss results (not to mention help people keep the weight off) thanks to the combined effects of caffeine and EGCG.5 One study even found that drinking matcha prior to workouts enhances fat-burning during physical activity.6

With that being said, don’t let matcha weight loss products fool you… matcha is not the be-all and end-all to weight loss. You still need a healthy diet combined with physical activity to lose weight, but matcha may help you reach your goal faster!

Keeping the Heart Healthy:

Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, but what you put into your body can prevent you from being a part of that statistic. Several studies show that regular consumption of green tea helps lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol,7 therefore reducing the risk for heart disease. Two studies also found that green tea may help lower blood pressure,8,9 and a meta-analysis of 9 studies showed that people who drink 3 cups of tea per day had a 21% lower risk of strokes compared to non-tea drinkers.10 If you are very sensitive to caffeine, 3 cups a day might be a bit too much for you, but as I mentioned, matcha does contain less caffeine than coffee, and the L-theanine may help improve your tolerance.

Cancer:

While the research is still very new, there are some studies that suggest that matcha may have some cancer-fighting properties thanks to its high content of EGCG and quercetin, two powerful antioxidants. Most of the studies that have been conducted so far are in regard to breast cancer, which is the number one type of cancer in women.

Two studies showed that matcha may slow the growth of breast cancer stem cells by blocking the pathways for energy metabolism, essentially “starving” the cancer cells, as well as increase the number of tumor suppressor proteins.11,12

Liver Disease:

The liver is responsible for many key functions including digestion, clearing the body of toxins, and so much more. While studies have not been done specifically with matcha, a meta-analysis of 16 studies showed that green tea may be protective against the development of various types of liver disease,13 and one study showed that it may improve liver function in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.14

THE BOTTOM LINE

Matcha is a nutrition trend that we can love not only for its great flavor, but also for its amazing health benefits. With potential effects ranging from enhanced energy, improved weight management, and prevention of certain diseases, this nutrient rich tea is something you can feel satisfied drinking knowing all of the incredible benefits it brings with it.

Be aware that some commercial matcha drinks and snacks may have excessive amounts of added sugars or even artificial colors and flavors, so be sure to check the nutrition label or make your own so that you know exactly what is in it! The quality of matcha, and therefore the nutrient content, can also vary by producer, so make sure to do your research and find a high-quality matcha to get the most bang for your buck.

Check out the recipe below for a delicious Iced Matcha Latte that is perfect for the hot summer months!

Iced Matcha Latte Recipe

Yields 1 serving

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

1 ½ – 2 tsp matcha (I use 2 tsp because I like mine strong)

6 Tbsp hot water

½ cup milk of your choice

¼ tsp honey (optional, to taste)

You will also need a bamboo matcha whisk (I use this one) or a blender.

Directions:

  1. Place the matcha powder in a small bowl and pour in 6 Tbsp of hot, but not quite boiling water. The heat helps to activate some of the antioxidants in the matcha.1 Using a bamboo whisk, gently whisk the mixture until the matcha is completely free of clumps and a thin layer of foam develops on top. If you are using honey, add it now and stir with a spoon until dissolved.
  2. Fill a glass with ice and the milk, then pour in the matcha mixture and stir.

Note: If you do not have a bamboo whisk, you can also just add the matcha and hot water to a blender and turn it on a low setting until the clumps are gone.

You can also double or triple the recipe and keep it in your fridge for 3-4 days!

Resources:

1.Jakubczyk K, Kochman J, Kwiatkowska A, et al. Antioxidant Properties and Nutritional Composition of Matcha Green Tea. Foods. 2020;9(4). doi:10.3390/foods9040483

2. Dietz C, Dekker M, Piqueras-Fiszman B. An intervention study on the effect of matcha tea, in drink and snack bar formats, on mood and cognitive performance. Food Research International. 2017;99:72-83. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.05.002

3. Dodd FL, Kennedy DO, Riby LM, Haskell-Ramsay CF. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015;232(14):2563-2576. doi:10.1007/s00213-015-3895-0

4. Bérubé-Parent S, Pelletier C, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effects of encapsulated green tea and Guarana extracts containing a mixture of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and caffeine on 24 h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in men. British Journal of Nutrition. 2005;94(3):432-436. doi:10.1079/BJN20051502

5. Hursel R, Viechtbauer W, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009;33(9):956-961. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.135

6. Willems MET, Şahin MA, Cook MD. Matcha Green Tea Drinks Enhance Fat Oxidation During Brisk Walking in Females. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018;28(5):536-541. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0237

7. Hartley L, Flowers N, Holmes J, et al. Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(6):CD009934. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009934.pub2

8. Bogdanski P, Suliburska J, Szulinska M, Stepien M, Pupek-Musialik D, Jablecka A. Green tea extract reduces blood pressure, inflammatory biomarkers, and oxidative stress and improves parameters associated with insulin resistance in obese, hypertensive patients. Nutr Res. 2012;32(6):421-427. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2012.05.007

9. Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Bukowski JF, Percival SS. Standardized capsule of Camellia sinensis lowers cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition. 2009;25(2):147-154. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2008.07.018

10. Arab L, Liu W, Elashoff D. Green and black tea consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis. Stroke. 2009;40(5):1786-1792. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.108.538470

11. Bonuccelli G, Sotgia F, Lisanti MP. Matcha green tea (MGT) inhibits the propagation of cancer stem cells (CSCs), by targeting mitochondrial metabolism, glycolysis and multiple cell signalling pathways. Aging (Albany NY). 2018;10(8):1867-1883. doi:10.18632/aging.101483

12. Schröder L, Marahrens P, Koch JG, et al. Effects of green tea, matcha tea and their components epigallocatechin gallate and quercetin on MCF‑7 and MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma cells Corrigendum in /10.3892/or.2019.7430. Oncology Reports. 2019;41(1):387-396. doi:10.3892/or.2018.6789

13. Yin X, Yang J, Li T, et al. The effect of green tea intake on risk of liver disease: a meta analysis. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8(6):8339-8346.

14. Pezeshki A, Safi S, Feizi A, Askari G, Karami F. The Effect of Green Tea Extract Supplementation on Liver Enzymes in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Int J Prev Med. 2016;7. doi:10.4103/2008-7802.173051

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