Matcha is fast becoming known as the trendy new superfood and touted for its many health benefits far and wide. With it's high content of antioxidants and nutrients, amino acid's vitamins and minerals - it's no surprise at all that matcha has become the latest health food trend. From Dr Oz to Women's Fitness, it's hard to look outside without hearing about matcha and health.
Matcha brings with it a unique flavour combination of bitter and sweet. A sweetness that rendered it a 100% bona fide dessert ingredient and undertones of bitterness that cut through the sweet in the perfect, complementary way. I love matcha because it tastes amazing.
But it never occurred to me that matcha could be healthy.
I mean, finding something tasty that is also healthy is not an easy task. And don’t go kidding yourself that green tea sorbet is the healthy option to ice cream because of sugar.
Matcha green tea was thrusted onto the world stage a few years ago as a trendy ingredient for bakers far and wide. Matcha ice cream, matcha fondant, matcha cupcakes, matcha cookies, even matcha whoopie pies.
The world went nuts for this new green powder, a small portion of which would not only produce a rich green appearance, but a distinct bitter/sweet taste that the food world fell head over heels in love with.
While its influence on the baking world was clear, not a lot was known about the actual health benefits of matcha. Thousands upon thousands of people were consuming matcha in food but little did they know that drinking matcha tea yielded health benefits that far surpassed any natural or manufactured health products on the market.
Research has found that matcha contains a catechin called epigallocatechin (EGCg). Catechins are highly potent antioxidants that have been associated with a number of health benefits including:
Now, let’s look at the health benefits of matcha green tea in details!
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The most potent catechin found in matcha is epigallocatechin (EGCg), which makes up 60% of all catechins in matcha tea. This powerful anti-carcinogen is well known for its cancer-fighting properties and has been associated with reducing the risk of skin, esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreatic, lung, bladder, prostate and breast cancer.
In addition to cancer, matcha tea also possesses a number of properties that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
While it’s not recommended that matcha or any kind of tea is used as the sole method for cancer or cardiovascular disease prevention, consuming a cup of (unsweetened) matcha tea a day is still recognised as being beneficial to overall wellbeing.
Can Matcha green tea aid in weight loss? Yup! Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in our bodies, and thus the way our bodies burn calories. The catechins in matcha tea boosts fat oxidation and increases thermogenesis from 8-10% to 30-40%. Matcha can actually help and promote weight loss.
Drinking matcha tea before a workout has been shown to boost thermogenesis and our body’s metabolism, increasing fat burning potential by 25%. Does that mean you need to workout less? NO. Don’t be lazy, but let the matcha help you workout.
The energy boost experienced after consuming matcha tea largely due to its caffeine content (about twice as much as a regular green tea) as well as a number of other nutrients, including L-theanine, a naturally occurring stress-relieving amino acid found in tea leaves that promotes relaxation without drowsiness, while improving cognition and attention.
Although matcha contains more caffeine than regular green tea, the L-theanine counteracts the usual effects of stimulants such as nervousness and wakefulness.
L-theanine also enhances the production of dopamine and serotonin in our bodies, which helps improve our mood, enhance memory and increase our ability to concentrate. With five times more L-theanine than regular green tea, matcha not only gives you an energy boost, the presence of L-theanine also ensures your mind stays sharp when you need it, and helps you unwind when you don’t.
Matcha tea plants are grown in the shade. In the weeks prior to harvest, the plants are covered to reduce direct access to sunlight, further enhancing the production of chlorophyll, a molecule that converts solar energy to cellular energy. Chlorophyll is what produces the intense green colouring in matcha.
Chlorophyll is also known as a natural detoxifier, which helps flush heavy metals and other toxins from the body. With a high content of chlorophyll, matcha is great for body detoxification.
Though not scientifically proven, studies into populations who consume matcha green tea regularly have found a significant decrease in cholesterol-induced problems. This is believed to be a result of matcha tea containing lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
The catechins in matcha tea contain antibiotic properties that boost the immune system. In addition, matcha also contains a number of essential vitamins including calcium, iron, potassium, protein and vitamins A and C
In addition to the long list of benefits derived from the catechins in matcha tea, they also help slow down the aging process by combatting oxidation and inflammation.
We do love those catechins!
Sure, we’ve given you a laundry list of matcha’s health benefits. But there are other superfoods out there, right? Goji berries, nuts, acai berries, heck - spinach? Popeye didn’t pop cans upon cans of the nasty green stuff for no reason. But then again, Popeye clearly didn’t know about matcha.
Looking at antioxidants per gram, matcha green tea comes out head and shoulders above the rest when compared with other health foods. Especially spinach.
It’s been asked before and it’ll be asked again - what exactly is the difference between matcha green tea and regular green tea? Regular green tea yields its own health benefits and many drinkers already benefit from their daily cuppa. So why matcha?
The difference lies in the growth and production of matcha tea powder. As mentioned above, matcha plants are grown in the shade and then covered before harvest, enhancing its production of chlorophyll and amino acids. The harvested leaves are laid out to dry, de-veined and de-stemmed and finally ground to a fine powder - the final product we know as matcha.
The increased chlorophyll, amino acids as well as the concentration of green tea properties in powder form ensures that matcha is highly potent compared to regular green tea leaves.
In fact, one cup of matcha green tea has 4.3 times the amount of amino acids compared to regular brewed green tea, and the equivalent nutritional content of 10 cups of green tea.
Traditionally consumed as a beverage - originally in Japanese tea ceremonies and now across the globe - matcha has expanded its repertoire far and wide, becoming a staple in the pantry of bakers and cooks, professional and amateur alike.
The unique bitter/sweet flavour of matcha offers opportunities to create culinary treats spanning the spectrum of sweet to savoury, from matcha cakes to soba noodles, even a matcha sour cocktail (it was only a matter of time before alcohol got involved). A quick Google search for matcha recipes will return hundreds of thousands of hits. Check out this link for some creative matcha recipes.
But before you go matcha-baking crazy, it’s important to note that for cooking, it’s acceptable to use culinary or cooking-grade matcha, which is made using the larger, more mature leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. These produce a richer, deeper green tea flavour. There is a slight difference between the nutritional profiles of ceremonial and Culinary matcha - however it is very slight.
With no industry standard or benchmark available, it’s hard to ascertain you’re purchasing ceremonial-grade matcha, especially if you plan on drinking it purely for health benefits. A simple rule of thumb is not to go cheap. Any Asian grocer will stock a variety of matcha - in tins or packets. A quick glance at the pricing will tell you what is deemed ceremonial-grade and what isn’t.
Or to save yourself the trouble, head on over to our shop for a selection of premium and cooking grade matcha.
Now, back to the elusive search for something that is tasty and healthy? There’s certainly not a lack of options now that we know how healthy and delicious matcha is. Matcha ice cream, anyone?
-- Author: Catherine Lee