Superfood Feature: The health benefits of Matcha
By Amy Crawford
Have you learned about the benefits of matcha tea?
What's that? You haven't tried a green matcha latte yet? Oh come on little foodie! Keep up.
But why would you want to infuse your morning brew with green I hear you ask? Well because it is a metabolism-enhancing, stress-reducing, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, kick butt cancer fighter**. But more on the benefits of matcha tea in a bit.
What is it?
Tea. Matcha is simply green tea.
The Chinese have been drinking green tea for more than 1000 years, you know that. But it is an important part of Japanese culture too. The Japanese named their green tea "matcha", and their Zen Buddhist monks drank it often. It helped them remain calm, alert and focussed during long hours of meditation, you see.
The Japanese grow their tea leaves in the shade, to increase the chlorophyll content. These leaves are then picked by hand, steamed, dried and ground into a fine green powder. Matcha powder.
Why is it good for you?
Where does one start with the benefits of matcha? What matters most here is the antioxidant content of the matcha powder. One cup of matcha tea (or a delicious green matcha latte - can you tell I'm hooked on my recent discovery?) has as many antioxidants as about TEN cups of regular tea. Decent stats, am I right?
This antioxidant intensity comes as a result of consuming the matcha as a powder that is dissolved into your drink, rather than steeping tea leaves which you then throw away.
Here are some more stats to keep you reading. Matcha has: 7 x the antioxidants of dark chocolate AND 60 x the antioxidants of spinach. It beats all the berries on the antioxidant scale too.
The antioxidants within matcha (called catechins) scavenge for dangerous free radicals within the body. These free radicals cause damage that can lead to cancerous cells. One of the most powerful catechins in Matcha is believed to be an anti-carcinogenic (and goes by the name of epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG).
2. Anti aging
Some of the oldest people in the world reside in Japan. Specifically in Okinawa. The high consumption of matcha green tea in this area has been linked in part to their longevity. Matcha is able to combat inflammation and oxidation and thus reduces the visible and internal signs of ageing.
3. Lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a 2011 study that demonstrated the administration of green tea beverages to significantly lower LDL and total cholesterol. Enough said.
4. Weight management
Further to the above, the same Journal demonstrated that green tea rich in catechins promoted a thermogenic effect within the body, which in turn promotes fat oxidation. AJCN states that consuming green tea increases thermogenesis (the body's rate of burning calories) from 8-10% to 35-43% of daily energy expenditure.
5. Mental and physical energy
Matcha goes a long way in replacing caffeine in your afternoon pick me up. Brew a cup any time you notice you are lacking in focus. Matcha is a great alternative to coffee, especially for those who feel the effects of the caffeine crash - think headaches and lethargy.
Where to purchase it?
Matcha green tea is sold in concentrated powder form. If you can, look for organic products as they will be produced without any artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. Personally, I love Matcha Maiden which you'll find in your local health food store, or online.
How do we consume it?
Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon to smoothies and juices, more or less to baked goods. Or simply brew it like you would a tea.
Do note that you should not add matcha powder directly to boiling water. Doing so will emit a real "grassy", bitter taste. If preparing a 'black' tea, simply boil your water and allow it to sit to cool for 5 minutes prior to preparation, or add little cool water before your matcha.
Make sure you check out my latest super simple matcha recipe, Matcha Pistachio Coconut Balls.
Also, I'd love to know how you fellow matcha fans incorporate this green goodness into your diet - any tips for the rest of us?
Abdul G Dulloo, Claudette Duret, et al. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 6, 1040-1045, December 1999
Xin-Xin Zheng, Yan-Lu Xu, et al. Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials Am J Clin Nutr August 2011. **