Matcha, a type of green tea, is a liquid source of antioxidants and can support the heart, brain, and metabolism when incorporated into a healthy diet.
Matcha is on par with other superfoods such as turmeric, ginger, kefir, wild blueberries and mushrooms. Presented in powder form, it is easy to incorporate into smoothies, drinks and even pastries. Some love the earthy flavor that matcha brings, while others just want to take advantage of its purported health benefits.
So what is this popular green powder?
Matcha is a special type of green tea, but it is believed to be higher in polyphenols than regular green tea. The antioxidants in matcha have been shown to have many health benefits, including increased metabolism, lower cholesterol, and improved blood circulation.
Matcha tea originated in Japan almost a thousand years ago. It belongs to the same family as green tea, green tea and matcha both come from the Camellia sinensis plant, but they are harvested differently, which is why matcha may have a slight advantage over green tea. To create Japanese matcha, the tea plant is protected from direct sunlight, which increases the content of compounds such as chlorophyll, caffeine, amino acids and antioxidants, according to research published in the January 2021 issue of Molecules magazine.
Matcha is best known for its fresh aroma, dark green color, and high antioxidant content. Green teas contain antioxidants such as epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC) and epicatechin gallate (ECG), but matcha is the richest in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) . Due to their exceptionally high concentration of catechins, matcha and green tea have been shown to support all aspects of life, from digestion and heart health to metabolism, cognitive function, cancer prevention And much more.
In addition to the aesthetic appeal and rich flavor of this drink, here are seven ways matcha can boost your health.
1. The caffeine in matcha can boost energy levels
Matcha is a richer source of caffeine than coffee, green tea, or black tea. The caffeine content of matcha can vary, but the authors of the Molecules article state that it is between 18.9 and 44.4 milligrams (mg) per gram of matcha powder. Each 220ml cup of matcha, made with matcha powder and water, contains between 76-180mg of caffeine. A 220ml cup of green or black tea contains 30-50mg of caffeine, while a similarly sized cup of coffee contains 80-100mg.
It’s not safe for everyone to increase their caffeine intake. The caffeine in matcha can trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, or insomnia in some people. If you’re not sensitive to caffeine, matcha is a good source, but be sure to take your caffeine fix in the morning, rather than the afternoon or evening, so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. In general, try to stop consuming caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime.
2. Matcha can improve attention and memory
Caffeine is widely known for its ability to increase energy and alertness, but it also makes it easier to perform memory tasks at non-optimal times, such as early in the morning, according to a study of tired college students. Another element that may enhance these effects is theanine, an amino acid in matcha that’s been linked to better focus and reduced stress, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Drinking matcha improves attention, concentration and cognitive functions. Matcha plus caffeine improved attention and job performance in people under psychological stress more than caffeine alone. Some researchers have called matcha a “mood and brain food” for its effects on attention and memory, which can be attributed to the presence of theanine, caffeine and EGCG.
3. Matcha May Protect Against Neurodegenerative Disorders and Cognitive Decline
If you’re concerned about brain disease, here’s another potential reason to opt for matcha. Although green tea and matcha are very similar, matcha is actually much higher in quercetin, a pigmented flavonoid that has special antioxidant properties, essentially protecting our cells from damage and reducing the aging process from a multitude of manners. According to a study published in the December 2020 journal Nutrients, matcha is rich in vitamin K. By consuming matcha powder daily, researchers found that it had protective effects against cognitive decline in older women. Matcha is often studied for its beneficial health effects. Matcha is often studied for its role in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, in part because it’s high in quercetin, which can cross the blood-brain barrier. The relationship between quercetin and neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer’s disease has been well documented, according to another review published in the January 2020 issue of Biomolecules.
4. Matcha May Support Heart Health Through Its Cardioprotective Effects
The importance of heart health is self-evident, but heart-related issues remain a major issue, including high blood pressure. It is often called the “silent killer” because it has no physical symptoms and can only be detected by blood pressure tests. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important because high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other serious health effects.
The good news is that matcha can be part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. No single food is a miracle cure for disease prevention, but matcha can be helpful as part of a balanced diet. The EGCG in matcha helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, two factors that contribute to heart disease. The cardioprotective benefits of tea have been well studied. However, most of the research is on green tea or on animals. An earlier meta-analysis linked green tea consumption to overall favorable outcomes for heart disease risk. Although more rigorous human research is needed, previous animal research has suggested that matcha may play a role in lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar.
5. Antioxidants in Matcha May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
When it comes to keeping cancer at bay, there is no magic bullet. But sipping matcha as part of a healthy diet might be a good idea. Although research is still ongoing, matcha may help inhibit and prevent the growth of cancer cells. The role of green tea and matcha in the prevention of certain types of cancer has long been studied worldwide, but researchers are only just beginning to understand the mechanisms of this functioning. One of the theoretical mechanisms could be EGCG. This tea compound has a chemopreventive effect and there is clinical evidence that EGCG plays an important role in inhibiting and preventing certain types of cancer, according to a review published in Molecules in July 2020.
Most anti-cancer research on matcha and EGCG focuses on breast and colon cancers. Matcha may stop the growth of breast cancer stem cells as indicated by a study published in the August 2018 issue of Aging. These stem cells are the reason breast cancer sometimes comes back in patients after seemingly successful treatment. EGCG has also been shown to suppress colon cancer stem cells, according to another study. Matcha may possess antitumor properties, according to a review published in the November 2022 issue of Current Research in Food Science, but more research is needed.
6. Matcha May Support Healthy Weight and Metabolism
If you’re looking to lose weight, what you drink matters. Previous research has shown why sugary drinks shouldn’t be consumed, but what can be consumed, especially if you don’t want to drink plain water? It turns out it’s matcha, and this leafy drink can directly support your slimming efforts. Although human studies are needed, an animal study published August 2022 in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that matcha may play a role in reducing obesity and improving metabolic disorders.
Other research suggests that matcha may have fat burning potential. Researchers studied matcha in women aged 19 to 35 who were of normal healthy weight and found that consuming matcha before exercising on a treadmill increased whole-body fat oxidation, a marker of metabolism, by 35% compared to people who did not drink matcha. Essentially, matcha encourages the body to break down fatty acids during exercise, thereby reducing body fat.
Combined with a low-calorie diet, matcha can also help reduce body weight. That’s according to a small observational trial published in the September 2022 journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, in which participants followed a low-calorie diet while taking matcha. The matcha group showed a significant reduction in body weight, as did the control group. Matcha may therefore be associated with weight loss, but other factors come into play.
7. Matcha May Benefit Liver Function
The liver is an important organ that removes toxins from the blood. Alcohol and drugs are known to be harmful to the liver, causing potential liver damage and increasing the risk of liver disease. Besides drugs and alcohol, other lifestyle factors can negatively impact liver health. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease encompasses common liver conditions caused by an accumulation of fat in the liver. The reason for this is sometimes unknown, but it has been linked to obesity, high blood sugar and insulin resistance. In this case, matcha might help, but research is limited.
In an animal study on obese mice published in the June 2021 journal Nutrients, researchers observed that the group of mice given matcha showed a reduction in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and improved liver function. In people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the catechins in matcha, especially EGCG, may be beneficial; further human studies are needed. According to a review published in the March 2022 issue of the journal Medicines, EGCG has beneficial effects on oxidative stress-induced inflammation that can cause liver disease.