Is matcha good for you, and how can you use it?
Most people prepare green tea as an infusion. This means that they drink the hot water in which they have steeped the tea leaves.
On the other hand, manufacturers grind matcha tea into a powder and mix it with hot water. This means that a person drinking matcha tea consumes the powdered leaves.
In this article, learn more about these possible health benefits, as well as how to use matcha and its potential health risks.
What is matcha?
Matcha may boost concentration and cognition.
Manufacturers produce matcha from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. This is the same plant from which manufacturers derive all types of green tea.
To make matcha tea, manufacturers grow Camellia sinensis plants in the shade. The dried, shade-grown tea leaves are known as tencha. Growing them in this way increases the amount of a pigment called chlorophyll in the tea leaves.
This process also increases the beneficial compounds in the leaves. One such compound is an amino acid called L-theanine, which may have positive effects for human health.
People can make matcha by removing the stems and veins from tencha and stone grinding the remaining leaves to make a powder.
People in Japan traditionally used matcha to conduct tea ceremonies. Now, people from all around the world consume it as a healthful beverage.
The leaves are available in the form of a powder, and the tea they make has a smooth, mellow flavor that should not taste bitter.
A person can prepare matcha by whisking it into hot water with a tea whisk. It should have a foamy texture and a bright green color.
There are different grades of matcha. Ceremonial grade, which people use in tea ceremonies, is the highest quality. Premium grade matcha is suitable for daily consumption. Matcha for cooking is the cheapest kind. People can add matcha to desserts as a flavoring.
Many studies have suggested that green tea can offer several health benefits.
Since matcha is a concentrated form of green tea, people may be able to obtain the same benefits of green tea from matcha, and they might be even stronger.
The scientific evidence backing the health benefits of green tree is robust. However, it is important to note that many of the studies that have specifically investigated matcha are small, highlighting the need for studies using larger cohorts.
The sections below discuss some of the potential health benefits of matcha.
Boosting concentration and cognition
L-theanine is an amino acid present in tea. Consuming foods and beverages rich in L-theanine may promote a state of relaxation and well-being. If a person combines this with caffeine, another chemical in matcha tea, L-theanine can induce a state of relaxed alertness.
A 2017 study of 20 adult males found that consuming 200 milligrams (mg) of L-theanine improved cognition and selective attention. This effect was stronger in combination with 160 mg of caffeine.
A 2017 review of 49 studies in humans found that plant compounds in matcha tea may improve mood and performance. For example, L-theanine alone promoted relaxation and calmness, while caffeine improved performance and energy.
When combined, L-theanine and caffeine improved alertness and attention, particularly when the study participants were multitasking.
Some people suggest that matcha tea contains much higher amounts of L-theanine than other types of tea. However, research shows that the amount of L-theanine in matcha varies widely from product to product.
Green tea contains a class of antioxidants called catechins, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), which may have antitumor properties.
Reducing the risk of heart disease
Large population studies have suggested that a high green tea intake has links to a lower risk of developing heart disease. Some also suggest that drinking green tea may reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels.
No studies of this kind have examined the effects of matcha tea on heart disease. However, it could have similar or stronger effects.
Preventing type 2 diabetes
One randomized clinical trial found that drinking four cups of green tea every day led to significant reductions in several risk factors for diabetes. These factors included body weight, body mass index (BMI), and systolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the force that blood flow exerts on blood vessels when the heart is between beats.
Relieving autoimmune uveitis
Although researchers would need to replicate this study in humans to gauge the full effect of matcha tea on autoimmune uveitis, this study indicates that compounds in matcha tea may have a beneficial impact on this autoimmune condition.
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There have not been many direct studies on matcha.
The United States Department of Agriculture database does not reveal any nutritional content for this type of tea outside of branded products.
Although green tea does not provide a significant amount of vitamins or minerals, its health benefits come from its high concentration of plant compounds, known as polyphenols.
In fact, around 30% of green tea's dry weight consists of these compounds.
Traditionally, people mix a teaspoon of matcha powder with one-third of a cup of water that is hot but not quite boiling.
A growing interest in matcha has led to new ways of using it, however.
One suggestion is to make hot or iced tea by mixing a teaspoon of matcha powder with one-third of a cup of hot water and drinking it as it is or pouring it over ice.
- Here are some other ideas:
- Add foamed milk to make a matcha latte.
- Add matcha powder to a smoothie.
- Mix matcha powder into oatmeal.
- Make homemade granola bars using matcha.
- Add matcha to simple salad dressings, with a little oil, vinegar, and sweetener.
Registered dietitians developed the following healthful and delicious recipes using matcha:
- matcha green tea latte popsicles
- orange matcha iced tea
- matcha green granola bars
People can buy matcha at health food stores, specialty tea stores, and online. People should always ensure that matcha powder is the only ingredient. Many packages or premixes will have added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other ingredients that may reduce its health benefits.
Matcha is also becoming more widely available as a specialty drink in cafes and coffee shops. These establishments may add high amounts of sugar, so always check the label or ask a member of staff if the beverage contains added sugar. Try to order unsweetened or lightly sweetened matcha when possible.
There have not been many studies into the risks of matcha tea. For this reason, the benefits and risks are not yet completely clear.
In one 2015 study, a high consumption of green tea had links to reproductive problems in fruit flies. However, it is unclear whether or not this would have the same effect in humans.
This study also used very large doses of green tea and does not represent the amount that a human would usually drink. Importantly, some research suggests that excessive green tea consumption may reduce iron absorption due to its catechin content.
Drinking too much green tea also provides a large amount of caffeine. This can lead to side effects such as a rapid heartbeat and sleeping problems.