Centuries before matcha and its distinct, vibrant green color was incorporated into lattes and other beverages in the modern Western world, Chinese dynasties and Japanese Buddhist monks have already been making matcha tea. Thanks to globalization, the world now knows of this derivation of a green tea, which, although commonly taken as tea, can also be consumed as a part of desserts and even savory meals.
The reason why matcha has become so popular is that it offers a long list of physical and mental health benefits, which includes the following:
Greater access to powerful antioxidants
As you may already know, matcha is revered for having a lot of antioxidants. Contrary to common knowledge, not all antioxidants have the same kind of benefits. So exactly what kind of antioxidants does matcha have, and what are the unique advantages of consuming them?
Well, about 30% of the weight of green tea is accounted for by polyphenols, which are organic chemicals mostly found in plants. Classified under polyphenols, EGCG (which is part of the group of catechins) are the antioxidants found in matcha. Since matcha is essentially whole green tea leaves that’ve been ground into a fine powder, it has thrice as much of the previously mentioned antioxidants than regular steeped green tea, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Chromatography.
Here are the benefits of making the antioxidants in matcha a regular part of your diet:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Protection against cancer and heart disease
- Decreased levels of blood pressure
- Slowed aging process
- Faster metabolism
- Slowed growth of cancer cells
Improved memory and focus
Most people rely on a cup of coffee for their daily pick-me-up. Students, for instance, usually feel like they can’t survive exam seasons and hell weeks without at least a couple of trips to the nearest coffee shop. However, since drinking coffee could have certain side effects, including shakiness and elevated blood pressure, some have started to look for better alternatives that are just as - if not more - effective.
Matcha is one such alternative. Since it’s a form of green tea, matcha still contains a small amount of caffeine, but not nearly as much as what your regular order from Starbucks can have. Instead, it contains L-theanine, an amino acid predominantly found in tea leaves and some species of mushrooms. According to Psychology Today, L-theanine is said to increase levels of dopamine, serotonin, and Gamma-Aminobutyric (GABA) in the brain; these are neurotransmitters that control the following:
- Other cognitive abilities
Aside from increasing the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, L-theanine is also said to improve alpha brain waves, which is linked to a state of mindful calmness. That state is usually achieved through meditation. When someone is mindfully calm, they could become more creative and, since they’re relaxed and unbothered, possibly more productive.
All that already said, the general advice for caffeine intake is still applicable: as much as possible, try to ditch any caffeinated beverages at least six hours before your bedtime to ensure that you won’t have any trouble sleeping.
Stronger immune system
Matcha isn’t just about antioxidants. It’s also packed full of other nutrients, which are:
This mineral is essential for the proper functioning of the body. Sometimes, a deficiency in iron could lead to a shortage in the supply of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to various parts of the body. Aside from that, you also need iron to maintain strong and healthy skin, nails, and hair. It’s good to make sure that you’re getting enough iron, but do consult a doctor first before you decide to take supplements.
As an essential macronutrient, protein is an important building block in the creation of skin, muscles, cartilage, bones, and even blood. Together, of course, with other healthy foods, matcha could be a better alternative source of protein instead of fatty meats.
This is an electrolyte that can counteract the adverse effects of sodium in the body. As such, it plays an important role in balancing the amounts of acids and bases in the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, calcium has benefits other than maintaining the strength of your bones. It has recently been found to help protect against common yet serious diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Common in most fruits and vegetables, flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients that have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, which is why they are quite effective in helping alleviate the discomfort that comes with a sore throat. Additionally, when combined with antioxidants, they can help terminate viruses and bacteria that lead to commons colds and other infections.
- Vitamins A and C
These micronutrients can help facilitate the proper functioning of different bodily functions, including the general protection and maintenance of the immune system.
Healthy weight loss
A study published in the Journal of Chromatography suggests that drinking matcha can safely fast-track your weight loss when combined with moderate to intense regular exercise. This is thanks to the metabolism-boosting powers of the antioxidant EGCG.
In the study, the 12 participants generally showed a 17% increase in their bodies’ fat-burning capabilities after pairing matcha with half an hour of cycling exercises. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the amount of EGCG used in that study is equivalent to one or two regular cups of matcha tea.
Although more updated and substantial research is needed to strengthen the claim that drinking matcha promotes weight loss, it wouldn’t hurt to try it for yourself. You can include matcha in your weight-loss diet by drinking matcha tea at the following times:
- Before breakfast, lunch, and dinner;
- 30 minutes before every workout, and;
- While snacking, since EGCG could also trick you into feeling full faster, as reported by the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition last 2015.
Aids in meditation
Perhaps the most elusive advantage of giving matcha a recurring role in your diet and lifestyle is that it can improve your mental health by helping you meditate more effectively.
Even though it originated in Asian countries like India and China, meditation has gained popularity in the West in the past couple of years because of its many proven benefits, which include:
- Stress reduction
- Alleviation of anxiety and depression
- Increased self-awareness
- Lengthened attention span
- Improved sleep
- Increased control over addictions
- Decreased blood pressure
- Better pain control
No matter how many times they hear about these benefits, some people still can’t or don’t practice meditation. This is where matcha comes in. The main reasons why people can’t meditate are because they can’t quiet down their thoughts or stay awake. Because it contains the amino acid L-theanine, matcha can help you curb your thoughts, calm down, and focus.
Cleanse your body and may help prevent cancers
It’s now almost too easy for your body to absorb toxins from either the environment or from the food that you eat. If you’re looking for a way to cleanse those harmful chemicals from your body, then matcha can help you out with that as well.
The detoxifying properties of matcha can be attributed to the way that it’s prepared. Before they’re harvested and ground up into a fine powder, the green tea leaves are covered to block out sunlight. This step is responsible for promoting the growth of chlorophyll, which can remove harmful chemicals from the body and to stimulate bowel movements.
A study published by researchers from the Oregon State University in 2011 found that chlorophyll can inhibit carcinogen uptake in certain fishes and rodents. These results hold relevance for humans, as well. According to the International Business Times, a clinical trial studying how liver cancer can be affected by chlorophyllin is currently underway in China. That clinical trial serves as a follow-up to an old study that found that chlorophyllin reduced carcinogens called aflatoxins by 55%.
May help prevent HIV
The world’s best researchers and scientists, despite their unfaltering and greatest efforts, have yet to find a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The best anyone can do right now is to search for practical ways to prevent getting infected.
Matcha, as unbelievable as it may seem at first, can be one of those preventive measures. A study conducted by Steinmann and Buer in Germany last 2013 found that the antioxidant EGCG also has anti-infective capabilities, which have been demonstrated when tested with the following groups of viruses:
As far as current research can tell, EGCG prohibits the effects of viruses by attaching to their lipid membranes, which consequently affects the metabolism of fungi and bacteria.
As simple and unassuming as it appears, matcha has a lot of health benefits to offer. In addition to those benefits, it’s also incredibly easy to add to your drinks and meals, so you have a lot of room to be creative with how you add it to your diet. Just be careful when purchasing matcha, especially if you wish to do it online. There are some brands that offer cheap yet lead-contaminated matcha. To be safe, purchase yours from brands that have been certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and can prove that their products have undergone sufficient laboratory tests.