You might have come across all sorts of interesting matcha recipes, from tea to smoothies and muffins, but what is matcha and why are people going mad for it?
Some of the health benefits of matcha green tea may be unexpected, but it can provide a potent kick of nutrients to a healthy diet. We take a look at some of the benefits of the fine green powder, as well as how to use it to make sure you’re getting the most from your matcha.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a form of powdered green tea revered by the Japanese and used during traditional tea ceremonies.
The difference between this and ‘standard’ green tea is that when we normally drink the tea, we remove the tea bag or infuser, meaning the drink has been steeped but the leaves aren’t consumed. When drinking matcha you’re ingesting the whole leaf, which means you’re getting a much bigger dose of nutrients and antioxidants.
The taste of this green tea leaf powder is savoury and earthy, often compared to spinach or other leafy green vegetables.
To create matcha, green tea plants are covered with cloth to induce a growth spurt and increase the chlorophyll content of the leaves. The leaves are then harvested, steamed and dried before being stone ground into a smooth powder to be dissolved in water or another liquid before drinking.
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
Numerous studies have been conducted on the health benefits of matcha green tea and, while some have been inconclusive, there are a great many that indicate just what a potent effect this powder has on the body and why you need it in your life.
One of the main benefits of drinking matcha is that as you’re consuming the whole tea leaf, you’re provided with a host of vitamins and minerals as well as a generous helping of antioxidants; up to 60 times more than contained in leafy green vegetables.
One of the strongest of these is EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), a type of antioxidant called a catechin. Studies have shown that a cup of matcha tea contains much more EGCG than a cup of normal green tea. This catechin is important as it’s been shown to have anti-carcinogenic and heart disease fighting properties.
More detailed research is needed on the specific cancer-fighting properties of matcha, but a review of studies by the National Cancer Institute of the US found that its consumption may reduce the risk of some cancers such as in the lungs, ovaries, prostate, breasts and colon.
Antioxidant polyphenols contained in matcha powder have also been linked to lowered cholesterol, better blood sugar regulation and a reduction in blood pressure.
Matcha for Weight-Loss
EGCG has also been linked to a boost in metabolism – a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that another of the health benefits of matcha is the ability to increase thermogenesis in the body.
This means that matcha green tea can help the body burn calories and oxidise fat at a much quicker rate than normal. Thermogenesis was increased from 10% to a huge 43% in this study, which used a potent green tea extract similar to matcha, meaning calories were burnt more than four times faster than normal after consuming the extract.
A similar study found that exercising straight after drinking matcha tea was most effective, causing a 25% increase in the amount of fat burned while during movement.
Brain Boosting Benefits of Matcha
Matcha also benefits the mind. The large amounts of amino acid L-theanine contained in the tea help to increase alpha wave brain activity, which can help to reduce stress and to create a relaxed state. It’s been supposed that this is the reason people feel more alert but less jittery when drinking matcha compared to a cup of coffee, even though matcha tea contains around half the caffeine content of espresso coffee.
How Do You Use Matcha?
Traditionally, matcha green tea powder is added to a warm bowl of nearly boiling water and whisked with a bamboo whisk called a chasen until smooth and frothy. If you don’t happen to have a bamboo whisk then a teaspoon will do, but it’s said that this method of preparing green tea is what gives it a silky texture.
Matcha Tea Shots
As well as drinking from a cup or mug, matcha benefits greatly from being made into a shot and there’s rising popularity for this easy method of getting a quick antioxidant kick. To make a match tea shot:
- Mix about half a teaspoon of matcha powder with 30ml of water or juice.
- Stir quickly to help it dissolve.
- Down the shot for a super boost that’s especially great instead of a morning coffee.
A teaspoon or two of matcha can also be added to smoothies for a great health kick and an interesting new taste.
Cooking with Matcha
Recipes containing matcha are on the rise. You can add matcha powder to baked goods such as brownies, muffins and flapjacks but the taste lends itself well to savoury cooking, too, such as in soup or oriental dishes.
If you do plan to cook with matcha, don’t use the most expensive brand as the health benefits of the powder will be weakened compared to drinking a concentrated cup of the tea. Instead go for a culinary grade that will provide great taste and nutrients without breaking the bank.
Be Aware of Inferior Matcha Products
With so many benefits to drinking matcha, you are probably ready to make a purchase. But, first, a word of warning; be aware of the ingredients of matcha pre-packaged drinks and powders. You may be in for a shock when you take a closer look! Milk powder and refined sugar can often be added to these to try to improve the texture or taste, but these ingredients dilute and can even negate the healthy properties of the matcha powder.
Experts say that no matcha drink can compare to the concentration of nutrients in a carefully brewed cup of plain matcha tea, so it seems this really is the optimum way to drink it.
Start Drinking Matcha Today – For Less
Packed full of powerful antioxidants, add 1 to 2 cups of matcha to your day to boost your heart health, relax your mind and even help with weight loss.
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