Move over coffee. There’s a new brew in town. If you haven’t gotten out much lately, we have news: Matcha is everywhere. This ancient superfood has undoubtedly made an incredible comeback, showing up in everything from matcha smoothies to matcha ice cream to matcha lattes. Matcha tea comes with countless health benefits. Its smooth texture and sweet, grassy taste are sure to please most palates. The era of matcha is upon us. And while food trends are not always healthy, this is one you’ll want to get behind.
What is matcha?
Nearly everyone has heard of green tea. After all, it’s been around for a long time. However, matcha tea’s popularity has exploded over the last few years. In fact, market reports project that the already-booming matcha tea market will nearly double in value by 2027. So what exactly is matcha?
Matcha is made from the same tea leaves as green tea. However, unlike green tea, matcha is produced using the entire leaf of the Camellia Sinensis plant.
The green tea plants are carefully grown and protected from the sunlight in the few weeks leading up to harvest. This method boosts essential compounds such as chlorophyll and theanine, resulting in a nutrient-filled bright-green plant. Matcha tea is then handpicked and ground into a fine powder.
The process uses the entire leaf, meaning the tea retains essential nutrients that green tea does not. This makes matcha tea the ultimate superfood. In fact, you would have to drink ten cups of loose-leaf green tea to get the same antioxidants and vitamins that you get in one cup of matcha.
In many cultures, matcha is more than just something to drink. Instead, it’s a sacred beverage carefully prepared with a ritual of intention. Matcha is the star of the show in Japanese tea ceremonies, or “chanoyu.” This tea brings stillness, peace, and alertness to the person consuming it. And let’s be honest, who couldn’t use more of that?
Health benefits of matcha
It’s one thing to enjoy a delicious morning beverage or afternoon treat. It’s another thing to realize that what you are drinking is quite literally a cup full of antioxidants, vitamins, and other health-lending compounds. Numerous studies have proven that matcha green tea is living up to the hype.
The health benefits of green tea are attributed to the high levels of natural antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Polyphenols make up as much as 30 percent of the green tea leaf.
Matcha green tea contains four catechins, a type of polyphenol that reduces free radicals and protects cells from damage. In fact, matcha green tea has the highest antioxidant rating of all major superfoods, beating out spinach, blueberries, and broccoli.
Not only is matcha tea excellent for overall health, but it’s particularly beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Here are nine science-backed reasons to add matcha to your daily routine.
Matcha reduces blood pressure
Numerous studies have found that drinking matcha green tea significantly lowers blood pressure. There are several mechanisms by which green tea works to regulate blood pressure in the body. For example, hypertension results when the kidneys secrete an enzyme called ACE. Studies have found that green tea inhibits ACE, thus acting as a natural blood pressure reducer.
In a more recent study, scientists found that two of the catechins in green tea work to relax blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure.
Matcha benefits cholesterol levels
Next time your doctor suggests cholesterol medication, ask for a prescription for matcha green tea instead. Scientists believe that catechins in green tea are responsible for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Research from 31 studies concluded that green tea significantly lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Other studies suggest that matcha green tea also increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Since higher HDL levels are protective against heart disease, drinking green tea may improve cardiovascular health. Studies also suggest that regular consumption of green tea may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Matcha reduces stress
Matcha green tea is packed with amino acids, including L-theanine. This amino acid elevates important neurotransmitters in the brain, including GABA. In turn, GABA prompts the secretion of serotonin and dopamine. These “feel good” hormones help induce a sense of calm alertness in the body. Several studies confirm the relaxing effects of matcha.
In addition to the nutritional value of matcha tea, consuming it can be a part of your daily mindfulness practice. For over 800 years, Buddhist monks have enjoyed matcha tea as a meditational drink.
In many cultures, the preparation of the tea was as sacred as the consumption. Therefore, when preparing matcha tea, do so with intention, and watch your stress melt away.
Matcha benefits immunity
Studies have found that green tea is an excellent immunity booster. Matcha increases the number of T-lymphocytes in the body, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections.
The antioxidants in matcha tea bind to cells and inhibit the growth of many disease-causing organisms, including hepatitis, flu, and strep throat.
In addition, while more research is needed, a promising study showed that matcha green tea might display antiviral activity with the ability to inactivate COVID-19.
Matcha repairs cell damage and lowers inflammation
Environmental toxins, an unhealthy lifestyle, and stress all contribute to cell damage in the body. Antioxidants in matcha tea help cells with the repair process.
A recent study found that the main antioxidant in matcha tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), raises levels of a natural molecule that cells use to repair DNA. EGCG works to block free radicals and repair the damage done by them. Researchers suggest it may even help lower the risk of cancer.
Matcha contributes to weight loss
Many people come to matcha tea on a quest to lose weight. After all, many experts have touted its benefits in helping drop a few pounds. But how exactly does matcha work when it comes to fat-burning? First, at only three calories per serving, unsweetened matcha is the perfect slimming beverage.
The catechins in matcha tea speed up how the body burns calories. With a revved-up metabolism, one can burn calories just sitting still. One study found that individuals who took a green tea supplement increased their fat-burning rate by 17 percent compared to those who exercised without it.
Matcha has also been shown to lower blood glucose levels. Additionally, the catechins in green tea help slow digestion, thus minimizing the sudden release of glucose. Since high blood glucose levels often contribute to increased weight gain, the glucose regulation of matcha tea indirectly supports a healthy weight.
Matcha reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
A daily matcha green tea may keep the cardiologist away. Studies have found that adding matcha to the diet reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
For example, a large study found that individuals who drank three cups of green tea a day reduced their risk of stroke by 21 percent compared to those who just drank one cup. Since one cup of matcha tea is equivalent to ten cups of green tea, the benefits could be even more significant.
Matcha provides the heart (and body) with important vitamins and minerals
Matcha tea is chock full of vitamins and minerals. The green beverage contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E, F, and K. It also contains beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Along with vitamin E, this vital vitamin helps eliminate artery-damaging free radicals from the body.
In addition to vitamins, matcha contains potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and calcium. While all are important, magnesium and potassium play a vital role in heart health. Both reduce blood pressure.
Additionally, low potassium levels are linked with the hardening of the arteries. Therefore, drinking matcha may keep blood vessels flexible and smooth and benefit heart health.
Matcha boosts energy
Coffee can be a helpful wake-up tool. However, some individuals can’t tolerate a high amount of caffeine. As soon as coffee is consumed, the caffeine creates an instant jolt of energy, often followed by a crash.
Matcha, in contrast, has just a sixth of the caffeine as coffee. At just 25 mg of caffeine per cup, matcha offers a steady and sustained energy level. As a result, most matcha drinkers don’t experience the jitters or heart palpitations that sometimes plague coffee lovers.
There’s another problem with the high levels of caffeine in coffee: it’s very dehydrating. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it increases urination and can have a dehydrating effect on the body. Matcha, on the other hand, won’t deplete water stores. Instead, it will help maintain a healthy fluid balance.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a cup of organic coffee (it can actually be good for your heart) some people simply don’t handle the higher caffeine content very well and should choose matcha instead.
Buyer beware: not all matcha is healthy
Unfortunately, once consumers hear that a food is healthy, they sometimes ignore nutrition labels. While matcha green tea is incredibly beneficial in its pure form, that’s not the matcha sold at many of your favorite coffee shops.
Sadly, a matcha green tea latte at a popular cafe contains over 30 grams of sugar in just one serving. Indeed, the sugar content negates any positive benefits of drinking matcha.
Additionally, most matcha is made using pesticides and fertilizers. As the matcha needs to be shaded during the last few weeks of growth, many farmers use non-organic fertilizers to provide additional nutrition to keep the plants alive. But unfortunately, that fertilizer makes its way into the leaves and eventually into your body.
When choosing a matcha tea, choose an organic ceremonial grade tea. This way, you know you are getting quality matcha free of pesticides, heavy metals, and additives.
How to enjoy matcha
Whether you choose to enjoy hot matcha straight up or a shaken iced matcha latte, you really can’t go wrong. An iced almond milk matcha latte is one of our favorite ways to indulge.
Iced Almond Milk Matcha Latte
This organic, delicious beverage is free of added chemicals and packed with nutrients. Made with almond milk, this refreshing beverage will help you kick your coffee shop habit for good.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time 35 minutes to 2 hours
- 2 teaspoons of organic matcha tea powder, no additives
- Almond milk with no additives or homemade
- 1 cup of high-quality lukewarm water, plus 2 Tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- Mason jar
- Tea kettle to heat water
- Add the matcha powder to a glass mason jar, using more or less as desired.
- Add 2 tablespoons of hot water to the mason jar.
- Whisk the matcha and water until all matcha powder is dissolved, making a thick paste.
- Pour in the remaining 1 cup of water.
- If using honey, add now while the beverage is warm.
- Place the lid on the mason jar and shake vigorously.
- Place the jar in the fridge for 1-2 hours or in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes.
- Fill two glasses with ice, adding the cool matcha tea until the glass is about 2/3 full.
- Add homemade almond milk to taste and stir
Sometimes the biggest challenge in turning towards a healthy lifestyle is fear of what you will need to eliminate. Yes, you may have to forgo your morning stops at the coffee shop. However, there are often healthy replacements for your most loved treats.
Get in the habit of preparing and enjoying matcha tea on the regular to reap its many benefits. Your heart and palate will thank you. If you’re not a fan of the matcha flavor, check out our organic, toxin-free Cardiology Coffee instead!
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD