Matcha Tea: Surprising Benefits of a Superfood

by Brian P. Ramos

During my most recent DNA Hacker’s Retreat, I discussed some of my top recommended supplements and superfoods. Matcha green tea was one of these natural remedies for health and wellbeing that I discussed. Matcha tea is an excellent way to incorporate some healthy components into your everyday diet. A single serving of matcha tea is nutritionally equivalent to ten cups of regular green tea! This is because matcha is made from high-quality, whole tea leaves that are ingested in powdered form. Therefore, it makes it a more potent source of nutrients than regular steeped green tea. Note, however, that I would not ingest more than one serving a day, especially matcha coming from China due to lead warnings.

Matcha is a special form of green tea

Matcha literally means “powdered tea.” When you order traditional green tea, components from the leaves get infused into the hot water as you steep it. Afterward, the leaves are discarded. With matcha, however, you are drinking the whole leaves, which have been ground into fine powder and subsequently made at home into a solution, usually by mixing a teaspoon or so of matcha powder with a third of a cup of hot water (heated to less than a boil), which is then whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths.

Unlike traditional green tea, matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they are harvested. Due to this, leaves grow with better flavor and texture. They are hand-selected, then steamed briefly to stop fermentation, and finally dried and aged in cold storage, which deepens the flavor. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder and packaged for selling.

It offers many health benefits

In addition to providing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood sugar regulation, blood pressure reduction, and anti-aging. Another polyphenol in matcha called EGCG has been shown in research to boost metabolism, and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.

1. Matcha Tea Is a Great Source of Antioxidants.

Matcha great tea is antioxidant-rich. These are compounds known to slow down the oxidative damage in occurring daily within our cells. Free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules) are generated, which can damage our cells contributing to aging and numerous diseased conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, taking matcha tea can be beneficial to your health as it provides the body with antioxidants that protect your body by neutralizing the free radicals the cause damage. One bowl of matcha tea provides us with over five times the antioxidant content found in other foods ranked higher as per the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score.

2. Matcha Tea Is Loaded with Catechin, EGCG.

Matcha tea also contains organic compounds called catechins, which may be more beneficial and potent than many other antioxidants. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is the main catechin in matcha green tea (constituting about 60 % of the catechin content). EGCG has been shown in research studies to fight cancer. It can also be effective in fighting various viral, fungal and bacterial infections. EGCG inhibits the growth of human pathogens by binding to the lipid membrane. This protects your body from infections that we often take as normal (i.e.influenza, bacterial infections, etc.).

3. Enhances Mental Alertness and Calmness

Over the years, Matcha Tea has been used for relaxation and meditation while remaining alert. L-Theanine is an amino acid present in matcha tea that is responsible for this higher state of composure and alertness. L-theanine acts as a neuromodulator that helps to induce a calming effect with little drowsiness at a cellular level. L-Theanine stimulates the brain to produce alpha waves that induce relaxation and steadiness of the mind without the inherent drowsiness that many can struggle with will sitting in meditation. Therefore, it helps meditators more easily sustain deep concentration while meditating. I teach students various yoga techniques that can induce a similar yet more powerful calming effect with increased mental awareness that makes matcha green tea not as necessary, except for its health benefits.

4. Increases Endurance and Energy Levels

Matcha tea has energizing properties. However, the energy boost from Matcha Tea does not come from caffeine but is mainly due to its combination of essential nutrients. A cup of matcha tea can increase endurance that lasts up to six hours without some of the side effects of mainstream energy drinks, such as hypertension, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. Additionally, it maintains optimum hormone levels and supports the functionality of adrenal glands.

5. Improves Cholesterol and Burns Calories

Drinking Matcha Green Tea increases metabolism and helps the body burn excess fat much faster. Moreover, it has no negative effects such as hypertension or increased heart rate. However, some studies show that matcha green tea improves cholesterol levels positively. Men who took matcha tea showed an 11 percent decrease in cardiovascular problems compared to those who did not take it.

6. Matcha Tea Detoxifies the Body

Before harvesting matcha tea leaves, they are deprived of sunlight; this leads to a tremendous increase in the chlorophyll content. High levels of chlorophyll give matcha a vibrant green color and powerful detoxifying and healing effects, aiding in the removal of chemical toxins and heavy metals from the body. Not only does it cleanse the blood harmful toxins but helps to maintain alkalinity in the blood and body tissues.

7. Strengthens the Body’s Immune System

As mentioned above, the catechins present in Matcha Tea have antibiotic properties that promote overall health. Furthermore, taking matcha tea provides the body with substantial quantities of minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Vitamins A and C, and several essential proteins. Matcha green tea also has EGCG that offers protection against HIV. Studies have shown that taking a cup of matcha tea protects the brain of HIV-infected patients. It is also an effective remedy for gastrointestinal health: Matcha teatreats various gastrointestinal disorders by stimulating the fecal excretion and detoxification.

8. Contains Caffeine

Because you’re consuming whole leaves in matcha, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, about the amount in a cup of coffee. Different from coffee, however, matcha creates an “alert calm” due to a natural substance it contains called L-theanine, which induces relaxation without drowsiness. If you have trouble sleeping due to stress or anxiety, I suggest limiting caffeinated sources to the morning mainly (including matcha) and definitely at least six hours before bedtime, to ensure a good night’s rest.

9. Helps to Dissolve Tamas (lethargy and inertia) for Better Early Morning Meditation Practice

If you want to establish an early morning meditation routine (4–6 AM ideally), fighting off that mental and physical lethargy and inertia is crucial to avoid falling asleep during deep concentration practices. Therefore, it has been long included in some meditation or contemplation traditions (i.e. zen meditation or tea ceremonies). Despite this, I suggest you work towards weaning yourself from any stimulant during your meditative practices to build greater willpower, resilience, and focus.

10. It can be Incorporated into Meals

Matcha can be ingested not just as a beverage, but as a key ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. If you Google matcha recipes, you’ll find everything from muffins, brownies, and puddings, to soup, stir fry’s, and even guacamole! Experiment with matcha and discover the many ways it can be included in your everyday diet. However, due to concerns about lead, I recommend being conservative with its consumption, especially if it is made from leaves grown in China. Remember that even with superfoods, you can overdo it. Go for balance and variety in your whole plant-based diet! With regards to matcha, look for an option that is pure, organic, high quality, and enjoy in moderation.

A Few Words of Caution

Because the taste is of matcha can be strong and sometimes bitter, if too much is added to hot water, matcha is sometimes sold in a sweetened version to improve its palatability; powdered mix, rather than just pure ground, organic leaves. This often reduces the quality of the product. The first ingredient is often sugar, and may also contain powdered milk, to mimic hot chocolate but with cocoa exchanged for matcha. With matcha, however, you should value quality, which may come at a cost, but is certainly worth it. In other words, high quality, fresh, pure matcha can be expensive. If you find cheaper alternatives, usually from China, then avoid them (see more below) as this reflects a lower quality product. I drink Jade Leaf Organic Japanese Matcha Green Tea Powder (mainly in smoothies) because it’s USDA certified organic, third-party tested for contaminants, and from Japan.

Why Japanese matcha you may be wondering? Well, even organically grown green teas have been shown to contain lead, which is absorbed by the plant from the environment, particularly tea grown in China. You may not know this, but when traditional green tea is steeped, about 90% of the lead stays in the leaf, which is then discarded. However, with matcha, we are consuming the whole leaf and therefore will ingest more lead. One independent group, ConsumerLab.com, which tested teas, estimates that a cup of matcha may contain as much as 30 times more lead than a cup of green tea. Therefore, I would recommend not drinking more than one cup daily, and certainly not serving it to children.

 

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