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8 Matcha Benefits That Will Make You a Tea Drinker

The Healthy logo The Healthy 5/4/2021 Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
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Matcha tea benefits you should know about

If you've recently scrolled through TikTok or Instagram, you've likely seen a green "cloud" latte or a whipped Dalgona latte. (Here's a healthy Dalgona coffee recipe if you need one.)

The verdant color doesn't come from synthetic food coloring—it's from a type of green tea called matcha.

Sounds like the start of a trend, right? Not exactly.

"Matcha, or green tea, came from China to Japan 800 years ago as a form of medication for digestive upset, increasing concentration, calming nervous systems, and more," says Miho Hatanaka, RDN, a mindful eating coach in Portland, Oregon, who's originally from Japan. "Since then, the use of matcha has evolved over time."

Though it's been around for centuries—and popular in the United States for years—matcha's popularity is soaring right now. You know it's true when you can walk into a random Starbucks and order a customized matcha green tea latte.

According to a recent Market Watch report, the global matcha market size had a value of over $1.39 billion in 2018 and is anticipated to be worth $1.97 billion in 2025.

Boost in demand in the United States is likely from people who are health conscious coupled with the awareness of matcha's benefits.

But what exactly makes matcha such a healthy drink? Let's find out.

What is matcha?

Grind up whole green tea leaves and you have the vibrant green powder known as matcha.

Just don't confuse it with green tea. You don't steep the leaves in hot water then toss them after a few minutes (which is what happens with green tea).

With matcha, you consume the leaves by whisking the powder with hot water (Hatanaka reccomends a temp of 175° F) and sipping it as a tea.

It's got a distinctive taste: fresh and sweet, with umami too.

Packed with nutrients

Matcha has some health benefits. And it's not just one nutrient that makes matcha so beneficial. A bunch of components synergistically work together to make it a health-protective pick.

"Matcha has basically the same proposed health benefits of green tea but possibly supercharged," says Keri Gans, New York City-based nutritionist, author of the Small Change Diet, and host of "The Keri Report" podcast. "It's basically an antioxidant powerhouse. "

Matcha contains high amounts of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which support the immune system, circulatory system, and cognitive function," says Hatanaka.

Polyphenolic compounds found in abundance in the tea leaves are called catechins.

You may have heard of the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) before; it's often linked to green tea's health benefits. While the catechins work as antioxidants, they offer potential anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits—and so much more.

Matcha also provides other health-promoting bioactive compounds, including rutin, quercetin, caffeine, and chlorophyll.

In each 1-gram serving of matcha powder, you'll get a bit of vitamins A, C, and K, plus iron, and fiber.

In short, matcha is a nutritious, low-calorie beverage—unless, of course, you transform it into an overly rich dairy dessert.

May support brain health

Various active ingredients in green tea, including catechins, may play a role in improving mental clarity.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted with 61 older people over a 12-week period found that a daily drink containing 3 grams of matcha powder seemed to offer protection against cognitive issues, but only in the women. The 2020 study was published in Nutrients.

Beyond catechins, there's an amino acid found in matcha that's helpful.

"L-theanine is an amino acid that is responsible for enhancing concentration while reducing stress in the body," says Hatanaka. "Therefore, drinking matcha induces calm-alertness without the jitteriness or sudden crash of energy from drinking coffee."

And in a 2019 review published in Nutrients, the overall consensus is that green tea intake might reduce the risk of cognitive impairment (even if mild), Alzheimer's disease, and dementia.

May enhance immunity

Matcha may help keep your immune system strong.

The antioxidants found in matcha are key to its immune-supporting benefits, ranging from antibacterial to antiviral properties. It's rich in the flavonoid rutin, which offers support for the immune system while providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Matcha's vitamin C can help to build up your immune defenses. And several studies, including a 2019 study published in Phytotherapy Research, shows that the L-theanine that's found in green tea leaves may support good immune functioning.

May help protect against cancer

We can't say that drinking a cup of matcha a day can keep cancer away, but there is still some promising news.

"Specifically, because of its antioxidant properties, (matcha) may help prevent certain cancers," says Gans. Green tea, in general, has an anti-angiogenesis effect, meaning it may halt cancer growth, according to a 2017 study in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

Can it be helpful for breast cancer prevention? A 2018 laboratory analysis in the journal Aging finds that matcha green tea may have some anticancer potential since it can manage changes within cancer cells, potentially preventing the spread of breast cancer.

Other 2019 laboratory-based research in the journal Oncology Reports suggests that the EGCG and quercetin found in green tea have a potential anticancer effect, namely on breast cancer cells that are estrogen receptor positive and negative.

May help weight management

While not a magic formula for losing weight, drinking matcha can certainly be part of a healthy weight repertoire.

"(Matcha) could possibly be beneficial for weight management or weight loss, as it may increase metabolism, allowing for an increase in fat burning," says Nancy Farrell Allen, RDN, a Virginia-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Studies in animals and humans suggest this could be possible. The catechin EGCG in green tea may be a key.

In a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, published in 2015 in Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave 115 obese women a daily high-dose (856.8-milligram) green tea extract (EGCG). The result: some weight loss, lower total and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, and reduced waist circumference.

The researchers suggest that the tea extract may inhibit the secretion of ghrelin, "the hunger hormone." And that may be why green tea extract is associated with an anti-obesity effect.

May reduce the risk for heart disease

Sipping a cup of matcha may be good for your ticker. "[Matcha is] naturally high in antioxidants, which help to fight off several chronic diseases, including heart disease," says Allen.

According to a 2019 research review in the journal Antioxidants, bioactive components of matcha may offer a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, due to their potential ability to lower triglycerides and total and LDL cholesterol, raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress, lessen inflammation, and more.

Based on a 2020 review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, published in the journal Medicine, green tea seems to have an ability to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. At least that's what short-term clinical trials suggest.

May help manage blood sugar

Green tea intake is linked with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And it may reduce blood sugar and A1C levels—your average blood sugar levels in the past two to three months.

A review of the research on diabetes and tea suggests it can be part of a diabetes-friendly diet. It finds that "tea intervention" may be useful within the treatment plan for people with diabetes and its complications.

Two key plant components that make matcha a diabetes-friendly pick are the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and rutin.

Quercetin has been shown to help normalize the digestion of carbohydrates. Rutin has both antidiabetic (that is, preventing high blood sugar) and anti-inflammatory properties, which may also help prevent or protect against diabetes-related complications, per a 2017 study in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

Of course, none of this is any good if you're drinking your matcha with lots of milk, sugar, and sweeteners. In that case, the carb content will far outweigh any possible blood sugar-lowering effects of the tea.

a person sitting on a bed © Aliaksandra Ivanova / EyeEm/Getty Images

May protect against the effects of aging

Your body's cells are fans of the catechins found in matcha.

"Studies show that catechins prevent premature aging of the cells," says Hatanaka.

Aging doesn't just come in the form of gray hairs and wrinkles. There are a lot of ways your body will show (and feel) its age, including the health of your skin and bones and how long you live.

Bone health

Aging can negatively impact your bones. Luckily, green tea antioxidants may offer potential protections against the risk of bone fracture and bone loss.

A 2020 study found this osteoprotection is thanks to catechins that are found in abundance in matcha. Due to their powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, these polyphenols may be able to combat the negative effects of the imbalance of bone cell production associated with osteoporosis.

Skin health

You probably already know this, but aging affects your skin, often in negative ways. That includes photoaging, which is related to sun damage.

Findings of a 2019 review published in Nutrients suggest green tea is associated with antiphotoaging. That means drinking green tea may help to protect your skin from the damaging and age-accelerating effects of ultraviolet light. You have the rich polyphenol content to thank for that.

Longevity

Could people who regularly drink matcha live longer? Possibly.

Before you get too excited, know this: green tea's link to longer life has only been shown in fruit flies. In a 2015 study in Oncotarget, they were given EGCG-rich green tea extract and, yes, lived longer.

How much matcha should you consume?

Based on all of the exciting research about matcha's potential health benefits, having it regularly seems to be an excellent idea, unless you need to steer clear of caffeine.

"One cup a day is advisable to reach health benefits without risking any possible side effects," says Allen.

What's in that cup? Hatanaka suggests that matcha is traditionally sipped in small amounts: "No more than 1 teaspoon of matcha per cup."

If you're drinking matcha for specific therapeutic purposes, you might want more than a cup a day.

"It really depends on your reason for sipping," says Gans. "But remember it does have around 70 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Even though you get a calmer buzz than coffee because of the amino acid L-theanine—which helps your body to absorb the caffeine slower—it's still caffeine."

And that matters because caffeine can have some negative effects on the body.

"We know that too much caffeine can increase your heart rate and make you feel jittery," says Allen, who adds that it's best to use matcha in moderation.

Gans suggests an upper limit for healthy adults based specifically on matcha's caffeine content: "No more than 5 cups would be considered safe."

Of course, matcha doesn't work in a vacuum, and it won't counteract a diet based on takeout and junk food.

"A diet rich in plenty of fruits and veggies should be part of your daily eating plan also, not just simply sipping matcha," adds Gans.

How to shop for matcha

"I want to warn people to be careful where they source matcha," says Hatanaka. "The product should not be adulterated and [should] come from a reliable source."

And since there are some minor concerns of lead-contaminated matcha showing up in the marketplace, Hatanaka recommends purchasing organic matcha to avoid potential conventional pesticide and fertilizer residues.

Cooking or baking with matcha

Sure, you can cook and bake with matcha. Heat may enhance the absorption of antioxidants. But too much heat may reduce or destroy some nutritional properties of matcha, such as vitamin C.

Consider sprinkling matcha like a seasoning onto hot foods after cooking or baking.

"Since it is ground into a powder-like substance, it is easy to add to many things that you are already enjoying, such as your morning bowl of oatmeal or smoothie," says Gans. "You could even spritz your popcorn with a little olive oil and then sprinkle the matcha on top."

Luckily, the pros outweigh the cons of matcha.

So eat it in a creation of your choosing—even if it's an occasional brownie sprinkled with matcha or a quirky TikTok-inspired treat. Or sip it smartly while toasting to your health.

The post 8 Matcha Benefits That Will Make You a Tea Drinker appeared first on The Healthy.

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