Is matcha good for you?

Ola Faleti

There are two kinds of matcha: ceremonial and culinary grade. If you'll be drinking matcha, opt for the better-quality ceremonial grade; culinary matcha works best for baking.

What is matcha good for?

You may have noticed an uptick in matcha-flavored pastries, drinks and ice cream, or even seen matcha powder sold in stores. While its origins are rooted in Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha is enjoyed worldwide. It's packed with a number of different nutrients, making it a tasty and healthy addition to your pantry. Below, you’ll find more about matcha powder’s specific health benefits and ways you can enjoy this versatile tea variation beyond just drinking it.

Matcha's origination

Matcha originated in 12th-century Japanese monasteries. Monks were inspired by the Chinese way of grinding tea leaves into powder before mixing it with hot water. After gaining popularity with samurai and becoming incorporated into their Zen Buddhist customs, it spread to the rest of Japan, and eventually became popular worldwide.

Green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, and in a way, matcha does, as well — matcha is the powder that comes from ground green tea leaves. With conventional green tea, you’re drinking the water from the steeped leaves. With matcha tea, you consume the whole leaf ground up and mixed with water, so you’re getting more nutrients than you would in regular tea. 

How to drink matcha

The most common way to consume matcha is to drink matcha tea: sift some matcha powder in a small bowl and sift through it to remove any clumps. Then, add a bit of hot water and whisk with a bamboo whisk. You’ll want to use side-to-side motions to ensure that the powder disperses evenly. There should be a foamy layer that forms on top. To finish it, top the mixture with milk or more water. Add the mixture to a mix, stir in the sweetener of your choice and enjoy.

While drinking is the preferred ingestion method for many, matcha is versatile and can be used in a number of pastry and food recipes, too.

Health benefits

Loaded with antioxidants

Like conventional black, white, and green teas, matcha is packed with free radical-fighting antioxidants. Antioxidants preserve the integrity of your cells by repairing them from damage and preventing new damage. Antioxidants have been directly linked to preventing certain chronic diseases, including cancer. Because matcha powder is ground from the whole tea leaf, it contains even more antioxidants than regular green tea.

All green teas have catechins in them, a particular kind of antioxidant. The catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been linked to strong anti-cancer properties, specifically for breast, skin, lung and liver cancers.

Great for your skin

Believe it or not, matcha makes for a wonderful face mask. Not only is matcha a solid exfoliant that removes dead skin cells and brightens a dull complexion, but the antioxidants in it are also beneficial for reducing inflammation. This is useful for conditions like acne and rosacea, along with general redness and puffiness. Matcha is gentle enough to use on a variety of skin types, whether you want to keep your skin elastic or treat acne. All you have to do is mix some with water or aloe vera and apply to your skin, then remove after 15 minutes. The mixture should be thick enough to stay on your face without dripping.

Boosts cognitive function

Matcha has a higher concentration of caffeine than green tea. Studies have linked caffeine to a better attention span, memory, and completion of tasks. Participants in these studies performed tasks better than those who took a placebo. Matcha is also loaded with l-theanine, an amino acid found in black tea, green tea, and mushrooms. L-theanine assists with alertness and focus. At the same time, the amino acid also increases the production of alpha waves in the brain, helping to promote relaxation and improve stress levels.

May help with weight loss

If you have weight-loss goals for the coming year, adding matcha to your diet can help. Aside from being low in caloric content, green tea is known for some of its weight loss promoting qualities. The same EGCG antioxidant with anti-cancer properties also boosts your metabolism, especially in combination with the caffeine in matcha. One study linked green tea to an increase in fat burning during exercise. Drinking matcha between meals can also help curb cravings.

Regulate bad cholesterol

LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is colloquially known as “bad cholesterol.” When it accumulates, LDL lines the walls of your arteries and can eventually constrict blood flow to your heart and organs. An excess of LDL puts you at risk for a number of chronic conditions such as stroke and heart disease. A 2003 study from Vanderbilt University has correlated regular green tea consumption to lower LDL levels. Researchers noted a whopping 16% decrease in LDL levels, far more than they expected.

Risks and side effects

Matcha, like green tea, does contain caffeine. While the average eight-ounce cup of green tea has about 28 milligrams of caffeine, the amount for matcha varies. Depending on quality and quantity of the powder, matcha has anywhere from 38 to 88 milligrams per two-ounce serving. Caffeine is a stimulant that, in excess, can cause dehydration, heart palpitations, headache, nausea, and upset stomach. Be sure to regulate your matcha consumption; Mayo Clinic identifies up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily as a safe amount for healthy adults. Caffeine consumption in the late afternoon may hinder your ability to sleep.

Those with underlying conditions, like anxiety, should limit their caffeine intake, along with women who are breastfeeding infants. The same applies for people with anemia, as caffeine can block the absorption of iron. If you take any medications with ephedrine, echinacea, or theophylline, ask your doctor about how they, or you, might be affected by caffeine. 

Ola Faleti is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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