May. 17. 2019
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Matcha is a power-packed ingredient that has become popular for its ability to add a burst of color, flavor, and nutrients to nearly any dish.

Aside from lattes, teas, and hot beverages, you can now even spot matcha in everything from baked goods to granola bars, energy bites, breakfast bowls, and more, making it easier than ever to enjoy the multitude of matcha benefits.

Not only is matcha green tea powder vibrant and delicious, but it also brings a long list of nutrients to the table and boasts a number of impressive health benefits. In fact, potential matcha tea benefits include improved heart health, increased metabolism, better brain function, and more.

So what is matcha and why is it so stellar for your health? Let’s take a closer look at the many possible matcha benefits, plus how you can start adding it to your daily diet.

What is Matcha?

Just like other tea varieties such as green tea, matcha green tea is a powder derived from Camellia sinensis, a plant that is native to Asia but cultivated around the globe. However, although they come from the same plant, there are several notable differences that set matcha tea apart from regular green tea.

For starters, the tea plant is grown in the shade. This process helps boost chlorophyll production and increases the amino acid content of the final product. The higher amount of chlorophyll also gives matcha powder its distinct, bright green color.

The tea leaves are later harvested and crushed to make matcha tea powder. Because the entire tea leaf is used to make matcha, it typically contains a higher concentration of antioxidants than green tea, plus significantly more caffeine packed into every serving.

Besides being used to brew hot beverages like lattes and teas, matcha is a versatile ingredient that is also often found added to desserts, smoothies, and snacks.

Top 5 Matcha Benefits

With more and more research continuing to unearth the many potential matcha health benefits, there are plenty of reasons you may want to start stocking up on this simple pantry staple.

Let’s take an in-depth look at a few of the ways that matcha green tea benefits your health.

1. Loaded with Antioxidants

Antioxidants are tiny compounds that play a massive role in health and disease. Not only do they help prevent oxidative damage to the cells caused by factors like pollution, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet, but they may also help protect against chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer (1).

Adding a serving or two of organic matcha to your daily routine can give your body a boost of antioxidants, including specific types such as phenolic acids, catechins, and flavonoids (2).

Additionally, matcha may be even higher in beneficial antioxidants than other types of tea because the entire leaf is used. For instance, one study showed that the concentration of a specific antioxidant compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) could be up to 137 times greater in matcha than in regular green tea (3).

2. Supports Healthy Weight Maintenance

Green tea powder has been well-studied for its impact on weight management. For this reason, it often earns it a slot on the ingredients label of shakes and supplements targeted at boosting metabolism and shedding stubborn body fat.

There is very little research on the effects of matcha itself. However, matcha is closely related to green tea and contains a very similar set of compounds and health benefits.

Studies show that green tea extract can boost the number of calories burned throughout the day while also aiding in weight loss and weight maintenance (4, 5). What’s more, a recent 2018 study even found that consuming a matcha drink prior to exercise was actually able to increase the rate of fat-burning in women (6).

That being said, this doesn’t mean you should ditch the diet and cancel your gym membership, expecting a quick-fix from a few scoops of matcha alone. Instead, be sure to pair it with a healthy, well-rounded diet and regular physical activity to maximize the potential matcha tea weight loss and health benefits.

3. Bumps up Brain Power

Whether you’re having difficulties with brain fog, lack of focus, or forgetfulness, matcha tea may be able to help. Research shows that matcha powder benefits brain function and mental health in a number of different ways. In fact, one study out of the Netherlands actually found that consuming matcha helped improve performance on cognitive tasks used to measure attention and motor abilities (7).

Plus, in addition to cramming a hearty dose of energy-boosting caffeine into each serving, it’s also rich in L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that can enhance alertness and decrease anxiety while also protecting against some of the negative effects that come with caffeine consumption, including changes in mood and the dreaded “caffeine crash” (8).

4. Keeps Your Heart Healthy

Heart disease is a huge problem around the globe, accounting for over 31% of deaths worldwide in 2013. Even scarier: it’s projected that nearly 44% of adults in the United States will have some form of heart disease by the year 2030 (9).

What you put on your plate—or in your cup—can actually have a huge impact on heart health. According to one large review of nine studies, people who drank at least three cups of tea per day had a 21% lower risk of stroke (10). Similarly, another review showed that green tea could reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of both total and bad LDL cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for heart disease (11).

5. Protects Liver Function

As the largest internal organ in the body, the liver plays an integral role in detoxification, metabolism, and protein synthesis, along with over 500 other tasks necessary for growth and survival. One of the most impressive matcha benefits is its effect on liver health, including its ability to promote liver function and protect against disease.

One large meta-analysis pooled the results of 15 studies and demonstrated that drinking green tea was linked to a lower risk of liver disease (12). In another study, supplementing with green tea extract was found to improve levels of liver enzymes, which is a marker used to measure liver function, in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (13).

How to Use Matcha

So where can you find matcha and how can you start reaping the many rewards that it has to offer?

Matcha is widely available in most supermarkets, specialty stores, and online retailers. When searching for the best matcha tea, look for brands that are certified organic, which can help limit your exposure to chemical contaminants like arsenic, many of which are found in the soil used to grow tea plants (14). Also, be sure to always buy from a reputable retailer, which can help you get the most bang for your buck while also ensuring you’re getting the best matcha powder possible.

Once you’re all stocked up, it’s time to start enjoying the myriad of matcha benefits by brewing up your first cup.

If you’re going the classic route, you may want to try making a cup of traditional Japanese matcha tea. This involves simply sifting 1-2 tablespoons into a cup and then combining with about 2 ounces of hot water. You should then use a bamboo whisk to mix the two together, moving the whisk in a zigzag motion until the tea becomes frothy.

Because matcha is just as versatile as it is delicious, though, there are tons of other options for getting in your daily dose. Try adding a scoop of matcha to your favorite recipes to give them a lively, colorful twist. Matcha works great in everything from granola to smoothies, but you can also get creative and add it to just about any dish for a pop of flavor and health benefits.

Matcha Recipes

Need a little inspiration? Here are a few recipes that can help you take advantage of the multitude of potential matcha benefits:

Keep in mind that moderation is definitely key when it comes to matcha, especially because it contains caffeine and can trigger side effects in some people. In particular, consuming high amounts of caffeine can cause issues like anxiety, hyperactivity, fidgeting, and insomnia (15). It can also be addictive, and may even cause withdrawal symptoms when discontinued, including headaches, fatigue, and changes in mood (16).

Therefore, it’s best to stick to one or two cups per day to reduce the risk of side effects. Additionally, be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about drinking matcha.

NS Recommends

Brimming with antioxidants and beneficial compounds, matcha can be a great addition to any diet or dish. The list of potential matcha benefits is also pretty impressive. In fact, research shows that it can promote liver, brain, and heart health while also keeping your waistline in check.

However, despite the myriad of matcha benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that matcha is just one component of a healthy diet, and adding the occasional scoop here and there is unlikely to have much of an impact if you’re filling the rest of your plate with unhealthy ingredients.

Therefore, to really maximize the potential matcha benefits, be sure to pair it with a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and proteins and enjoy in moderation.