7 Health Benefits of Matcha
Matcha is everywhere lately, but it’s not (quite) the same as green tea. The trendy ingredient undergoes a different farming process and comes in a powder instead of loose leaves, making it more concentrated.
While plain matcha provides plenty of health benefits, steer clear of dietary supplements that claim to contain matcha or “green tea extract.” Since the FDA doesn’t evaluate these products for safety and efficacy, other ingredients can interact with medications you’re taking. If that’s not enough to dissuade you, high doses of antioxidant compounds can actually lead to pro-oxidative stress, a state that’ s linked to promoting chronic disease instead of fighting it!
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Here are the best boosts of matcha you should harness instead:
1. It’ll help you stay awake.
Since matcha is more concentrated than tea, it contains up to three times the amount of caffeine. That’s almost as much as a cup of coffee, so look for types that are clearly labeled “caffeine free” if you plan on drinking it before bed. However, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans does suggest having 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day to slow cognitive decline, boost memory and improve energy. So for those who aren’t as sensitive, drink up.
2. It may help boost metabolism…
…but not by much — and not for very long! A few small studies have linked drinking about four cups of caffeinated green tea a day with a higher metabolic rate. Research suggests that both the caffeine and antioxidant compounds called catechins may give you a slight boost. That said, you may not see much of a benefit unless you’re guzzling only matcha all day, every day. Plus, genetics play a pretty big role in how effective matcha “works” on your metabolic rate. The only tried-and-true way drinking green tea will boost your metabolism? By helping you wake up and get to the gym.
3. Matcha can help with weight loss.
Here’s the deal: If you’re regularly drink soda, juice and sugary beverages, making the switch to unsweetened matcha will absolutely help! That’s because the number one source of added sugar (and therefore added calories) in the American diet is sugar-sweetened beverages, so opting for a calorie-free alternative is always best. But if you’re already sipping on sparkling water, unsweetened coffee and tea, and the occasional diet drink, you’ll have to do more than switch up your hydration habits to lose weight.
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4. It’s good for your blood sugar.
As long as you’re sipping unsweetened versions, matcha is certainly a smart choice. But be warned: Matcha also appears in sugary juices, frozen yogurt, ice cream, pasta sauces, salad dressings and “tonics” and “elixirs.” These can contain loads of added sugar (among other saturated fat-filled ingredients!), leading to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. Always read the ingredients list and check labels for sneaky sweeteners if you’re unsure.
5. It can help reduce your risk of cancer.
The antioxidant compounds found in matcha and other plants have certainly gotten attention for their cancer-fighting properties, but chugging matcha by the gallon can’t reverse the effects of less healthy eating habits! Adding matcha to a produce-filled diet (one that focuses on veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes) will more effectively lower your chances.
6. Matcha may lower your risk of heart disease.
Research shows people who frequently drink unsweetened tea of any kind are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in life. As an alternative to sugary beverages, it can also help fight other types of chronic diseases, including obesity, so keep on chugging!
7. It’s anti-aging.
Besides boosting your metabolism, catechins scavenge for free radicals in your cells, preventing tissue damage in your skin. But just as no single food can prevent chronic disease, no single food can Benjamin Button your forehead. Practicing safe sun habits is your best bet for immediate skin protection.
The Bottom Line
Choose unsweetened matcha over sweetened drinks any day of the week. It may have some powerful health benefits that, when combined with a plant-based diet, can help with weight management and reduce risk of chronic disease. But if you don’t love the taste, it’s certainly not a must. Coffee and other types of teas have similar benefits.