17 October, 2019
Food and Health: Health Benefits of Matcha
What Is Matcha?
It’s a form of green tea that’s been enjoyed in China and Japan for hundreds of years. The leaves are made into a powder that’s far stronger than regular tea, so a little can go a long way.
How It’s Made
About 2 weeks before harvest, farmers build structures around the plants to shade them, leaving them almost in the dark. It’s thought that this makes the leaves softer, sweeter, and brighter. After harvest, the tea leaves are quickly steamed, then dried and put into heated ovens for 20 minutes or so. Workers then remove stems, twigs, and other unneeded parts and grind the leaves into powder.
How It Tastes
Though it’s made from the same leaf, some people say matcha is sweeter and creamier than regular green tea. You may also notice a ‘grassiness’ to the smell and taste, especially if you use a lot of the powder.
Antioxidants are substances in foods that can help protect your cells from damage. Some studies show that because of the way it’s made, matcha may have more of those than loose-leaf green tea. But researchers don’t know yet if that means it has any more health benefits.
Lower Blood Pressure
Catechins, an antioxidant in matcha, may help with this. They seem to be especially helpful if your upper number is 130 or higher, which can raise your chances of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, among other issues.
Catechins also seem to help with your LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and total cholesterol numbers. That’s good because high levels of those can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Defense Against Cancer
Polyphenols and other antioxidants in matcha (as well as loose-leaf green tea) may help protect your cells against cancer. But more research is needed for doctors to know if these compounds can help prevent or delay the disease.
Better Dental Health
A cup of matcha tea a day might help keep your teeth in good shape. This could be because something in the leaves helps keep a healthy level of acid in your mouth. Or it might be the fluoride the plant gets from the soil. The water you use to make your brew may have fluoride in it, too.
Matcha can help keep you awake and focused when you need to be. That’s in part because of one of its best-studied ingredients: caffeine. Just don’t overdo it. Too much can make you jittery and nervous and mess with your sleep.
Help With Inflammation
Antioxidants in matcha called polyphenols might ease the kind caused by conditions like arthritis. It also might slow the breakdown of cartilage (the tissue that cushions your joints) that arthritis can cause.
Whisk together 2 to 4 ounces of almost boiling water with 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha powder. When it looks frothy and thoroughly mixed, it’s ready to drink. Add a bit more water if it’s too strong for your taste.
Any type of milk will work: cow, goat, soy, or almond. You can warm and even foam it, and a bit of honey will sweeten it if you like. Drink it hot, or pour it over ice for a summer treat.
Add It to Your Smoothie
Just a teaspoon or two should do the trick. More than that and you might over-caffeinate yourself for the day. Try different mixtures to find the one that works best with that matcha taste.
Sprinkle It on Oatmeal and Granola
Add matcha to your favorite breakfast in a bowl. If you make your granola at home, look for recipes that use the powder, or just add a teaspoon or two to your current recipe and see what you think.
Stir It Into Yogurt
Sift 2 teaspoons of matcha into half a cup of Greek yogurt and mix it up. Add some fruit, nuts, seeds, and a bit of honey for a healthy treat.