The green elixir: Exploring the surprising health benefits of matcha tea

Matcha is the powdered leaves of green tea

Matcha literally means ‘powdered tea’. When you order traditional green tea, the tea leaves are brewed in hot water and then discarded. With Matcha, you drink the actual leaves, which have been finely ground into a powder and then dissolved in water.

Traditionally, about a teaspoon of powder is mixed with a third of a cup of hot water heated to 75-80 degrees. The matcha is then whisked with a special bamboo whisk in a quick circular motion until frothy.

The Green Elixir: Exploring the Surprising Health Benefits of Matcha Tea

Matcha has been described as a healthy alternative to coffee

It contains the amino acid L-theanine, an important component that slows down the absorption of caffeine, allowing you to achieve an energising effect while avoiding a sudden rise in blood pressure. The result is energy and vitality throughout the day.

So why isn't the green tea used to make Matcha so invigorating?

The secret is that the tea bushes are shaded from the sun 14-15 days before harvesting. The shade slows down the growth of the leaves, but at the same time increases the chlorophyll and amino acid content. After harvesting, only whole leaves are used for Matcha, which have been stripped of veins and stems. This results in a more concentrated drink. Scientists once calculated that one cup of matcha contains about 10 cups of green tea.

The Green Elixir: Exploring the Surprising Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
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Health Benefits of Matcha Tea

High antioxidant content:

Matcha tea is rich in catechins, organic compounds that act as natural antioxidants. Antioxidants help stabilise harmful free radicals – compounds that damage cells and cause chronic diseases. When Matcha powder is dissolved in hot water, the resulting tea contains nutrients from the entire leaf. It tends to contain far more catechins and antioxidants than traditionally brewed green tea leaves. It is estimated that matcha contains 137 times more catechins than other green teas [1].

Helps protect the liver:

The liver is essential for good health. Its main functions are metabolism, neutralising toxins and maintaining metabolism. Some studies conducted by Chinese doctors have shown that people who drink green tea leaf drinks are less likely to suffer from liver disease. However, scientists themselves are not in a hurry to call matcha tea a panacea. Long clinical trials are needed to get concrete estimates of its effectiveness in preventing hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Stimulates brain function:

Research conducted at the University of Basel, Switzerland [2],  showed that those who drank Matcha performed better on short-term memory tests and had higher brain function in the frontal and parietal lobes. The frontal lobes regulate higher-order behaviour – setting goals, setting tasks, evaluating results, etc., while the parietal lobe at the back of the brain deals with cognitive understanding of language. MRI scans showed that the interactions between these brain regions were more active in those who drank matcha, increasing information retention and processing speed.

May improve heart health:

Studies show that Matcha green tea powder may be much more effective than brewed green tea when it comes to heart health [3]. Including Matcha green tea in your daily diet can significantly reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Of course, Matcha isn’t all you need for a healthy heart. Experts also recommend a healthy and regular diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and foods low in sugar, fat and sodium. Eating right and exercising are the keys to a healthy heart!

The Green Elixir: Exploring the Surprising Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
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Helps you lose weight:

Matcha contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which increases levels of CCK (cholecystokinin), the hormone responsible for feelings of satiety [4]. Drinking Matcha tea between meals can help you feel fuller for longer and prevent you from succumbing to repeated, insidious snacking throughout the day.

Lowers cholesterol levels:

Studies of various populations have shown that people who regularly consume Matcha green tea have lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol). High-density cholesterol appears to “flush” the bad cholesterol out of the arteries, preventing atherosclerosis. Blockages in the arteries caused by atherosclerosis can lead to heart attack or stroke.

The first human study to show that green tea lowers bad cholesterol was conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in 2003. Study participants took 375 mg capsules of green tea extract for 12 weeks. The polyphenol content of the capsules was equivalent to the amount found in 35 cups of green tea or 3.5 cups of matcha. The results showed a 16 per cent reduction in cholesterol levels.

Matcha tea is very easy to prepare and tastes great

Preparing Matcha couldn’t be easier. The essence of preparation is to dilute the fine green tea powder with warm water. The three best ways to do this are with a bamboo whisk, a shaker bottle or a blender.

Matcha tea is the same as green tea, but because it is made from a whole leaf, it contains a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. Studies have found a range of health benefits from improving skin tone to reducing the risk of heart disease.

It is also easy to prepare, so you can easily add it to your daily diet and give your day that extra boost.

Prepared by Mary Clair

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