Matcha Tea: Boost Your Metabolism and Brain Power
In the last months I have fallen in love with matcha tea. I didn’t know much about until I had to finally (reluctantly) listen to my body’s urgings to give up coffee.
If you’ve ever tried to quit your daily cup of coffee, you probably know that abstaining can leave you sleepy, lethargic and even headachey. My life is busy and although I was committed taking a break from the coffee, it wasn’t going to work for me to nap all afternoon.
There are lots of alternatives to coffee, but I wanted to go light on the caffeine altogether. Just imbibe enough to keep the dreaded caffeine headache at bay and pep myself up sufficiently to avoid collapsing on my desk in front of the computer.
I found some forgotten packets of matcha powder that I had picked up at Trader Joe’s during a long-ago visit, so I decided to try it out.
Wow, was I impressed! One of the problems with coffee for me is the way it creates a gnawing, hungry feeling in my stomach lining. Most unfortunately, a similar thing happens – although to a lesser degree – with both black and green teas. So, I wasn’t sure how the matcha would sit.
To my surprise, I experienced zero stomach upset after mixing up some of that powder in hot water. I did need a little stevia to cut the grassy flavor, but once I sweetened up a bit I actually enjoyed the strong taste of my matcha.
To make it even better the matcha had staying power. It lifted my energy level subtly yet substantially, and I stayed more alert for hours. And not just physically alert… sipping on the matcha definitely seemed to give me some additional creative brain power.
If I did decide to take a power nap the matcha did not interfere. It slowly wore off with no hint of a crash.
I was hooked.
I thought I was just lessening my load of caffeine, but then I started coming across some hints about amazing additional health benefits of matcha. I decided to do some research, and what I discovered encouraged me to bump up my matcha dose—knowing that this was really the good sort of caffeine.
I already knew about many of the benefits of green tea, but it turns out matcha far surpasses even that.
Is Matcha the Same as Green Tea?
You might be wondering how is this possible? After all, matcha IS green tea, isn’t it?
Well, yes—but in a different form. Green tea is comprised of solely the leaves of the tea plant, whereas matcha is the whole entire plant which has been ground to a fine powder. When tea is grown for the purpose of making matcha the leaves are shaded from the sun during their final few weeks of growth which gives them a lovely deep green color. This also stimulates a higher production of chlorophyll and antioxidants.
There are so many ways that the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is processed, which makes for the differences between green, white and black teas …. It’s fascinating how one plant can be experienced in so many different ways; that can be the subject of another article.
Today I want to clue you in on the benefits of matcha specifically. I just might inspire you to trade in your coffee for a matcha latte, or just a plain ceremonial matcha.
Although I’ve discovered there are many, many different grades of matcha, it seems to me that most of the health benefits are present no matter what grade you choose. I’ve now traded in my Trader Joe packets for an authentic Japanese matcha powder with a far superior flavor and texture. However, I honestly think that lower quality Trader Joe’s stuff still packed a power punch.
Four Amazing Benefits of Matcha Tea
1. Packed with Nutrients
Because of the shading process mentioned above, matcha contains much more chlorophyll than regular green tea. This makes it a fabulous detoxifier and blood cleansing aid. Chlorophyll can maintain the alkalinity of your tissues and blood – and alkaline is where you want to be.
Your cup of matcha is also rich polyphenols and in vitamins, notably Vitamin A, C, E, K, and Vitamin B Complex. It contains helpful amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline as well as trace minerals like selenium, chromium, zinc, and magnesium. It contains 137 times more cancer-fighting antioxidants than regular green tea – which is already known to be high in antioxidants
2. Weight Loss Accelerator and Hormone Balancer
Compounds known as catechins are present in matcha, and some studies have shown that these increase the body’s rate of calorie burning along with helping to burn more fat during exercise.
Additionally, Matcha and green tea are well known to increase metabolism by lowering blood sugar levels, which of course can also helps you shed pounds and body mass.
The theophylline in matcha sustains your energy levels without the jitters. The slow release of energy due to theophylline supports the function of your adrenal glands and maintains optimum hormonal levels.
The antioxidants and another compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), can support skin health by reducing inflammation and free radicals that accelerate skin aging.
3. Boosts Brain Power and Cognition
Matcha is well known to improve memory and concentration, and there are a variety of reasons for this.
The shading and harvesting process increases the amount of L-Theanine present in Matcha. This amino acid is what balances the caffeine because even though matcha contains the same amount of caffeine as other types of tea, the L-Theanine creates a sense of calm without any drowsiness.
The amino acid is also known to stimulate alpha brain waves, the type that improves your focus and concentration!
One study highlighted the anti-stress effects of L-Theanine, suggesting it can reduce physiological and psychological stress responses.
4. Stimulates immunity and Fights Infections
Since it is so rich in polyphenols and catechins, matcha helps with the prevention and treatment of bacterial, fungal and viral infections, as well as type-2 diabetes.
Those nutrients, along with L-theanine and another substance called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), collectively contribute towards boosting the immune system and protecting against various antigens.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology showed that EGCG binds to the lipid membrane and inhibits the growth of pathogens like influenza A virus, hepatitis B, and C virus, herpes virus, adenovirus Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and Candida albicans yeast.
How to Make Matcha Tea
It’s easy to make up your own cup of delicious, uplifting and healing matcha tea. And nowadays, you can even find a tasty matcha latte at Starbucks.
You can easily find the matcha powder—Amazon sells several different types, and most natural foods stores will offer a variety. (Plus, of course, even Trader Joes!). Quality varies a lot though. I prefer Japanese to Chinese, and you want to find one that is a deep green color, rather than greenish yellow.
You only need about ½ to 1 teaspoon of the finely ground powder mixed in with a cup of hot water. Ideally, you want to heat the water just short of boiling because you don’t want to boil away all of those healing compounds!
When I first started making up my matcha I stirred the powder vigorously into the hot water, added a bit of stevia and drank it down. I still do it this way when I’m in a hurry or want it to be very simple. This DOES leave a fair amount of powder residue at the bottom of the cup, but that doesn’t bother me.
Some matcha aficionados recommend sifting the powder through a fine mesh strainer before adding it to your liquid.
An upgraded version of the tea is to heat the little water in a pan and then whisk in your matcha powder, whisking vigorously as it heats to disperse it. Or, you can make your own matcha latte by heating just a bit of water, whisking in your teaspoon or so of matcha, and then adding milk – coconut, almond, hemp, or just regular milk. You can also whisk in your sweetener of preference if desired.
I have to say this homemade matcha latte is my current favorite. It does add some calories, but it is SO satisfying. That said, the plain matcha tea made with water is also really good, and is more in line with the traditional way of preparing and serving it.
I now own a ‘matcha whisk’, which is made of bamboo, and it works fabulously for dispersing the matcha powder into the hot water. You pour just a little hot water into your cup or pan, and then whisk it vigorously with the bamboo whisk, then add the rest of your water or other liquid. It’s what the pros use!
Now that you understand the awesome array of benefits matcha can give you, you might be tempted to start sipping on it all day long. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this because of one caution – lead. Apparently, all teas, including green and organic, contain trace amounts of lead. Since we are consuming the whole plant with matcha, there could potentially be more lead.
I think the risk is minimal. I personally drink about one or two cups a day.
Give matcha a try! You won’t regret it.