This Evidence Based article was written by Meg Dowell, MS, RDs
You may have heard that certain teas, especially green teas, may have what can only be described as magical powers. It comes from a plant, so it’s extremely healthy. It has the potential to discourage you from snacking on sweets you shouldn’t even be thinking about. However, adding cream and sugar to your tea all but totally cancels out all its benefits. That’s why you need to try matcha. This green tea is unlike any other green tea you’ve tried before.
Matcha tea is made from the leaves of tea plants. These leaves are finely ground and added to hot water. Whisking this mixture together creates a creamy, slightly foamy drink you won’t believe is made up of only leaves and water.
But it isn’t just simple to make: it’s extremely beneficial to drink. Here are eight benefits of your new favorite drink.
1. Matcha is good for your heart
When you eat certain foods, various materials end up in your bloodstream. Your blood then transports these materials to cells that need them. Sugar, for example, needs to go to cells in your body to give them energy. So does fat. Cholesterol is also present in the bloodstream, as it is necessary in your body to make certain hormones.
When you have too much fat and/or cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can gradually begin to accumulate in your arteries, forming a hard substance called plaque.
Your heart’s arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood to your organs and tissues. Think of them as your body’s “pipes” that carry blood from the heart to where it needs to go, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now imagine what would happen if, over time, the sides of those pipes started to collect gunk left over from whatever has been passing through them. It would become harder for those pipes to transport materials from one place to another. They would become much narrower, slowing down transport significantly. They might even become clogged.
That’s what happens when your arteries fill with plaque — and it can have terrible consequences, like heart attack and stroke.
Matcha could help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. Drinking matcha regularly can help keep your arteries clear to make sure they can distribute your blood to your body’s various systems without delay. Clear arteries significantly lower your risk of developing certain types of heart disease.
2. It promotes weight loss
Let’s clear something up before we go any further. Drinking tea alone will not magically cause sudden weight loss. Green tea can play a role in a healthy weight loss plan (more on that in a second). But drinking matcha, and making no other lifestyle changes, is not going to get you the results you want. Incorporating matcha into your day can, however, contribute to much bigger, positive things going on inside your body over a period of many months.
Matcha contains an antioxidant called EGCG, which could convince your body to break down fat over time. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that drinking more matcha tea will cause you to burn more fat. It doesn’t really work like that. But depending on how much weight you have to lose, a single cup of matcha per day could eventually start to make a difference.
This tea is also made strictly from the leaves of a plant. Plants are naturally high in fiber, which is one reason why this is definitely the tea to drink if you want to lose weight. Fiber is a slow releasing carbohydrate. This just means that it releases sugar into your bloodstream slowly. Without any sudden spikes or drops in blood sugar, you are much less likely to feel intense cravings toward certain foods, especially junk foods. Eating less than you normally do — especially when you are cutting out junk food — becomes an almost effortless endeavor.
On another note, matcha is extremely low in calories. You’re basically just drinking tea leaves. As long as you aren’t adding anything else to it, you are not drinking anywhere near the amount of calories you might find in, say, a Starbucks Frappuccino. This tea does not contain any added sugars, syrups, or any type of milk. It’s literally just ground leaves whisked into water to create a delicious, seemingly miraculous green formula of wonder.
3. It can make you feel calm
What is your natural reaction when you are stressed to the point of no return? Do you lay your head down on your keyboard and count to 100? Reach for the nearest bag of chips after a particularly unproductive conference call? Make a steaming hot cup of matcha tea before bed? If you are already doing that last one to combat stress, props to you. Whether you knew it already or not, matcha actually has a natural calming effect on some people. There are actually chemical compounds in it that can relieve your stress — even though we’re not exactly sure yet how that happens.
Matcha contains an amino acid called L-theanine. According to research, the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in matcha could actually have a legitimate calming effect on you. Scientists still are not entirely sure what causes this effect. Especially since caffeine is best known for its stimulating effects. It would normally have the opposite effect on your mind and body. Self-reported results aren’t always the most reliable, so more future research may or may not confirm the possible science here.
Still, what we do know for sure is that opting for a cup of matcha instead of a candy bar or a glass of wine acts as a much healthier alternative. You can de-stress and unwind without having to completely ruin your diet or your inhibition.
4. It could reduce your cancer risk
Over time, your body breaks down. This is simply part of the aging process. The longer you spend on the planet, the more subtle damage your body suffers just due to existing. While you can’t prevent this, you can take small steps — like drinking green tea — to protect yourself from its potentially harmful effects.
Many cancers are the result of particles called free radicals. Free radicals form when oxygen molecules split apart, which can cause gradual damage to your cells’ DNA. If you’ve heard people talking about antioxidants, they’re referring to substances in the body that can protect your cells from free radical damage.
Antioxidants exist in a variety of foods. They are also plentiful in green tea, matcha especially. Drinking one or more cups of matcha tea every day won’t completely shield you from the possibility of developing cancer. But sometimes, any small step you can take to decrease your risk and further protect yourself can’t hurt. And with something as beneficial as matcha, you’re doing your body some serious good — in many more ways than one.
5. It can give you a jitter-free energy boost
Probably the worst part about drinking coffee and tea is the crash that comes after the rush. You know the feeling. Shaking hands. Sweating palms. Barely enough energy to get up and make yourself another cup of coffee.
Matcha is here to save your day. The caffeine found in this tea isn’t like the caffeine you get when you drink black coffee. Unlike other types of caffeine, which surge through your system almost instantaneously, this kind releases slowly into your bloodstream. You are getting the same amount of caffeine — that hasn’t changed. However, the energy it provides might be able to last you a whole afternoon. No more caffeine jitters followed by an irreversible crash. Matcha gives you life without knocking you to the ground shortly thereafter.
6. Matcha makes you less likely to get diabetes
Once again, antioxidants are partially behind this benefit — and it’s a good one, too. Antioxidants are just one of several reasons why drinking green teas like matcha can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They can help your body regulate your blood sugar. Preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes is just one of many steps you can take to improve your insulin sensitivity, prevent insulin resistance, and avoid diabetes.
The fact is, drinking tea can serve as a replacement for many of the sugar filled foods and drinks that might make up a large portion of your diet. Let’s say you’re an adamant soda drinker. Even though you know it’s bad for you, you don’t want to stop drinking four cans of soda every single day. Think of how matcha could cut your sugar or artificial sweetener intake. Matcha isn’t soda, but it’s naturally sugar-free, without artificial sweetness. You are much less likely to develop diabetes if you drink four cups of tea per day, as opposed to four cans of fizzy sugar water.
7. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals
Many of the beverages you are used to drinking — everything from soda to sugar-loaded lattes — aren’t actually all that nutritious. That is, they might contain some vitamins and essential compounds your body needs for survival. But they don’t contain nearly a significant enough amount of vitamins or minerals for it to make much of a difference in your daily total. Thankfully, matcha is different — in the best way possible.
Matcha contains a variety of healthy substances, including antioxidants and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. All these vitamins play essential roles in your body’s everyday processes and functions. Even if you are already getting plenty of nutrients from the food you are eating, a cup or two of matcha every day could help you fill in the gaps. It’s important not to miss out on any vitamins to stay healthy.
These vitamins and minerals are the masterminds behind all the benefits we’ve discovered on this list. But there is one more benefit that stems simply from the fact that tea is completely natural. It is grown, harvested, and very minimally processed before it becomes available for you to purchase. You are really going to like this one.
8. Matcha is low-calorie and added sugar-free
There is one major thing you need to consider before you sit down with your first cup of matcha: where is it coming from? Sure, all matcha tea comes from the same tea plant, but not all matcha teas are created equal. And they are not equally healthy.
Think of the difference between a latte you make at home — coffee, milk, maybe a little sugar for added sweetness — and a latte you order from Starbucks. One is actually fairly healthy, high in protein and low in fat and sugar. The other is highly processed — it has matcha in it, but it’s also loaded with so much sugar and flavorings you can’t even taste the matcha buried within.
True matcha — made up of steaming water and matcha powder — is extremely healthy, as we’ve discussed. It’s extremely nutrient dense, which means it has a lot of nutrition packed into very few calories. It also doesn’t contain any added sugars, like your go-to Starbucks order probably does. If you can limit the amount of ingredients you add to your matcha, you’ll be much better off in the long run.
So beware of any store bought matcha drinks, or matcha lattes you might order from a tea or coffee shop. Matcha on its own is fairly healthy, but added sugars and milks for sweetness and volume just are not worth the excess calories. Matcha is creamy and tasty enough on its own without all that extra stuff, as long as you know how to make it correctly.
How to make matcha at home
Making matcha tea at home is extremely simple. All you need is matcha powder, a wooden tea bowl, a whisk, and warm water. You can find these items separately or packaged together in matcha kits. Whisking the powder and water together is what gives it the foamy, creamy texture you love in your lattes — without all the added extra stuff.
If you’re looking for a new low calorie, added sugar-free drink to try, matcha just might be your dream come true. Just one cup a day won’t perform miracles. But it has the possibility to improve so many different aspects of your health. Try it out. You might fall in love with it in just the first sip.