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Health and Fitness News

Whatcha Need to Know about Matcha

The inside scoop on the green tea with a funny name.

You hear all the time that green tea is good for you. To reap the greatest green tea-related rewards, step things up a notch with matcha. It’s only recently become popular in the West, but matcha has been around for centuries in Japan and China. A type of green tea, matcha is made from leaves that are ground into a fine, bright green powder. To gain its benefits, this green powder can be used to make tea or added to a variety of other foods.

What’s so amazing about matcha and is it worth adding to your diet? Read on to find out.

How Matcha’s Made

Originally harvested in Japan, matcha comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Two weeks before the leaves are harvested, the plants are shaded from the sun and grown in the dark. When harvested, the leaves are steamed, dried, and heated in an oven. After stems and twigs are removed, the leaves are ground into a fine powder. The brighter green the powder, the more powerful its properties.

With a slightly different taste than regular green tea, some people say matcha tastes sweeter or creamier than its counterpart.

What Matcha’s Good For

The history of matcha will help you the root of some of its health claims. Samurai warriors were known to drink matcha tea for extra energy, and Zen Buddhist monks drank matcha to help them focus on meditation.

Matcha is extremely rich in antioxidants, plant compounds that help protect your body’s cells from damage. Because of how it’s made, matcha may contain more antioxidants than green tea. Catechin, one type of antioxidant in matcha, is effective at lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, thereby reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. The polyphenols and antioxidants found in matcha may help prevent cancer and reduce unwanted inflammation in the body. People with conditions such as arthritis may find matcha beneficial.

Matcha contains not only caffeine to help you stay alert and focused, but also the amino acid L-theanine. The combination of these two ingredients helps improve concentration while keeping you relaxed and less jittery than caffeine alone.

One more benefit from matcha is improved dental health. The powder helps maintain a healthy level of acidity in your mouth, while inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Much attention has been given to the idea that caffeine combined with catechin antioxidants boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss, but studies show the effect is minimal and unsustainable.

As with all things, keep in mind that more matcha tea is not always better. Consuming too much contribute to decreased iron absorption and liver damage. To avoid liver problems, it’s especially important to avoid matcha when taking acetaminophen. Because matcha may be contaminated with lead, children and pregnant and nursing women should not consume any. However, most people can safely consume one to one and a half teaspoons of matcha powder a day.

Eat Matcha This Way

To prepare matcha tea, stir a teaspoon of matcha powder into two to four ounces of hot water. It’s ready to drink when the powder is dissolved and it starts to look frothy.

While matcha tea is the most popular way to consume matcha, the green powder is finding its way into a host of other foods. To reap its health benefits, some make matcha muffins or pancakes. It’s also popular to add a little matcha powder to ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothie. Yet others make a matcha latte with milk and honey. So if you decide to go matcha, do it your way. Just don’t overdo it.