4 Myths and Facts About the Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea
By Dafna Chazin, RD—Registered Dietitian, Virtua Nutrition
Green tea is already a popular drink in the U.S. Now its more potent cousin, a green tea powder called matcha, is gaining attention among health enthusiasts. It might seem new, but matcha has been consumed as a tea for thousands of years, particularly in Asian countries like Japan and China.
Whether you’re already mad about matcha or you’re learning about it for the first time, here are 4 myths and facts to keep you informed while you sip.
Green tea and matcha are made from the same leaves.
FACT: Almost: Most teas, green tea and matcha included, come from a variety of the leaf camellia sinensis. But matcha is made from the ENTIRE tea leaf through a special grinding process. Farmers choose certain varieties of the leaf for their suitability for grinding into a brilliant bright green powder. If you’re shopping for matcha—which costs about $30-40 for ONE ounce—and it’s NOT bright green, don’t buy it.
Matcha has more health benefits than green tea.
FACT: Think about some of the health benefits you’ve heard about green tea, and multiply them several times. Matcha provides a much higher dose of L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that creates a feeling of alert well-being.
Matcha also contains a lot more of the phytochemical EGCG—short for epigallocatechin-3-gallate—an antioxidant that helps counteract the damage caused by free radicals in the body. Like many other antioxidant-rich plant foods, adding ONE CUP of this powerful drink to a balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing certain diseases.
Drinking several cups of matcha everyday leads to better health.
MYTH: There are a few things you need to be aware of if you’re new to drinking matcha.
When you consume matcha (as tea or mixed into food), you’re getting a more concentrated punch of caffeine than you would from regular green tea.
Also, studies show that tea leaves absorb lead from the environment, leading to concerns about the lead levels in matcha. When you make regular green tea with hot water and bagged tea leaves, the water only absorbs about 10% of what’s in the leaves, making it quite safe. But, it’s not yet known how concentrated the lead in matcha green tea is. Therefore, I only recommend drinking one cup a day.
Matcha will help me lose weight.
MYTH: We’re all looking for that magic bullet that will speed up our metabolism and help the pounds melt away. But, studies have not yet shown that a single cup of matcha per day (the most you should drink) will induce weight loss.
What’s more, beware of the calories of eating trendy matcha-infused items like matcha lattes, ice cream, cookies and muffins. These foods can fit into a healthy eating plan when consumed in moderation, but remember that having matcha as an ingredient still doesn’t make a muffin healthy.
The traditional preparation method is the healthiest way to reap the benefits of matcha: Mix a small amount of matcha with hot (not boiling) water, whisk it into a uniform consistency and enjoy.
Updated February 15, 2017