What is matcha and how can it benefit your health?
Matcha has grown in popularity over recent years, and this is no surprise when you consider how amazing it is for our health.
This Japanese green tea powder has been linked to a range of positive health outcomes, including better heart and liver health, enhanced brain function, and reduced anxiety.
Due to its naturally high levels of beneficial plant compounds called antioxidants, matcha is much more nutritious than other types of green tea and it tastes just as good, if not better.
Let’s take a look at what matcha actually is, how you can consume it, and what are the benefits of matcha.
What is Matcha?
The word ‘matcha’ is derived from the Japanese words for ‘ground’ and ‘tea’. Matcha was originally produced in China before eventually being cultivated in Japan.
It is produced directly from the leaves of the green tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Many other forms of green tea are obtained from this plant, but when it is cultivated to produce matcha in particular, it is grown in a unique manner.
Farmers who are growing Camellia sinensis to obtain matcha tea cover the plant for the final 20-30 days of growth to decrease its sunlight exposure. The decreased amount of sunlight causes the plant’s leaves to produce more chlorophyll.
Increased levels of chlorophyll lead to an increase in a range of beneficial phytonutrients (plant compounds). In particular, there is an increase in the number of polyphenols and amino acids, which contribute to the amazing nutritional profile of matcha tea.
The increase in chlorophyll is also responsible for the characteristic deep green colour and the delicious flavour of matcha powder. It also leads to matcha containing a high amount of caffeine and L-theanine compared to other forms of green tea.
We will talk more about polyphenols, caffeine, and L-theanine in more detail later in the article when we discuss the benefits of matcha, so don’t worry if you don’t quite know what these compounds are!
How Much Caffeine is in Matcha and How Can You Consume It?
Although the exact amount of caffeine in matcha varies depending on the cultivation process, the average caffeine content of matcha is around one gram per half a teaspoon.
If you use matcha Nespresso pods, each pod will contain a specified amount of caffeine, so if you’re just starting out, it might be best to start off with matcha pods.
After a while, you might wish to move on to creating your own matcha tea and coffee drinks from scratch. To make a cup of matcha tea, the recommended recipe involves mixing one teaspoon of matcha powder with 200-250 ml (8 fl oz) of boiling water. This will provide around 70 mg of caffeine.
To put this into context, there is around 120-150 mg of caffeine in a 200-250 ml cup of normal coffee and 30-40 mg of caffeine in the same volume of green tea.
The Nespresso-compatible Matcha Energy Health Pods that we have here at Rejuvenation Water contain 64 mg of caffeine per pod.
Alongside consuming matcha pods and creating delicious lattes, you can also include matcha powder in your baking recipes. Many people enjoy making matcha cookies and cakes.
How Can Matcha Benefit Your Health?
Here are some of the key ways that matcha tea can benefit your health.
Higher Polyphenol Content
The cultivation process of matcha involves obtaining the matcha powder directly from the leaf. This means that matcha tea has a better nutritional profile than other green tea products, which are created by steeping the tea leaves and using the infused water.
Matcha tea contains high levels of polyphenols, which are plant compounds that possess antioxidant properties. They reduce the levels of oxidative stress in your cells by neutralising oxygen free radical molecules. This reduces DNA damage and decreases the risk of disease.
Polyphenols may also improve gut health by enhancing the diversity of the bacteria in your gut microbiome. Some studies also suggest that polyphenols have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which can help your body to fight off potentially dangerous pathogens.
Catechins are a type of polyphenol that is abundant in all types of green tea, but especially in matcha. In particular, matcha contains large amounts of a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
ECGC is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. It’s also been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and degenerative neurological diseases.
Great Amino Acid Profile
Matcha tea has high levels of an amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid can promote alertness and mental clarity, especially when taken alongside caffeine. It can also have calming effects and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, which can promote better mental health and sleep quality.
L-theanine provides these benefits by causing a number of different physiological changes in your body:
- Reduced cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased production of inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitters, such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine
- Decreased excitatory neurotransmitters
- Increased alpha brain wave activity, which increases calmness and concentration
Matcha tea also contains the amino acid, tryptophan. This amino acid is the precursor to serotonin and melatonin, both are which are important for your mental health and sleep. Consuming matcha may, therefore, help to regulate your circadian rhythm and boost your sleep. More on that later!
Improved Metabolic Health
Due to the high amounts of catechins, matcha tea can reduce inflammation in the body and may also decrease the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) in your bloodstream. It can also improve your insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels.
All of these physiological changes in your body can contribute to improved metabolic health. Making tea or coffee using matcha pods or creating a delicious dessert using matcha powder can speed up your metabolism and aid in weight loss.
It can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or it can help you to manage your diabetes better if you are already diagnosed with the condition. The metabolism-boosting effects of EGCG further enhance the metabolic benefits of matcha tea.
Better Cognitive Performance
Many people drink matcha tea to boost their mental clarity and focus. These effects are partly due to the caffeine content of matcha, as well as the L-theanine that it contains.
Studies show that the consumption of matcha tea can increase attention, reaction time, information processing, and memory in people of all ages. It may also decrease the number of errors made during the completion of various cognitive tasks.
Due to the EGCG catechins found in matcha, it reduces oxidation and inflammation in and around the brain cells, which can protect them from damage. New research is looking into whether this protective effect can decrease the risk and development of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Matcha is also being used as part of therapy for those with PTSD and other trauma-related conditions to improve learning and memory problems.
Matcha contains several plant compounds that can benefit your sleep.
Firstly, the L-theanine found in matcha tea leaves can reduce stress and anxiety by decreasing the levels of cortisol in your body. Since cortisol interferes with your ability to sleep, L-theanine can be beneficial for improving sleep quality and quantity.
The ECGC in matcha can reduce inflammation in the body, which may indirectly aid sleep. L-theanine has been shown to improve sleep in those with generalised anxiety disorder, depression, and other mood disorders by reducing the stress response.
The tryptophan found in matcha can be used by the body to create serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that are vital for a healthy and regular sleep-wake cycle. By helping the body to produce these hormones, it can promote a healthy circadian rhythm.
Reduce Tumour Growth
Research is showing promising results regarding the use of Camellia sinesis phytocompounds in cancer treatment.
The ECGC found in the matcha tea plant has been shown to decrease tumour growth in breast, prostate, liver, skin, colorectal, and blood cancers. It may help to kill cancer cells and slow their migration to other tissues in the body.
These findings suggest that ECGC may be beneficial as part of a cancer treatment program.
Potential Side Effects of Matcha
Many people are initially concerned about the caffeine contents of matcha because it is higher than most other forms of green tea. However, research shows that the L-theanine in matcha tea may help to reduce the stimulating effects of the caffeine.
Caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure. In some people, it may also cause heartburn, digestive issues, and insomnia, especially when taken in high doses.
If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, it’s best to consume matcha tea in moderate amounts, at least to begin with. This will reduce the risk of you experiencing any possible adverse effects.
Starting off with the Matcha Nespresso pods that we have here at Rejuvenation Water will help you to control the amount of matcha (and caffeine) that you are consuming. See how you respond to the 64 mg of caffeine that is present in each of our matcha pods and work from there!
Why Buy Nespresso Matcha Pods
Usually to make traditional matcha tea you have to start by sifting 1–2 teaspoons (2–4 grams) of matcha powder into your cup, measure out 2 ounces (59 ml) of hot water, and then mix it all together with a bamboo whisk.
It can be a bit of a hit and miss affair or even plain messy.
How many people buy Matcha powder, love it, then stick it in a cupboard as they can't be bothered with the ‘faff’?
One of the advantages of our Matcha Pods for Nespresso is that you do away with all that, and get the perfect beverage quickly and consistently.
Each matcha blend is contained in an eco-friendly capsules for Nespresso machines that is biodegradable and compostable, as they are made from plant fibres.
This means you can enjoy your vibrant, healthy Nespresso pod without feeling guilty about your impact on the environment, as even though the aluminium Nespresso pods are recyclable they often end up in land fill.
Also, the premium organic Japanese matcha used in our pods is enriched with plant prebiotic fibre and a range of B vitamins.
You get a delicious and flavoursome hot drink whilst boosting your nutrient intake.
By Alex Warmisham ANutr - Nutritionist at Rejuvenation Water