Seven reasons why you'll want to start drinking matcha.
Matcha has received much well deserved attention in the past few years with increasing numbers of people seeking out the myriad of associated health benefits.
While not all health claims have been given the final seal of approval by Science, there are some evidence-based claims pointing to the great potential of including matcha in your daily diet.
What is Matcha?
Although it was different in it's origin, powdered tea and it's preparation were brought from China to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. Powdered tea fell out of of favour in China but flourished in Japan, becoming an integral part of life and ceremony in Zen monasteries and very popular with those of the higher classes.
All 'tea' as we commonly know it comes from a bush or small tree with the Latin name Camellia sinensis as does the source material or Tencha for matcha. There are countless varieties of Camellia sinensis in Japan alone but only a handful are typically used for the production of matcha.
The bushes for matcha production are special in three aspects of farming and processing; the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest using two shading methods, the stems and veins are removed in processing and the steamed leaves are not rolled during processing.
1. Super High in AntioxidantsMatcha is rich in catechin compounds that act as natural antioxidants. Simply put, free-radicals, which are like divided molecules looking for a friend, exist in our bodies causing oxidative damage. Antioxidants neutralize them. That’s as far as my science knowledge goes but you get the idea.
When you prepare a cup of matcha as opposed to a cup of brewed tea, you are ingesting the entire leaf and all the nutrients contained within. By one estimate, matcha contains as much as 137 times the catechin compounds as regular green tea.
Including matcha in your diet can increase your antioxidant intake thus preventing cellular damage and possibly reducing your risk of common degenerative diseases.
2. A Possible Prevention for CancerMatcha is rich with health-promoting compounds, including some that have been linked to cancer prevention in test-tube and animal studies. A study (Kavanagh KT, et al.) of green tea extract given to lab rats showed a decrease in tumour size and slowed growth of breast cancer cells.
Matcha is especially high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin that has been shown to have strong anti-cancer properties.
3. Fortify the Immune System.The compounds contained in matcha have been shown to have antibiotic properties. And a single cup of matcha contains copious amounts of vitamins and minerals which are the perfect building block for a strong immune system.
4. Give Your Brain a Boost. Aid Memory and Concentration
L-Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in green tea and matcha that appears to alter levels of various neurotransmitters, producing a calming effect that helps counter the stimulating action of the caffeine in tea.
More information regarding the effects of Theanine can be found in this great article in Life Extension Magazine.
It's probably safe to say most of us could be doing a little better protecting the organ that does so much to keep us healthy. The liver.
Several studies have shown promising results with regards to liver health and the consumption of green tea and matcha. A study conducted in Japan reported that drinking green tea was inversely related to the risk of developing liver cancer. Men who drank five or more cups per day had 37 percent less risk than those who drank one or no cups per day, while women reduced their risk by 50 percent. A review of 10 studies reported in “Liver International” on the effects of green tea on liver disease reported that eight out of the ten found green tea had a protective effect against liver disease.
A word of warning though. Too much, as with many things in life, can have the opposite effect of creating a toxic load on the liver.
6. Shift Your Cholesterol Positively and Burn Some Calories While You're At It.
Studies have shown that matcha produces a significant increase in energy expenditure, a measure of metabolism, in individuals and has a marked effect on fat burning. In addition, consuming matcha can increase thermogenisis, which is the body’s own rate of burning calories, from a normal 8-10 percent of daily expenditure to between 35 and 43 percent. And, it can improve physical endurance by 24 percent.
It has been found to have a positive effect on cholesterol. Studies have shown that people who drink matcha on a regular basis have low LDL (bad) cholesterol, while at the same time having higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Men who drink matcha tea are 11 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t drink matcha. Matcha is also rich in fibre and vitamins C, A, E, K and B-complex, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium.
7. It Tastes Great and Just Feels Good.
The final point is certainly worthy of note yet cannot be proven by science...only by our often neglected intuition.
When consumed on a daily basis but with sensible moderation, matcha and green tea in general provides a subtle yet profound sense of well being. And I don't need science to prove that for me.
Matcha can be an effective and enjoyable (very important!) element of a healthy lifestyle. It's not a cure-all, silver bullet but when combined with whole, healthy food and exercise for the body and the spirit, wonderful things can happen.
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