NUTRITION

Matcha—Is it Really Worth the Hype?

In case you haven’t been paying attention—matcha is everywhere at the moment. From desserts to collagen powders—this emerald-hued powder promises to strengthen your immune system while leaving you with glowing skin. But how much of that is actually true? We find out.

By ADARSH SONI

While you might think matcha is a fancy variant of green tea, the truth is that it literally means “powdered tea” in Japanese. So there’s no point in calling it “Matcha tea”. In fact, that would be the Japanese equivalent of committing yet another popular faux pas: “Chai tea”. But what exactly differentiates matcha from green tea? Unlike traditional green tea, matcha preparation involves shielding the tea plants from the sun using shade cloths before they’re harvested. This triggers the growth of leaves with better texture and flavour. The leaves are handpicked and briefly steamed to stop the fermentation process, then dried and aged in cold storage, which enhances the flavour even further. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder that ultimately becomes matcha.

 

The benefits of matcha

 

Contains large amounts of antioxidants

According to research by Dr David J Weiss, Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado, USA, the number of certain catechins in matcha is up to 137 times greater than in other types of green tea. Catechins are a category of plant compounds in tea that act as natural antioxidants. Another study by Dr Lien Ai Pham-Huy, Department of Pharmacy, Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University Medical Centre, USA, suggests that including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases.

 

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Helps you lose weight

According to several informal surveys, “losing weight” often tops the new year’s resolution lists year after year. While several trendy ways of dropping a few kilos often end up harming you in the long run, using matcha as a weight-loss elixir has several added benefits. According to a study by Dr Michelle C Venables, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, The University of Birmingham, UK, ingesting green tea and matcha extract during moderate exercise increased fat burning by 17 per cent. A review of eleven major studies conducted by Dr R Hursel, Department of Human Biology, Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute, Maastricht University, Netherlands, also showed that matcha reduced body weight and helped maintain weight loss.

 

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Enhances brain function

Research also suggests that several compounds found in matcha could be responsible for boosting brain function. A study performed by Dr Christina Dietz, Food Quality and Design Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands aimed to examine the effects matcha consumption had on the human brain. Some participants consumed either matcha brew or a bar containing around 4 grams of matcha, while the other group consumed a placebo tea or bar. The researchers found that matcha caused improvements in attention, reaction time, and memory, compared to the placebo.

Promotes heart health

Naturopathic cures for heart-related diseases have always been shrouded with misinformation. But in this case, matcha and other forms of green tea have actually been proven to show results. According to research by Dr Xin-Xin Zheng, Cardiovascular Institute, FuWai Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China, green tea has been shown to reduce levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides—something that affects the heart in a major way. Several other studies, including ones conducted by Dr C Arts, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands and Dr Lenore Arab, David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA, have also shown that drinking green tea and matcha regularly is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

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Improves liver function

Health enthusiasts love performing routine detoxes—be it with the help of celery juice or lemon water. But did you know that your liver is already doing that for you? So instead of skipping meals and drinking unnecessarily huge amounts of lemon juice, you should be focusing onimproving your liver health. During a study conducted by Dr Ali Pezeshki, Department of Community Nutrition, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, 80 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were divided into two groups. One was given a placebo while the other one was supplemented with a 500 mg dose of green tea extract daily for ninety days. After 12 weeks, green tea extract group showed significantly reduced liver enzyme levels—in other words, their chances of developing liver disease went down significantly.

 

Worth it or overhyped?

While matcha might not directly help prevent a heart attack or cure cancer, adding this antioxidant-packed green powder to your daily routine has far more benefits than side effects. But keep in mind that if you wish to maximise the health benefits, you’ll have to steer clear of several popular trends. That’s right, we’re talking about matcha cupcakes and ice-creams—those aren’t worth your time. Along with that, the common trend of mixing matcha with milk or icing it lessens the absorption of antioxidants and several other nutrients. And let’s not forget that store-bought varieties are loaded with sugar. Which is why the best way to consume this traditional Japanese green tea powder—is—the traditional Japanese way. With nothing but hot water by its side.

 

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