Is Matcha Good For You?

Q: Is matcha good for health?

Walk into any coffee shop or health food store and you’ll almost certainly find this bright jade green powdered green tea. It’s mixed into lattes, milkshakes, chocolates, hot chocolates, smoothies – and even in desserts like ice cream and macaroons. It is recommended by many as a superfood packed with antioxidants that can prevent cancer, Improve memoryand reduce stress and anxiety. That should be enough to convince most people to drink matcha. But does it really match the hype?

Matcha is a brewed green tea that has its origins in tea ceremonies in Japan, and has gained popularity in the United States and elsewhere. It comes from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) as other caffeinated teas, and is grown in an unusual way: shade from excessive sunlight during most of its growth so it can produce more amino acids and bioactive compounds, such as chlorophyll and theanine. When the leaves are harvested, they are ground into a fine powder.

While other green tea leaves are usually steeped whole in hot water, “compositionally, matcha is much denser because it’s made from ground whole tea leaves,” says Dr. epidemiology, said the chairman of the board. department of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

And while studies on its health benefits have yet to be determined, experts say matcha contains a large amount of compounds that have health benefits.

Antioxidants. “As we age or when we are exposed to things in the environment, like ultraviolet rays or carcinogens, we end up with reactive oxygen species,” said Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology. and they do harmful things like damage our cell membranes,” said Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology. and toxicology at Michigan State University.

The antioxidants found in matcha are the ones that “neutralize” those harmful molecules, preventing “a whole bunch of downstream harmful events,” says Dr. Therefore, tea could theoretically help protect the body’s cells from damage and reduce the risk of certain health problems such as heart disease or cancer, said Dr. Hu and Dr. Alan. know, although this has not been proven.

L-theanine. This unique amino acid, which can be found in green tea as well as some mushrooms, is another component of matcha that experts rate as potentially beneficial for health. However, the evidence on how it can do so is very weak, Dr. Hu said. Several small, placebo-controlled trials have suggested that L-theanine can improve cognitive performance and reduce stress. However, both experts note that there have only been animal studies and a handful of small human trials.

Caffeine. While most people may not think about the health effects of caffeine when drinking their morning cup of coffee, the evidence for its health benefits is quite strong, Dr. Hu said. For example, studies have found that caffeine can increase cognitive function and sanity and Boost metabolism. And regularly drink coffee – the main source of caffeine for adults in the US – has been associated with one Reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and age-related cognitive decline, Dr. Hu said.

Very few studies have focused specifically on how matcha may be beneficial for health, so it’s hard to say for sure. But scientists have a pretty good understanding of the benefits of green tea. “Have a lot of research about green tea, and the overall evidence indicates that it is a healthy beverage,” said Dr. Hu. “We don’t have the same evidence for matcha, but because matcha has the same ingredients as green tea, just in much higher concentrations,” he continued, it can be safely inferred that it offers the same benefits.

Dr. Alan also stressed that while matcha is generally safe, some people – including those who must limit their caffeine intake because of health conditions – should probably avoid it. “If you are prone to arrhythmias or if you have heart disease, then matcha could be harmful to you,” she says. People who are sensitive to caffeine may also want to use matcha because it can cause anxiety and disrupt sleep.

All in all, says Dr. Hu, matcha can be a healthy addition to your diet, as long as you’re mindful of the amount of sugar and other harmful ingredients you’re consuming along with it. The amount of sugar and cream that people add to their daily coffee or tea “has become so great that it actually backfires on the health benefits,” says Dr. Hu. And if you eat a lot of fast food or smoke cigarettes regularly, don’t expect matcha to resist those unhealthy choices.

“If you form the habit of consuming matcha regularly, in the long run, you can get a number of health benefits,” says Dr. Hu. “But if you just sprinkle some matcha powder on top of the chocolate ice cream, I don’t think it will help much.”

Annie Sneed is a regular contributing science journalist for The New York Times. She has also written for Scientific American, Wired, Public Radio International and Fast Company.

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