Is matcha really a natural super drug? We sort the fact from fiction when it comes to the so-called superfood’s benefits. Angelique Tagaroulias writes.

The tea used in ancient Buddhist rituals has only recently made its way to café beverage lists, yet I’ll have a soy matcha latte, please” is already a common hipster request. We’ve been drinking green tea for a long time, so why is there suddenly so much-a matcha around? .  

 

When it comes to health food dialogues, matcha is often placed on the ‘superfood’ pedestal. A powdered version of specially grown and processed green tea, its ability to stimulate metabolism, reduce stress and even prevent cancer are benefits spouted on the back of tea bags and the menu of your local hipster café (matcha pancakes, anyone?). So – clever marketing ploy or is matcha really a natural super drug? 

The magic

According to the Journal of Extension Systems, matcha contains about 137 times the antioxidants of regular green tea, with its high levels of catechins, amino-acids, proteins, vitamin C, potassium and calcium accounting for its host of supposed health benefits.

 “The antioxidant power of green tea comes from polyphenols, specifically catechins, and matcha has been found to have about three times more catechins than other forms of green tea,” says principal clinical nutritionist at the Sprout Nutrition & Wellness, Gemma Clark.

“These polyphenols are antioxidants important to maintaining our immune systems, keeping our skin clear and bright, and fighting inflammation and free radicals. They also play a role in cancer prevention.”

Polyphenols are also the reason you should consider sipping matcha pre-workout, with the green tea thought to not only stimulate metabolism so you burn more calories at rest, but also help tap into any fat stores you may already have. 

“The polyphenols help your body burn stored fat for energy and prevent you from storing excess fat. That said, antioxidants aren’t a ‘cure’ or a direct prevention for obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes mellitus. They can’t compensate for a poor diet and lifestyle, but they are an important component of a healthy diet,” says Clark.

The nature of matcha production means it trumps other tea sources in the antioxidant stakes. According to Food Research International, the catechins in green tea are higher than that in your average black tea as it skips the fermentation process which tends to destroy them. The benefit to you? Improved blood flow, elimination of toxins and the prevention of cardiovascular and other diseases.

“Matcha also has high levels of L-Theanine, an amino acid that assists in calming your nerves and reducing stress reactions. L-Theanine also assists in the production of dopamine and serotonin which helps to enhance mood, improve memory and promote better concentration,” adds wellness medicine specialist Dr Anthony Yeuong. 

 

 

Dosage

For maximum benefit, add matcha powder to smoothies, juices and raw desserts rather than your latte, suggests Clark.

“By using it cold, you retain the maximum levels of vitamins, some of which can be destroyed by heat,” says Clark.

DON’T

Drink matcha post-workout or on an empty stomach. “Matcha should not be consumed during or directly following a workout or meal as it decreases the absorption of iron and B1. It’s not the best first thing in the morning as it may affect the stomach’s lining,” says Yeuong.

DO

Try having matcha pre-workout. “Consuming matcha prior to exercise may help to support better performance and overall energy output,” says accredited nutritionist Tracie Connor (tracietalkshealth.com.au).

TRY

Making your own. “You only need about half a teaspoon of powder to brew a matcha tea. It can be made with water or milk (including nut milk) as a warm drink, using liquid at around 70˚C - this will help prevent any chance of a bitter brew. A lot of people use a special bamboo while making matcha, which makes a smoother, frothier brew than using spoon. But a blender works fine too,” says Clark. Clark also suggests replacing your daily coffee with a matcha tea to help support your immune system – provided you aren’t sensitive to caffeine.

STORE

In a cool place, as prolonged storage temps above 40˚C can affect the stability of catechins, according to Food Research International.