Is Matcha Green Tea Really Good for You?
It seems like everywhere you turn, each “caramel macchiato” order is now matched by its “green tea matcha latte” counterpart. Some cafes have even begun centering their entire food and beverage menus around this unique ingredient. Matcha cake, matcha pudding, matcha noodles— you name it.
However, apart from its bright physical features and distinct taste, matcha has largely become associated with health and wellness. It has established itself as a natural and trendy green tea that brings with it a mysterious myriad of benefits.
But, how valid is this assumption? Is matcha green tea really good for you? We clarify fact and fiction below.
A Note on Matcha Research
The first thing you should know is that while matcha has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including playing a role in certain disease prevention, most of this research has established association, not causation. Therefore, we, just like you, eagerly look for news regarding any new matcha-based research on the daily.
Even so, we still know quite a bit based on the studies done so far. Here’s what we can share:
You’ll get a blast of antioxidants.
Matcha naturally has a high concentration of antioxidants. While other green tea also has antioxidants, matcha it is unique in that you are essentially consuming the entire green tea leaf (as opposed to just the water remaining after steeping the tea). Therefore, it is a more potent antioxidant source!
Antioxidants are important for your body to neutralize molecules called free radicals, which are the byproducts of chemical reactions. They also found in certain foods with lots of other benefits, such as walnuts and avocados. Intaking higher amounts of antioxidants can potentially prevent cell damage and even play a role in disease prevention, though more research still has to be conducted. One study found that matcha contains 137 times more natural antioxidants called catechins than certain other forms of green tea. However, keep in mind that antioxidants might not always be good for everyone.
Matcha may have cancer-preventing properties.
Matcha is particularly high in the catechin EGCG. This antioxidant has been a focus of studies which have found it to have potent cancer-preventing characteristics. Still, keep in mind that these were either test tube or animal studies, so we can’t entirely apply the results to humans just yet.
Its impact on weight loss is questionable.
In general, green tea and green tea extract has often been attributed to have weight loss or metabolism-boosting properties. For example, one study found that green tea increased energy expenditure over a 24 hour period. Yet, a piece by NPR revealed that this metabolic increase is quite insignificant and will make little difference. Too bad shedding pounds isn’t as simple as drinking tons of matcha!
It has high amounts of caffeine.
Don’t let the green color fool you. It’s true that most green tea has caffeine, but because with matcha you ingest the whole leaf, the caffeine concentration is higher. In fact, one cup of matcha can have just as much caffeine as a cup of brewed coffee, though some people, especially matcha connoisseurs, will tell you that is not so bad! What you should know is that matcha also has an amino acid called L-theanine, which is known to have relaxing properties. Therefore, the energy kick and mood boost you feel may last longer.
Contamination with lead has been a key concern.
Ordinary green tea has been shown to contain some lead absorbed from the environment, but because most of the leaf is discarded, the concentration is not too high. However, since matcha includes consuming the whole leaf, it makes sense that that lead ingestion will be higher from matcha. One independent research group, ConsumerLab.com, published a report in which it found that matcha has a higher concentration of lead than other green tea.
Enjoy your matcha, but like with most things in life, the key is moderation! Just because it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean pouring that fifth cup is going to do you any good.