Matcha Tea: What Is It and What Are Its Uses?
Matcha tea, just like green tea, comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, its nutritional profile is different and it is grown differently. What is it used for? In this article we'll tell you all you need to know!
Matcha tea is a product that has become popular because of its unusual properties. It comes from the same plant as traditional green tea, Camellia sinensis, but it’s a powdered product with a different nutritional profile, since it’s grown in a particular way.
To grow this type of tea, farmers cover the plants 20 or 30 days before the harvest to avoid direct sunlight. Because of this, the plants produce more chlorophyll, and amino acids. The plants even turn a darker shade of green.
When it’s time to harvest them, they pick the best leaves by hand and remove the stems and veins of the plant. Then, they grind it and get a bright green powder which is what they sell with the name matcha tea. Up next, we’ll tell you about its properties and uses.
Nutritional properties of matcha tea
As we mentioned, this tea is characterized by a unique nutritional profile. While it might share some features with whole leaf green tea, it has a higher concentration. According to the nutrition database, SELF, a serving of matcha tea (1 teaspoon or 1 gram) contains:
- Protein (between 250 and 300 mg)
- Total amino acids (around 272 mg)
- Lipids (about 50 mg)
- Minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, phosphorous, and iron
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and, K
On the other hand, an estimate published in the Journal of Chromatography A suggests that the number of catechins in this type of tea is up to 137 times higher than in other types of green tea. Due to this, in health terms, it’s one of the most preferred options.
Main uses of matcha tea
In the last few years, matcha has been used as a nutritional complement to promote well-being. You just mix the powder with hot water and you get a drink that complements your diet. In fact, due to its texture and flavor, there are people who use it to make desserts, cocktails, and other types of drinks.
However, in general, most people use it for its health benefits. In fact, although many people still don’t know it, several studies have determined that its components are adjuvants to prevent some diseases.
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The drink you make with this natural tea is often recommended to improve your brain health. Due to its content of stimulating substances like caffeine and L-theanine, it can help you feel more alert and increase your energy levels.
A study published in Food Research International observed that matcha can cause increases in attention span, reaction time, and memory, when compared to a placebo. Although it’s a topic that needs more research, these findings suggest that it could be a good complement to improve your brain’s performance.
Due to its concentration of catechins, this type of tea also has beneficial effects on your heart health. According to a review of studies published in the medical review Current Medical Chemistry, catechins have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet, and antiproliferative activities.
Due to this, matcha and other kinds of green tea are adjuvants for reduction of high cholesterol, blood pressure problems, and other factors that increase the risk of chronic cardiovascular diseases.
Another use of matcha has to do with body weight. It’s important to note that it’s not one of those “miracle products” that promises to help you lose pounds in a short time. However, if you include it in your healthy and calorie-controlled diet, it can promote weight loss.
In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming green tea extract helped to increase fat burned by up to 17% during moderate exercise. Additionally, other studies have associated consumption with higher energy expenditure.
In any case, it’s a topic that is still being researched and there isn’t enough evidence to make definitive statements. Therefore, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to prioritize the recommendations your doctor and nutritionist give you.
Side effects and contraindications of matcha tea
For most healthy adults, matcha tea is considered safe, as long as you moderate your consumption. Two or three cups a day is enough, each one made with a gram of matcha. However, because of its caffeine content, it can cause side effects, especially when you exceed the dose, or in people who are sensitive to caffeine.
Such effects include:
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and vomiting
Additionally, as indicated in a literature review published in the Chinese Medical Journal, the catechins in this tea can affect your iron absorption, affecting patients with iron deficiency anemia, for example. It can also affect your zinc absorption.
Patients with heart diseases, kidney problems, or stomach ulcers should avoid drinking this tea without asking their doctor first. Its components can interfere with some medicines used to treat those conditions.