Q: Is matcha healthy?
Walk into any coffee shop or health food store and you’re almost guaranteed to find this bright jade-colored powdered green tea. It’s added to lattes, milkshakes, sodas, hot chocolate, smoothies — and even desserts like ice creams and brownies. It is recommended by many as an antioxidant-packed superfood. prevent cancer, improve memoryAnd reduce stress and anxiety, That’s enough to persuade almost anyone to start drinking matcha. But does it really live up to the hype?
What is matka?
Matcha is a type of brewed green tea traditionally used in tea ceremonies in Japan, and has become popular in the United States and elsewhere. It comes from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) as other caffeinated teas, and is cultivated in an unusual way: the tea plant is heavily shaded for its growing period so that it can produce more amino acids and biologically active compounds, such as chlorophyll and theanine. Once the leaves are harvested, they are ground into a fine powder.
Does Matcha Have Health Benefits?
While other green tea leaves are usually steeped whole in hot water, “matcha is much more concentrated in terms of ingredients because it is made from whole tea leaves,” says Professor and Chair of Nutrition and Epidemiology Doctor. Frank Hu said. Department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
And while the research on its health benefits is not definitive, experts say that matcha contains high amounts of potentially beneficial compounds.
Antioxidants. Jamie Allen, associate professor of pharmacology, said, “As we age or as we are exposed to things in the environment, such as ultraviolet light or carcinogens, we end up with reactive oxygen species and they do harmful things like damaging our cellular membranes.” and toxicology at Michigan State University.
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collagen. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body and helps make up our skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. As we age, we naturally start reducing its production. Some studies suggest that taking collagen supplements may reduce signs of aging, increase bone density, and improve joint, back, and knee pain. But many of these studies are small and funded by the companies behind such products, increasing the chance for bias. Some products also have impurities that reduce the likelihood of their efficacy: topical creams, for example, are unlikely to make it to the deeper levels of the dermis where collagen is produced.
Antioxidants, which are abundant in matcha, are substances that “neutralize” those harmful molecules, Dr. “Damaging downstream events clog up the entire cascade,” Allen said. So 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, Dr. Hu and Dr. Allen said, 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 tout as potentially beneficial to health. However, the evidence on how it might do this is weak, Dr. Hu said. Some small, placebo-controlled trials have suggested that L-theanine may improve cognitive performance And edge off, But both experts said there have only been studies on animals and a few small trials in humans.
Caffeine. Dr Hu said, although most people may not think about the health effects of caffeine when they drink their morning coffee, the evidence for its health benefits is strong. For example, studies have found that caffeine can increased cognitive function and vigilance and ramp up metabolism, and regular consumption of coffee — the primary source of caffeine for adults in the United States — has been linked to One Dr Hu said the risk of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and age-related cognitive decline decreased.
So is matcha healthy?
Few studies have focused specifically on how matcha may benefit health, so it’s hard to say for sure. But scientists have a pretty good understanding of the benefits of green tea. “there is lots of research on green tea, and the overall evidence indicates that it is a healthy drink,” Dr. Hu said. “We don’t have the same evidence for matcha, but given that matcha has similar ingredients to green tea, much In concentrations,” he continued, it’s safe to guess that it provides similar benefits.
Dr. Allen also emphasized that while matcha is generally safe, some people — including those who must limit caffeine intake due to a health condition — should probably avoid it. “If you are prone to arrhythmia or if you have heart disease, matcha may be harmful to you,” she said. People who are sensitive to caffeine may also want to try matcha because it can cause anxiety and disturb sleep.
In general, Dr. Hu said, matcha can be a healthy addition to your diet, as long as you’re mindful of how much sugar and other unhealthy ingredients you’re consuming with it. Dr. Hu said that “the amount of sugar and cream people put in their daily coffee or tea” has become so high that it actually counteracts the health benefits. And if you eat a lot of fast food or regularly smoke cigarettes, don’t expect matcha to counteract those unhealthy choices.
“If you develop the habit of eating matcha regularly, you may get some health benefits in the long run,” Dr. Hu said. “But if you sprinkle some matcha powder on top of chocolate ice cream, I don’t think it will do much to help.”
Annie Sneed is a science journalist who contributes regularly to The New York Times. He has also written for Scientific American, Wired, Public Radio International, and Fast Company.