Millions of people around the world drink green tea for its health benefits. Matcha is a type of green tea that shares many of the beneficial antioxidants found in other kinds. From heart disease to diabetes to cancer, green tea has been associated with the prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases. Although matcha can’t take the place of traditional medicine, drinking it as part of a healthy diet could improve overall health and wellness.
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Matcha is from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, the same source of tea you may drink at home and in restaurants. The difference between teas is usually a form of processing, with white tea being the least processed, followed by green, oolong and black tea. Matcha is a finely-milled green tea powder used to make the most popular tea in Japan. It’s the only form that uses the whole leaf, and the leaves are also briefly steamed after being harvested to prevent the leaves from being oxidized.
Matcha contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K, as well as various trace minerals and the amino acid theanine. Like other teas, matcha has high levels of the antioxidants known as tannins, as well as polyphenol antioxidants called catechins, primarily one called epigallo-catechin gallate, or EGCG. Although matcha does contain caffeine, it has two to three times less than black tea and one-fifth to one-tenth the amount found in drip coffee.
Antioxidants are known to help fight off damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals that are linked to various chronic diseases. The catechin EGCG has shown promise in fighting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, certain viral infections, neurodegenerative conditions and weight loss. A study from the University of Colorado, published in 2003 in the “Journal of Chromatography,” reported that the concentration of EGCG in matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from a popular green tea sold in the U.S. and at least three times higher than several other green teas.
Even though matcha’s caffeine content is less that of coffee and other teas, excess amounts can still lead to side effects. The most common include irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations and dizziness. Caffeine overdoses can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. If you have a heart condition, kidney disease, stomach ulcer or anxiety disorder, avoid drinking any form of tea, including matcha. Caffeine can also interfere with medications used to control heart rhythms and blood pressure.