the health benefits of matcha
It’s a unique challenge to present something as both 1) an epicurean experience unlike any other, and 2) a superfoodthat is quite possibly the healthiest substance one can put into one’s body, bar none. To our knowledge, no food or beverage can make both claims. Great wines are some of life’s finest pleasures, but anything more than small quantities can have adverse effects on health (not to mention make you drunk or bankrupt you).
Superfoods, including pomegranate, gojiberries, wild blueberries, acai berries, mackerel, sardines, fresh turmeric, ginger, cacao, avocado, dark winter greens, walnuts, pumpkin, and regular green tea — among others that make up the bulk of the bulk of the breakaway diet — are both healthful and delicious, but, even in the hands of very skilled cooks, they don’t really qualify as “transcendental” epicurean experiences in the way that, say, a glass of Romanée Conti does.
Drinking highest-quality artisanal matcha is like drinking Romanée Conti AND getting at least 10x the health benefits of the superfoods listed above. This has been a true epiphany for me: it’s as if my doctor told me that the greatest gift I could give my body and brain is have a few glasses of DRC with every meal, AND that it would result in better focus/concentration, weight loss, fresher breath, bolstered immunity, and an elevated mood that sure feels like what the Buddhists call satori, a kind of calm euphoria. Where do I sign?!
some basic health facts about matcha:
- It’s got boatloads of antioxidants, which act as anti-inflammatory and antiviral agents in the body. You can actually measure the antioxidant contents of foods, with something called ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) units. Here are some ORAC numbers for common superfoods: gojiberries 253, dark chocolate 227, pomegranate 105, wild blueberries 93, acai berries 60, broccoli 31. And matcha? It clocks in at an astounding 1440; more than all of those superfoods COMBINED.
- You can break down the term “antioxidants” into lots of components, but one key antioxidant is actually a flavanoid/catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), and matcha is crazy full of EGCGs. It has roughly 140x the EGCGs of regular green tea, for the simple reason that matcha is consumed whole. It is not steeped or, worse, extracted (beware of health claims for extracted green tea — much of it is bogus). The soluble and insoluble fiber in matcha work in synergy, something that can’t happen in tea that is steeped. It’s this synergistic effect that is responsible for its off-the-charts EGCG count. Wikipedia lists a bunch of studies that have shown that EGCG in quantity can be beneficial in treating brain, prostate, cervical, and other cancers. Other studies have posited that matcha helps stave off dementia, promotes fat burning, aids digestion, improves oral hygiene, and helps bolster immunity.
- Matcha drinkers have reported (to me, and to others) clearer and quicker thinking, improved memory for things like names and numbers, increased alertness and awareness, elevated moods, “calm euphoria,” and improved concentrative abilities for studying, working, or driving. These claims have definitely rung true in my own case.
In short, matcha is a bajillion (to use scientific language) times better for you than other teas because all the action is in the leaves, which are savored and swallowed.
other random and widely reported observations about matcha and health:
- Matcha has exceedingly high levels of chlorophyll (thanks to the shading process), which is what gives it its hallucinogenic green color. Health gurus claim that chlorophyll is among the most powerful detoxifiers of blood, and a powerful ally in creating ideal blood alkalinity.
- There appears to be a direct connection between antioxidant activity and hypoglycemic activity. The natural sugars (polysaccharides) in matcha help to stabilize blood sugar levels, and to protect against insulin spikes thus stabilizing blood sugar levels. Polysaccharides from green tea in concentrated form are used in the treatment of diabetes in China.
- Antioxidants are desirable because they destroy “free radicals,” which are atoms with unpaired electrons that are known to damage DNA and speed up the aging process (a theory known as the Free Radical Theory of Aging).
- Two studies (including a total of 1,331 women with breast cancer) found a significant (27% ) reduction in the recurrence of breast cancer among women who drank three or more cups of green tea daily.