The hype around matcha has grown recently, and you might be wondering what’s so great about this popular green powder.

Matcha is a type of green tea, which is full of antioxidants. Research suggests it may be beneficial for everything from heart and brain health to weight management.

Here, we’ll explore exactly what matcha is, its potential health benefits, and how you can add it to your diet.

What is matcha?

What is matcha

Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder. It’s produced from the same Camellia sinensis plant as green, white, black, and oolong teas. However, due to the unique way it’s cultivated, harvested, and processed, matcha has a distinctive flavour and nutritional profile.

Instead of being grown in direct sunlight, Camellia sinensis plants are shaded when being grown for matcha. According to research, this increases chlorophyll, caffeine, antioxidant, and amino acid production in the leaves, and is much of the reason behind matcha’s unparalleled health benefits.

After being harvested, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis are left to dry, before the stems and veins are removed and ground into a fine powder, which is matcha.

10 health benefits of matcha

health benefits of matcha

Some of the potential health benefits of matcha include…

1. Matcha is high in antioxidants

Regular green tea is already touted for its powerful antioxidant properties, but matcha has an even higher antioxidant content.

Matcha is particularly high in antioxidants called catechins, such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Among other things, EGCG has been found to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules) and oxidative stress – which are known contributors to chronic conditions like heart disease.

In this study, when mice were given matcha supplements, their antioxidant activity increased while damage caused by free radicals was reduced.

You might wonder why matcha contains more antioxidants than regular green tea when they come from the same plant. But, unlike regular green tea, where leaves are soaked and discarded, powdered leaves are whisked into hot water to make matcha – which means you’re actually drinking the entire leaf!

2. Matcha may improve brain function and performance

There’s evidence that some of matcha’s components may help improve brain function and performance.

Take this study, for example, which assessed how people performed on a collection of brain-teasing activities. Those who were given matcha showed greater improvements in their attention, memory, and reaction time than the placebo group.

Another study concluded that drinking 2g of green tea powder every day for two months boosted brain function in older adults.

Many experts have attributed these effects to matcha’s caffeine content, which is higher than that of coffee. However, matcha also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which research has found may help to improve focus and prevent energy crashes caused by caffeine, resulting in longer-term alertness.

3. Matcha may help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline

Considering its brain-boosting abilities, it’s not surprising that matcha may help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline too.

While matcha and green tea are very similar, matcha contains more antioxidants – including quercetin, which has been found to slow the ageing process by protecting cells from damage.

In this study, quercetin was shown to have protective effects against the development of Alzheimer’s disease. And another study revealed that drinking matcha everyday helped to protect against cognitive decline in elderly people.

4. Matcha may reduce the risk of cancer

Some studies have linked many of the antioxidant compounds in matcha with a reduced risk of cancer.

For example, research indicates that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) may have anti-cancer properties. Specifically, studies suggest that it may help to protect cells from DNA damage, activate enzymes that prevent tumour growth, and encourage cancer cell destruction.

Researchers have also found that the EGCG in matcha may help prevent the development of certain cancers, such as breast cancer and colon cancer. Others have claimed that catechins may reduce the risk of skin cancer by protecting the skin from UV radiation.

Matcha also contains high amounts of polyphenols; another type of antioxidant linked with a reduced cancer risk. Evidence suggests that polyphenols work by sending chemical messages, which restrict the ability of cancer cells to divide and mutate. Cancer cells that can’t divide or mutate will eventually die.

However, while current research is promising, further studies are needed to fully confirm the link between matcha and cancer.

5. Matcha may be beneficial for skin

Matcha may help to boost skin health and improve its appearance.

Its antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties are believed to slow signs of ageing and reduce the risk of conditions like acne and redness. For example, this study found that EGCG can be effective in managing various factors known to cause acne – including the skin’s oil production.

Matcha may improve skin radiance too by encouraging blood circulation, which increases the skin’s supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Matcha also contains vitamins linked to skin health, including A, C, E, and K. Vitamin A, for example, has been found to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production.

Matcha may be beneficial for skin

6. Matcha may help to reduce stress and anxiety

Research suggests that amino acids like L-theanine and arginine found in matcha may have stress-relieving effects.

In this study, L-theanine reduced stress levels by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can have a relaxing effect on the mind.

Other studies have found that matcha activates dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Known as ‘happy hormones’, these can effectively relieve stress and anxiety, and improve mood.

7. Matcha may support a healthy metabolism and weight maintenance

Research suggests that matcha may support healthy weight loss and management.

This study found that participants who drank matcha burned more fat during a 30-minute brisk walk – and achieved greater weight loss results overall – than those who didn’t drink matcha.

Again, EGCG is also noteworthy when it comes to weight loss, as research suggests it may help to boost metabolism and prevent obesity. Experts have put these effects down to EGCG’s ability to boost the performance of molecules in the body that are responsible for fat breakdown.

Matcha can also help to regulate appetite by stabilising blood sugar levels. Blood sugar spikes and crashes are linked with food cravings and overeating.

That said, it’s important not to rely on matcha alone to achieve your weight loss goals.

8. Matcha may improve heart health

Considering matcha’s antioxidant content and ability to influence factors like stress and weight, it’s no wonder that matcha may be beneficial for heart health too.

Antioxidants like EGCG help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which are two known contributors to heart disease. Some animal studies have also suggested that matcha could help to lower total cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels – key considerations when it comes to heart health.

More generally, studies have linked drinking green tea varieties with a lower risk of heart disease than drinking coffee. However, further human studies are needed to confirm these findings.

9. Matcha may be beneficial for bone health

There’s some evidence that drinking tea, particularly varieties of green tea like matcha, may strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

In this study, drinking three cups of green tea per day was associated with a 30% reduced risk of hip fractures in men and women over 50. Even drinking just one cup a day reduced the risk by approximately 9%.

Other studies have suggested that green tea varieties like matcha may be more effective at increasing bone density than other teas, such as oolong or chamomile. This is due to their higher concentration of plant compounds and antioxidant abilities.

10. Matcha may help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes

Research suggests that matcha tea may help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Studies have found that it can obstruct glucose absorption in the small intestine, which reduces post-meal blood sugar spikes. Green teas in general have also been found to improve insulin sensitivity and, therefore, help people with diabetes manage their symptoms.

Thanks to these effects, there’s also evidence that regularly consuming green tea varieties like matcha may help to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in the first place.

How can I add matcha to my diet?

How can I add matcha to my diet

The most obvious way to add matcha to your diet is to make it as a tea or coffee.

Matcha tea or coffee is easy to make – simply sift your matcha to get rid of any lumps and then mix with hot water and a milk of your choice. Check out this simple matcha tea recipe and method or this matcha latte recipe from Love and Lemons to give it a go. If you don’t enjoy the taste, you might like to add natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Matcha can also be used to make everything from desserts to smoothies and salad dressings. Check out these five fun ways to include matcha in your daily diet from Wellbeing Nutrition for more ideas.

For maximum health benefits, the type of matcha you buy is important too. The main distinction to be aware of is between ceremonial matcha and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial matcha is more expensive but is better for health because it’s made from younger, higher-quality tea leaves.

Is matcha suitable for everyone?

Matcha tea is generally considered safe for most people. However, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to moderate your intake, as matcha has a higher caffeine content than other teas.

If you’ve been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anaemia, it’s important to speak to your doctor before adding matcha to your diet. Like other teas, matcha contains natural compounds called tannins, which – according to research – interfere with iron absorption.

Final thoughts…

With its rich offering of antioxidants, matcha is a nutritional powerhouse that brings many health benefits. And the good news is that it’s easy to add to your diet.

For further reading, head over to the diet and nutrition section of our website. Here, you’ll find information on everything from essential vitamin and mineral guides to the health benefits of other foods like quinoa and chia seeds.

Have you added matcha to your diet? What are some of the health benefits you’ve experienced? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.