Health benefits of matcha tea

Monday May 17 2021
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By Joan Salmon

Many of us love tea. In fact, it is one of the most loved beverages. Lately, there is a new type, matcha; a special type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a bright green powder.

Matcha growers, according to healthline.com, cover the tea plants 20 to 30 days before harvest to keep out direct sunlight thus increasing chlorophyll production. This gives the plant a darker green colour while also boosting the amino acid content and flavour.  The hand selected leaves are then briefly steamed to avoid fermentation before being dried in a cold storage. 

Lots of antioxidants 
Matcha has natural antioxidants; catechins, which are plant compounds found in tea. “These help in stabilising harmful free radicals that could damage cells causing chronic ailments,” Dr Paul Kasenene, a wellness expert, shares.

Improves liver health
The liver is an important organ as it rids the body of toxins while also processing nutrients. Therefore, a healthy liver is crucial. Dr Kasenene says the high levels of chlorophyll found in matcha tea have detoxification capabilities, removing heavy metals and toxins from the body.

A study, ‘The effect of green tea extract supplementation on liver enzymes in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease’, was done on 80 people where some were given matcha and others a placebo (inactive treatment) for 90 days. 

“After 12 weeks, those taking the green tea extract showed significant reduction in liver enzyme levels. High levels of this enzyme is a symptom of liver damage. That said, the extract was only a supplement working in conjunction with other factors,” the study states.

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Heart health
Leonard Kasirye, a nutritionist, says matcha lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and ultimately cholesterol levels thus averting artery clogging which is a precursor to heart disease. “When buffered with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, drinking matcha greatly helps in keeping your heart healthy,” he says.

Weight loss
Most, if not all weight loss supplements have green tea extract as one of the ingredients. Kasirye says it is because green tea has the ability to enhance weight loss, thanks to having caffeine which is a known stimulant for burning fat. “It also quickens metabolism which increases energy expending which ultimately enhances the using up of calories rather than storing them,” he adds.

Reduces anxiety
Matcha tea is high in the amino acid L-Theanine which Dr Kasenene says is potent in inducing a state of calmness and relaxation without any drowsiness. “It also leads to the production of a chemical called GABA that helps to reduce anxiety. In this time of increased anxiety, we could all do with some matcha tea,” he says.

Downside
Lead contamination

Although organically grown, green tea can absorb lead from the environment. “On the other hand, with steeped green tea leaves, most of the lead remains in the leaf which is trashed. As such, it is recommended that one does not take more than a cup of matcha a day while pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children should not take it,” Kasirye shares.

Are there side effects?
Drinking green tea and matcha are considered healthy and safe, but people sensitive to caffeine should be aware that both contain decent amounts of the stimulant. In 2016, the World Health Organisation also linked the consumption of hot drinks, such as coffee and tea, to a higher risk of cancer of the esophagus. However, the risk is much lower than the risk of cancer from other causes, such as smoking.

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