Matcha is many things; it’s healthy yet tasty, trendy yet culturally significant, and, best of all, it’s easy to incorporate into your diet. You may have had this green beverage as a matcha latte in a coffee shop or at least observed it on the menu.
Matcha is versatile. It is also an excellent and nutritious supplement to add to smoothies.
Matcha tea drinking was originally Japanese, but it has become popular in many parts of the world. Matcha has been the centerpiece of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony that represents harmony, respect, tranquility, and purity for centuries.
Matcha is green tea, but it’s not the same thing as just green tea. Green tea is made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Rather than being brewed in hot water, the leaves of this plant are harvested and ground up to a fine powder to make matcha. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Still, because of how it’s grown and harvested, matcha is a green tea that produces more chlorophyll and has a darker hue with more caffeine, antioxidants, and amino acids.
Matcha powder, sometimes called green tea powder, can be blended into smoothies, mixed with water and frothy milk for a matcha latte, or just mixed with water to be enjoyed in its purest form.
Nutritional Composition of Matcha
Since matcha powder is derived from grinding up the leaf in its entirety, the result has many more health benefits than traditionally brewed green tea. Green tea is already a healthy beverage; matcha takes it up a notch. Matcha has higher concentrations of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, caffeine, and the amino acid L-theanine.
- Calories: 7.5 kcal
- Fiber: 0.5 g
- Protein: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 1.5 g
- Calcium: 5 mg
- Iron: 0.1 mg
- Potassium: 25 mg
Matcha green tea is also high in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
You probably hear about antioxidants everywhere–from skincare to fruit juice. The fact is that they are little bioactive powerhouses fighting off harmful free radicals in our bodies. What do free radicals do? They damage cells and can cause oxidative stress in the body if not enough antioxidants are around to fight back. Oxidative stress is an instigator of disease, including cancer.
Most notably, matcha is high in polyphenols called catechins. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) has received a lot of attention for its anti-cancerous effects in mice and for how it may reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Another phenolic compound in green tea to highlight is quercetin. Some research indicates Matcha’s effects on reducing insulin resistance and age-related diseases. Researchers have also found matcha high in rutin, a flavonoid commonly found in tea leaves with medicinal effects.
As mentioned, matcha contains more caffeine than regular green tea. Depending on the brand and amount used, some matcha drinks can have as much caffeine as coffee. Below is a comparison of the caffeine content in an 8-ounce cup of matcha, green tea, and coffee.
L-theanine is an amino acid contained in Matcha that slows the absorption of caffeine. This leads users to experience the effects of caffeine without a crash. Many regular matcha tea drinkers describe the feeling from matcha as “alert but calm.”
Health Benefits of Matcha in Smoothies
Much of the research has focused on the health effects of green tea extract, and since matcha is still green tea, it’s reasonable to assume that these same benefits apply. However, a recent study explicitly reviewing the health benefits of matcha concluded that matcha exhibits:
- Antioxidative effects
- Anticarcinogenic effects
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Cardioprotective effects
- Prevention of neurodegenerative disorders
This 2023 study provides an overview of all the research to date (including human and animal studies). The authors concluded that the therapeutic potential of matcha is promising, but more research (a.k.a. controlled trials with humans) is needed before jumping to any conclusions.
In addition to the benefits above, drinking matcha may have added cognitive and mental health benefits. This study showed that Japanese elderly that regularly drank green tea displayed lower depressive symptoms. This ties into the notion that green tea increases focus and alertness minus the jitters or anxiousness that is oftentimes associated with caffeine. Also, the L-theanine in green tea contributes to lowering stress-related symptoms.
Green tea is also touted as a prime weight-loss agent. This is primarily due to the caffeine in green tea having a thermogenic effect when used before exercise. Bottom line, if you’re looking to speed up your metabolism, drinking green tea or matcha before a workout can’t hurt if you enjoy the mental boost of caffeine prior to exercise.
Taste and Texture
Matcha has a distinct taste. It’s commonly described as having an earthy or grassy taste. It’s one of those flavors you can start to crave, though. This is especially true with something when I know it is beneficial for my health.
You may not usually think of flavoring smoothies with tea, but since matcha is already powder, it’s super accessible as a smoothie supplement. The powdery texture blends well into any smoothie recipe.
Like other green smoothie ingredients, sweet fruits go well to mask the bitter or earthy flavors that come with such ingredients. Tropical fruits like mango and pineapple are popular flavor combinations. In the tropical family, coconut also pairs well with the matcha flavor.
Drawbacks and Considerations
Matcha does have more caffeine than other teas and even some coffees. But generally, matcha contains 30-40 milligrams of caffeine per teaspoon. Limiting caffeine consumption to 400 mg daily and abstaining from caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime to avoid interfering with sleep is recommended.
For many people, matcha is an excellent caffeinated alternative to coffee with added health benefits. Those who are sensitive to caffeine or just typically drink tea instead of coffee may notice the extra caffeine in matcha. The higher caffeine content is just something to be aware of, especially for those who don’t drink much caffeine or do so very often.
Unfortunately, there have been concerns in the past around heavy metal contamination and matcha. Apparently, much of the matcha is produced in China rather than Japan. And the matcha from China may have minute amounts of lead.
This is why when it comes to supplements, it’s essential to double-check the brand and the labeling for any third-party testing or certifications. Consumer Lab is a certification program that monitors products like matcha powder for heavy metals.
Matcha and green tea may affect iron absorption, especially in those that have trouble absorbing iron in the first place, aka anemics. The reason is that tannins in tea bind to iron in the body. Tannins are polyphenols commonly found in tea, chocolate, and wine, which is what gives these flavors their bitter taste.
There is a case study of a middle-aged man who developed anemia from excessive green tea drinking. For most people, this will not be an issue. However, if you have an iron deficiency, it’s wise to limit your tannin consumption and consult your doctor.
How to Choose a Good Quality Matcha Powder Supplement
The quality of matcha powder supplements on the market can vary greatly. Matcha tends to be on the pricier side due to its intensive harvesting methods. Just remember matcha powders with a meager price tag may not have the same quality as needed to display the health benefits associated with matcha. Additionally, lower-quality powders may contain unnecessary additives and sweeteners that negate the therapeutic benefits.
There are two types of matcha powder–ceremonial and culinary. The ceremonial-grade powder is made with younger tea leaves, giving it a brighter green color. It is considered to be smoother and sweeter and better to mix and drink with just water. Culinary-grade matcha is better to use in lattes, smoothies, and recipes.
Matcha powder is a dietary supplement, meaning it isn’t closely regulated, unfortunately. Always buy from reputable brands that are transparent about ingredients and testing procedures to ensure quality and safety in your supplement.
Recipes and Preparation Methods
Matcha is a robust flavor, but it can still be used in many recipes! The traditional way to prepare matcha tea is to use one teaspoon of matcha powder with 100 mL of hot water. Then, whisk the mixture with a bamboo matcha whisk to avoid clumps. A milk frother is another excellent tool for ensuring a smoothly blended beverage.
You won’t have to do anything special to add matcha powder to smoothies, as any good blender will remove clumps. For matcha smoothies, it’s nice to use tropical fruits like banana, mango, and pineapple. All of these add sweetness and are light in color to maintain a bright green smoothie if you’re into aesthetics.
Matcha Smoothie Recipes
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 cup vanilla oat milk
- 1 cup frozen banana chunks
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 cup of fresh mint
- 2-3 teaspoons of matcha powder
- ½ cup frozen mango
- ½ cup frozen pineapple
- ½ frozen banana chunks
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 2-3 teaspoons of matcha powder
I always like to use frozen fruits to make a cold smoothie but feel free to use fresh produce and add ice instead. Make sure to store your powder in a sealed container in the refrigerator or a cool environment to preserve its nutritional components and increase its shelf-life.
On the one hand, matcha is a nutritional powerhouse. It is particularly high in free-radical fighting antioxidants and has a higher concentration of caffeine and L-theanine to promote focus, improve cognition, and boost metabolism.
But some lower-quality matcha powders may have harmful additives or even contain unhealthy amounts of heavy metals. It’s also quite expensive compared to other teas or smoothie ingredients.
Matcha drinkers can all agree that matcha has a unique taste, but it can become a cravable flavor. Feel free to experiment with different smoothie ingredients to cater to your own preferences and health goals.
As a friendly reminder, while matcha can be a healthy addition to your diet, it’s not a magic cure-all, and a balanced diet and lifestyle are crucial for overall health.
Are matcha smoothies good for you?
Yes, matcha smoothies are pretty healthy, mainly if you stick to using whole fruits or vegetables and sugar-free liquids in combination with your matcha powder. Matcha is associated with many health benefits due to its high antioxidant content.
What fruit goes well with matcha?
Technically any fruit will go well with matcha, but some crowd favorites are sweet tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and banana to balance out the earthiness of matcha.
Can you blend matcha with milk?
Yes. Blending matcha with frothy dairy-based or plant-based milk can make for a delicious matcha latte. Some say that dairy milk reduces matcha health benefits, but no sound research has proven this to be true.
Is it safe to drink matcha every day?
Matcha is generally considered to be a safe ingredient. However, excessive green tea consumption may impact iron absorption, and its important to be mindful of the potential for heavy metal contamination in some brands.
What is matcha powder?
True matcha powder is simply ground-up leaves from the camellia sinensis plant. Store-bought matcha powder may contain additives or be combined with other functional foods.
Why do Japanese drink matcha?
Matcha tea has a long history in Japan, dating back to the 12th century. Traditionally, matcha was consumed as part of a tea ceremony signifying harmony, respect, tranquility, and purity. Today, it’s a popular flavor in Japan, tea, and several other culinary delights!
Does matcha contain caffeine?
Yes, matcha has roughly 60-70 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup using one teaspoon of matcha powder.
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