Matcha Green Tea Is Healthy—Except In This One Case

UNLESS YOU’VE TAKEN a break from the Internet for the last five year, you’re probably familiar with matcha.

Like inspirational quotes and living out of your van, matcha tea has taken Instagram by storm. The tea-based trend started in the form of lattes—but now people aren’t just sipping the stuff from a teacup anymore. They’re adding matcha to their smoothies and desserts, too.

You could give some of the credit to matcha’s verdant green hue, which pops on social media and enlivens even the most beige of corner bistro tables. (Don’t forget the obligatory New York Times bestseller in the corner of your shot!)

Influencer shade-throwing aside, there’s something to be said of matcha green tea as a healthful drink.

And, granted, matcha tea is only trending in certain parts of the world that are just discovering its unique flavor and color. Other countries have long known about matcha for centuries.

But what exactly is matcha tea? How is it any different from green tea, if at all? And are all the health claims behind the drink—from weight loss to cancer prevention—actually legit?

We turned to expert dietitians who know the scientific research behind matcha green tea to determine if the drink is actually healthful and if you should incorporate it into your daily diet.

Here’s everything you need to know about matcha as a drink in terms of deliciousness, nutrition, health benefits, and even how to prepare and enjoy a cup (or, okay, a smoothie) of your own.

What Is Matcha?

Matcha is a type of green tea. That means it comes from the same plant that all green, black, and oolong teas come from—Camellia sinensis. But it’s a little different from your basic brew.

“When you order traditional green tea, you’re steeping the tea leaves in hot water until the leaves are totally infused and then you discard them,” says Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., an NYC-based sports nutritionist.

“With matcha, you’re drinking the actual leaves, which have been finely powdered and made into a solution, traditionally by mixing about a teaspoon of matcha powder with a third cup of hot water,” she says.

Is Matcha Healthy?

Under certain conditions, yes.

Because you’re ingesting the entire leaf of the tea plant, you’ll get a more potent mix of nutrients and antioxidants than with traditionally prepared green tea, says Sass.

The benefits of traditional green tea are already well-documented on their own. But you’re probably wondering: Do those same benefits extend to matcha green tea?

First know that matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, says Sass, which have anti-inflammatory effects and may work to protect your body against serious health issues such high blood pressure and heart disease.

One powerful polyphenol found in green tea, called EGCG (also known as catechin), has been associated with boosting your metabolism to slow or halt the growth of cancer cells. According to a study published in the Journal of Chromatography, matcha contains up to 137 times the amount of ECCG found in traditional Chinese green tea.

Another perk: Matcha can help boost your energy, making it a great alternative to your daily cup of joe. While it doesn’t contain nearly as much caffeine as coffee does—one 8-ounce cup of matcha contains about 70 milligrams (mg) while the same amount of coffee has closer to 170 mg—matcha contains a natural substance called l-theanine, which triggers a sense of alertness, says Sass.

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“Compared to the caffeine buzz from coffee, matcha drinkers experience an ‘alert calm,’ that produces feelings of relaxation rather than drowsiness,” she explains.

While matcha doesn’t have to be sweetened, those who are accustomed to using sweeteners and creams with their coffee may choose to add flavoring, says Sass.

That said, other foods containing matcha aren’t inherently healthy options. Matcha chocolate is just chocolate, and matcha cupcakes probably still pack lots of sugary frosting. For this reason, experts agree that matcha tea itself can be a low-calorie alternative to sugary drinks, but they warn against believing claims that matcha will do more for you than offer a slight nutritional boost.

Can Matcha Help You Detox?

Yeah, we’ve seen the claims too.

And, no, matcha cannot help you detox.

Claims that matcha has the ability to detox your entire body, for example, are not true. “No food can ‘detox’ your body, nor does your body need anything external to serve as a detox,” explains Abbey Sharp, R.D., founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. “Your liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin do this for us every day, all day.”

Can Matcha Boost Your Metabolism?

This one is complicated.

While research suggests that matcha has the potential to boost your metabolism due to its EGCG, that doesn’t really make it a weight-loss solution.

The caveat: You’d need to drink a lot of it. “Most studies that show positive associations between matcha and weight loss are actually using a green tea extract in larger doses than what most people consume,” says Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., author and nutrition consultant at Shaw Simple Swaps.

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Instead, sustainable weight loss should stem from more significant lifestyle changes, like exercising regularly and eating a whole foods-based diet, she says, which matcha can certainly be a part of. So while its nutritional profile is promising, matcha tea—or any tea, really—isn’t going to transform your health on its own. If you truly want to benefit from it, matcha should serve to supplement a healthy diet full of a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

How to Make Matcha Tea

  1. Boil 4 oz of water. Whisk 2 teaspoons of organic matcha concentrate (like this one from Taste of Kyoto) with 4 teaspoons of room-temperature water until you form a smooth paste.

  2. Stir in the hot water. Yeah, that’s it


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About the Author: Tung Chi