Matcha is a Health Drink

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Published 8-2-08

Dear Pharmacist,
My Japanese neighbor drinks green matcha tea every day.
She runs around like a 30-year-old, even though she’s in
her 70s. I’m watching her mow her lawn as I e-mail
you! What the heck is she drinking?! Does it have more
health benefits than regular green tea?
C.E., Silver Springs, Florida

ANSWER: Matcha was introduced to Japan by a monk in the 12th century. Allow me to introduce it to you. Matcha is a drink best described as green tea leaves that have been ground up into a fine powder. You froth the powder with water to create a magnificent bright green tea. With regular green tea, you steep the leaves into hot water for a few minutes, then drink the brewed water. With matcha, you’re literally drinking the plant. So what? It tastes better and the health benefits skyrocket with matcha compared to regular green tea. Think about why. You are drinking the entire tea leaf, not water that has been momentarily laced with a tea bag of crushed leaves. Don’t get me wrong: regular green tea is good for you, plus it’s very affordable, but matcha is better for you. Tea connoisseurs like myself love it.

Matcha has a little caffeine but the stimulating effect is counteracted this relaxing ingredient, “theanine.” Tea contains antioxidants which are substances that neutralize bad guys in your body. One of these powerful antioxidants is called EGCG. English teachers, put this on your next spelling bee: Epigallocatechin gallate. One cup of matcha contains about as much antioxidant power as 8-10 cups of regular green tea!

Studies can’t agree on this, but drinking too much green or black tea may form kidney stones because of the “oxalates.” Adding calcium-rich almond milk might minimize the risk. If you’re prone to stones, tea is not your worst offender, spinach is. It’s so loaded with oxalates that it clogs up processing equipment!

Anyway, matcha has been researched and it embarrasses vitamins C and E because its antioxidant levels of EGCG are 25 -100 times more potent than C and E. Mind you, these are test tube studies but human studies concur that something great is going on. Green teas heighten your awareness while flooding your body with a sense of peace and calm. Deal or no deal? EGCG translates to lower risk for skin, breast, lung, prostate, colon, esophageal and bladder cancer. Deal! Other nutrients in matcha include B6, C, E and natural beta carotene.

The Japanese drink a lot of matcha. No wonder they have the third-highest life expectancy in the world! The United States slides in at a whopping #29. Super-size that.