If you make the rounds in wellness circles, you’ve probably seen a recent surge of talk about matcha, a green powdery substance that looks suspiciously like ground up grass. So what’s all the buzz, and is it really healthy or just another health store craze?
What Is Matcha?
In a nutshell, matcha is finely ground green tea. But matcha is different from your average green tea because of the way that it is grown and processed. Matcha powder is grown in the shade so that it develops more slowly which increases the amount of amino acids, especially theanine, present in the tea. Only the buds of matcha are harvested, whereas other ground teas may contain leaves and stems, making them more bitter and less concentrated in antioxidants and amino acids. After matcha is harvested, it is dried flat and then stone ground into a super fine powder that retains a bright green color.
Why Is Matcha Good For You?
So if matcha is just “green tea,” why can’t you just drink green tea? The health benefits of green tea are undeniable, but there are several factors to consider when comparing the two. Green tea leaves found in tea bags have been cut and dried, and some argue that the cutting can actually damage the antioxidants and reduce their overall potency. Additionally, some forms of loose leaf green tea may not be the highest grade, whereas when you’re purchasing matcha, you’re almost always purchasing a premium green tea product simply because of the distinguishing way that matcha is grown, harvested, and processed.
As mentioned above, matcha is rich in theanine, an amino acid that provides a calming and energetic balance to the body. Matcha used as an “energy” drink is far superior to caffeine because the energizing effects of matcha also provide calm, while caffeine can actually put the nervous system into a state of fight-or-flight, even if you’re not wholly aware of it.
Not only is matcha rich in theanine, but it also contains the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, antioxidants, fiber, and protein.
While it may sound vague to say that matcha is rich in antioxidants, consider this: it has more than 6 times the amount found in goji berries and 7 times the amount found in dark chocolate. While we all love to proclaim that we’re eating that chocolate “for our health,” maybe it’s time to start indulging in matcha for the same reason.
So Should Matcha Be On Your Paleo Plate?
Matcha is certainly “Paleo” because it’s a plant, and it is packaged with minimal processing, i.e. no extra ingredients or additives. Since Paleo focuses on whole foods, matcha is a wonderful addition to your repertoire, and has some proven health benefits, most notably helping the body more effectively rid itself of toxins, which is something we could all benefit from. Even when we live a very clean lifestyle, we’re still exposed to toxins on a daily basis from our environments and even in trace amounts from organic foods.
But What Do You Do With Matcha?
Matcha can be mixed with hot water and drank just like any other kind of tea, or you can get fancy with it. Add matcha to your smoothies, home-made Paleo salad dressings, and chia pudding. You can also add a tablespoon or two to any of our baked recipes, including muffins, cookies, and cakes! It works especially well to add matcha to our double dark chocolate muffins. You can’t taste that it’s there, which makes it an excellent way to get children or picky eaters to include this green goodness into their diet, and as a bonus, it just doubles up on the amount of antioxidant-rich foods in the recipe!
So what will you matcha?
Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist