Matcha Do's And Dont's
By now you have probably had a delicious matcha latte, perhaps ate a matcha-containing protein bar, or consumed matcha in your protein smoothie and have heard about its astounding health benefits.
The history of matcha in Japan is nearly a millennium old. The seeds used to make it were first brought to the country – to the city of Kyoto – in 1191 A.D. by a Japanese Buddhist monk, Myōan Eisai who procured the seeds after traveling to China.
The word matcha comes from the combining of two Japanese words matsu (to wipe or rub) and cha (tea) which describes how matcha is made. Traditionally, the leaves are rubbed with stones and turned into a fine powder. Both matcha and regular green tea come from the same Camellia sinensis species, but they are grown and processed in different ways.
The differences between green tea and matcha is that with the latter, the leaves are fully de-stemmed and prior to harvest, they are grown in the shade for up to 20 days. That causes the plant to make more chlorophyll – which gives the powder its vivid green color. As a result, matcha tea has more antioxidants, caffeine, and L-theanine versus regular green tea.
But not all matcha is beneficial for your health and in some cases could be dangerous. Many matchas on the market contain pesticides as well as abnormally high lead and arsenic amounts. But that should’t scare you off consuming matcha tea for its benefits, just choose organic matcha that is lab-tested for purity and produced by small growers.
The disease-fighting punch of green tea is largely due to its high concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a substance with more antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E and other nutritional heavyweights. Quality matcha has up to 137 times the amount of EGCG compared to other green teas. This particular antioxidant has shown promising results in helping fight against HIV, cancer and many other disorders and diseases. A study demonstrated that EGCG had an anti-HIV-1 effect by preventing the binding of HIV-1 glycoprotein to T cells. EGCG holds promise for preventing and treating certain cancers, some studies have that fewer at-risk individuals got cancer when they took EGCG daily. It is also being studied for healthier oral hygiene due to its ability to suppress oral pathogens.
Some bottled green teas and even green tea supplements contain only trace amounts of EGCG. Meanwhile, the amount of EGCG in other green tea–based products can vary by more than 240%. Know your source for quality matcha and ensure that it is lab-tested for its EGCG claims.
Oxygen radical absorbence capacity (ORAC) is a method of measuring antioxidant capabilities. The ORAC value of matcha tea is one of the highest in the super-food realm, at about 1348 units per serving. You can think of your cells as having little engines, burning the fuel we put in to run all day. And just like car engines create toxic exhaust, our cells create toxic free radicals as part of their energy generating process. If you build up too much free radical exhaust, and you start to cause problems. Excess free radicals promote the development of chronic and degenerative ailments such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders and even neuro-cognitive decline. Antioxidants nullify free radicals. And because free radical production goes way up after we eat, having a diet full of antioxidants is the most direct and effective way to combat free radical accumulation.
Women, who eat about 1800 calories per day, should get at least 8,000 ORAC units.
All plants have the capacity to absorb heavy metals and toxins from the soil. But a lot of green tea is produced in China where the soil contains high levels of lead and arsenic. Tea plants absorb more soil toxicity then other plants and in China many tea farms are located next to toxic industrial areas and roadways. Small amounts of lead (2 mcg to 5 mcg per serving) have been detected in leading green tea brands. Lead exposure can lead to brain, nerve and kidney damage. Children in particular are very sensitive to lead exposure and shouldn’t be exposed to more than 6 mcg per day from all sources. Supposedly adults can handle more from 25 mcg to 70 mcg per day, but at The Heal Hive we would prefer you avoid lead exposure –especially when fighting chronic illness and autoimmunity.
Theanine is a non-dietary amino acid almost exclusively found in the Camellia sinensis plant. It has been confirmed to cross the blood brain barrier. Research suggests it might offer neurological health benefits which could help offset the nervousness and restlessness which often go hand in hand with caffeine consumption. While stress can induce beta waves an excited, more agitated state, L-Theanine creates alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. And while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than common black and green teas. As an additional benefit, L-Theanine may help memory and learning and ability all the while inhibiting any possible side-effects from caffeine, a natural component of green tea. Theanine can be a great addition to your diet if both anxiety and fatigue plague you -which happens a lot when fighting tick-borne illness.
Caffeine sensitivity is determined by the efficiency of the human body to process and metabolize caffeine. Some people are genetically pre-disposed to metabolize caffeine faster than others. One serving of matcha may contain on average at least 43 mg of caffeine. If insomnia is a big issue for you, it can take some people a full 12 hours to fully metabolize caffeine, which could keep you up unnaturally. Therefore your caffeine intake, should you be able to tolerate caffeine, should be left to early morning rituals over that desperate afternoon pick-me-up. At The Heal we encourage being in bed by 10 p.m. for sleep hygiene, which means that the latest we suggest consuming caffeine would be 10 a.m.