What Are the Health Benefits of Green Tea/ Matcha?

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Health Benefits of Green Tea/ Matcha

Green tea has been investigated in relation to weight loss/ management, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes, and many other health concerns. 

The health benefits of green tea/matcha are mainly attributed to compounds called catechins. Green tea leaves contain a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), 

Studies investigating green tea and green tea extract for weight loss have had mixed results. 

Green tea may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). However, studies are mixed regarding whether it helps to lower blood pressure. 

Epidemiological studies done in Asian cultures suggests that drinking green tea may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, although the evidence isn’t conclusive. For people who have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, the current evidence doesn’t suggest that green tea helps to control blood sugar.

The evidence is not clear whether the benefits of green tea/ matcha on sports performance are due to the caffeine, or if there is additional benefit.

 

What is the Difference Between Green Tea and Matcha?

Green tea and matcha are actually both green tea leaves, but in different forms. Green tea usually comes in the form of tea leaves, most commonly in tea bags. Matcha is green tea leaves that are finely ground up into a powder.

Matcha powder and green tea differ in catechin and caffeine levels. See below for the comparison:

Matcha powder (1g)

Catechin content (mg): 105

Caffeine content (mg): 35

Green tea (1 cup/250mL)

Catechin content (mg): 50 (and up to 100)

Caffeine content (mg): 40

Factors that Affect Catechin and Caffeine Content

In matcha powder, the quality of the leaves, where the plant is grown, and how the leaves are processed all affect the levels of catechin and caffeine.

 For high quality matcha powder, typically look for:

  • A vibrant green colour

  • A fresh, sweet, vegetal smell

  • Slightly sweet and bitter in taste

  • Minimal amounts (or absence) of additives, artificial, or natural flavours 

In brewed green tea, in addition to the quality of the green tea leaves (as outlined above), the catechin and caffeine levels will also depend on brewing time as well as water temperature. 

 You can achieve higher catechin and caffeine levels in your green tea by:

  1. Using hot water between 60C-85C. And,  

  2. Steeping the tea bag for 1-3 minutes.

 

Is Green Tea/ Matcha Safe for Children/Teens?

A minimal amount of either green tea or matcha powder (usually in food or beverages) is safe. Dietitians of Canada states that the main concern of green tea/matcha is caffeine content, and that children 12 and older should not be having more than 2.5mg/kg of body weight. Children younger than 12 should only be having 45-85 mg per day.

 

Alyssa’s Final Thoughts:

I often hear about drinking green tea as a solution for weight loss, although I’m not too sure exactly where this comes from. Yes, the literature does show that green tea has some weight loss benefits, but the studies don’t show a drastic reduction in weight, only to a certain extent. Even though all the information above is from reliable sources, I would not rely on green tea alone to provide all of those benefits. Instead, I would encourage incorporating green tea into a balanced diet.

 

Kristen’s Final Thoughts:

Is green tea and/or matcha a healthy drink choice? Yes. Is green tea a miracle weight loss product? I’m not convinced with the current evidence. So, I agree with Alyssa. If you like green tea and matcha, include them as a healthy part of your eating and drinking habits. 

ECGC is just one component of green tea. I suspect that science will discover more antioxidants and other beneficial components. 

One word of warning: Avoid the copious amount of added sugar that can be in the syrups used by coffee shops to make matcha lattes.   

Myself, I enjoy sipping on green tea and have some delicious matcha recipes in my rotation. Victoria has some beautiful matcha cafes. You can find me there enjoying the treat of a cup of high-grade traditional matcha. 

Photo credit: rawpixel on Unsplash

Thank you to UBC student Alyssa for co-authoring!