This health craze is showing up everywhere… matcha green smoothies, matcha lattes, matcha baked goodies, matcha ice creams and desserts etc.
But what is matcha, why is it a big deal, and is it of any help for weight loss?
What is matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder, that can be easily dissolved in water or milk. It is more expensive compared to regular green tea (leaves or tea bags), and there are different grades of matcha depending on the quality. The highest quality is made from the younger supple leaves, whereas the lower grades are made from the older and tougher tea leaves.
What’s the big deal about matcha?
There are a couple of different reasons why matcha gives more of a nutritional hit, as well as having greater effects on alertness and mood. Firstly, because it is dissolved rather than steeped in hot water, it is more concentrated and higher in nutrients and antioxidants.
Secondly, the process for producing matcha is more complex: the tea plants are covered so that they are in the shade before being harvested, which means that the tea leaves develop better flavours and textures. The leaves are then steamed, dried, and aged to deepen the flavour further, and ground using stone to preserve the properties of the tea as much as possible.
How does it work?
Because the whole tea leaf is ingested, you get higher levels of caffeine from just 1/3 tsp of matcha- about equivalent to that of a cup of coffee. The point of difference however, is that due to something called l-theanine that is also in this kind of tea (which is a relaxant), you get more of a calm – but awake – feeling compared to coffee. Caffeine as you probably know can result in a small increase in metabolism while in effect.
Matcha also contains higher amounts of the types of antioxidants linked to cancer fighting, blood sugar regulating, and anti-aging. On top of this, an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which when given in high doses was thought to alter hunger hunger hormones, reducing appetite. This research involved EGCG injections however, and consuming it through diet has a markedly smaller effect.
So is matcha my magic bullet for weight loss?
It is unlikely that simply starting to drink matcha without making any other lifestyle changes will be enough to have any significant impact on weight loss. It may however help you to get the most out of your weight loss strategy.
The increase in energy may help you push yourself a little more during workouts, burning off more calories. You may be generally more active through the day as you feel more energetic. The calming effect of the tea and regulatory effects on blood sugar levels means you may be less likely to make impulsive decisions like choosing unhealthy foods or giving into cravings.
And lastly, the small increase in metabolism may not have a huge impact in a week, or even a month, but it might be a kilo or two over a year… which doesn’t seem like much, but that’s weight loss that you haven’t had to really work for.
As it stands, weight loss is incredibly complex, so while in theory there could be the above benefits from regular matcha consumption, it really depends on the whole picture. What is your diet like? How much are you moving? How consistent are you? What kind of weight loss barriers are you coming up against and how do you handle them?
In summary, treat matcha (or green tea) as a possibly helpful tool to give you a nudge in the right direction- if you can afford it- and you might be onto a winner. Is it essential to reach your goal weight? Probably not.