Matcha brings ritual and a myriad of health benefits. What’s not to like?

Matcha tea with spoon and whisk / image source: Oregon Sports News

Matcha tea with spoon and whisk / image source: Oregon Sports News

Matcha brings ritual and a myriad of health benefits. What’s not to like?

If you’ve been to a coffee shop or tea emporium recently, you’ve probably seen matcha on the menu. You may have even heard that matcha has more caffeine than coffee — yet is still incredibly healthy. From weight loss to cancer prevention, matcha is being hailed as a secret weapon to wellness.

Matcha is different from regular green tea. Instead of steeping the tea leaves in hot water, they are ground into a powder so you are actually consuming the leaf itself. Unlike traditional green tea, matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This improves the flavour and texture of the leaves. The shade also increases the amount of chlorophyll content in the leaves, which is what makes them bright green and full of nutrients. Leaves are steamed to stop fermentation, dried, and aged in cold storage.

Is there any scientific proof that matcha can do everything from lowering blood pressure to increasing metabolism? There have been a number of studies that demonstrate that matcha can reduce cell damage and prevent chronic disease. This is due to the concentrated amount of antioxidants. Catechins, an antioxidant in matcha, may help reduce blood pressure — and is considered especially effective if your upper number is 130 or higher.

And what about the claim that matcha produces the boost of caffeine without the jitters? Because you’re consuming whole leaves, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea — about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee. Matcha releases caffeine slowly in your bloodstream so you’re less likely to experience a sudden rush of energy … or the inevitable crash.

But is matcha tasty? Some people actually don’t enjoy drinking matcha because they find it grassy-tasting, grainy, and bitter. They may also find the texture, which can be paste-like, difficult to swallow. Others aren’t bothered by the taste and enjoy matcha in teas, lattes, smoothies, and even in energy balls.

If you are a tea lover or interested in trying match for its benefits, start by having a beverage prepared for you. If you like the taste, you can invest in a matcha whisk, frother, or maker (a tube where you can shake and then drain the tea through a sieve). These pieces are essential for making matcha at home because you cannot just add the powder to hot water. Matcha needs to be prepared. And for many people, it’s worth the ritual and the health rewards.


More superfood content

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.com

Handful of acai berries / Image source: Mayo Clinic News Network

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Raspberries? Blueberries? Strawberries? Pffft. Been there, ate that.

I kid. I’m not really slagging them. Whatever your preference, berries typically deliver high amounts of Vitamin C, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. You see them in a wide variety of dishes from jams to juices to pancakes, where they add colour and a wide spectrum of flavours ranging from sweet to sour and beyond. Today we look at three lesser-known but ultra-healthy members of the berry family.

Acai berries and power / Image source: evolution-slimming.comAcai berries

Among the best known exotic berries, acai berries are native to the Brazilian Amazon region and are popular for their high  antioxidant content. In fact, they may contain up to ten times as much antioxidant polyphenols as blueberries. Acai berries have been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels and post-exercise oxidative stress.

Acai berry fans tout many other possible health benefits for these Brazilian berries, including heart and skin health, weight loss, energy boost, anti-aging properties, and more. And no list of possible health claims would be complete, of course, without references to the male libido; acai berries are said to help in this regard by promoting increased blood circulation. 

Acai berries are perishable, and thus are usually shipped frozen. They can be used in juices and powders and eaten with yogurt, cereals, and desserts.

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.comGoji berries

Traditionally used as a medicinal food in China, goji berries have a sweet taste tinged with a little sour and are often marketed in dried form. In addition to being potent sources of Vitamin A and copper, goji berries are high in  zeaxanthin, making them a powerful supplement to eye health. They also contain antioxidant polyphenols, which can protect against ultraviolet light. Other possible benefits include boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of cancer.

Some research draws links between goji berries and sexual performance, and even suggests that they can function as an alternative to medications such as Viagra.

Goji berries can be used in smoothies, yogurt, cereal, salads, and more. You can also enjoy them by the handful like raisins.

Fresh bilberries / Image source: linnea.chBilberries

Bilberries are similar to blueberries but are smaller, softer, and darker. They are good sources of fibre and Vitamin C, and are said to help reduce inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol. One study tied them to weight loss and reduced waist circumference. Other potential benefits include stronger blood vessels and better circulation, prevention of cell damage, possible reduction in blood glucose levels, and treating diarrhea and nausea. 

Like the other berries, bilberries are a good source of dietary antioxidants, manganese, zinc, and iron. Bilberry extract has been cited as an effective defense against a number of eye problems, including some tied to aging. The fruit is also said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Bilberries can be used in preserves, pies, jams, and tarts. The juice can be enjoyed straight or used as the basis for liqueurs and syrups. Even the leaves can be used to brew tea!

Bottom line

Like their better-known cousins, today’s berries pack a healthy punch. They’re low in calories but high in fibre, and excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And their lively flavours can help reduce cravings for sugary snacks. In short, there are berry good reasons to make them part of your daily diet!

Disclaimer: this site is not offering professional medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about these foods and your health, ask your family doctor or a qualified nutritionist.