Matcha Green Tea Health Benefits
Matcha green tea health benefits include potential as a supplemental treatment for prostate cancer due to its high level of catechins and antioxidants. Although matcha green tea begins from the same plant as other green teas, it is processed in a way that differs from other green teas.
Is your green tea green? The truth is, some green tea is more green than others, and you can find tea being sold as green tea even though it is pale green or brown. However, the greenest tea and arguably the healthiest green tea is matcha, the type of tea highly revered in Japan.
Matcha Green Tea Health Benefits: It’s the Processing
All green teas are not alike, but they all start out from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis, which is also the same plant from which black, oolong, and white teas are harvested. The difference lies in the processing. To make green tea, the leaves can be either steamed, roasted, or fried soon after they are picked. These methods can stop fermentation (oxidation) from occurring and the leaves from changing color.
For green tea with the highest levels of antioxidants, the healthiest choice is matcha, which is steamed and stone-ground into a fine powder. Such matcha teas come from Japan, are unfermented, and are bright green. But even all matcha green teas are not the same (see “How to Choose Matcha Green Tea”).
All green teas are good sources of potent antioxidants called polyphenols, and especially a polyphenol called catechins. Of the different types of catechins, the most powerful one found in tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is many times more potent than the antioxidants vitamins C and E.
Matcha green tea health benefits are related to its high EGCG content, which is superior to other green teas because of the way it is harvested, handled, and processed. High levels of EGCG can translate into various matcha green tea health benefits. For example, men who drank five or more cups of green tea daily had a reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer when compared with men who drank less than one cup daily. (Kurahashi 2008) Drinking green tea may slow the growth of prostate cancer cells (Gupta 2000), prompt the repair of damaged DNA that can promote cancer growth (Butt 2009), and stimulate specific immune system cells to fight cancer (Butt 2009).
Scientists at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs analyzed five catechins and caffeine in matcha using micellar electrokinetic chromatography. They found that the concentration of EGCG from matcha green tea was 137 times higher than the level of EGCG in a green tea called China Green Tips and at least three times higher than the greatest value for other green teas. (Weiss 2003)
How to Choose Matcha Green Tea
Look for matcha tea that meets as many of the following quality points as possible. Visit the websites and/or contact matcha green tea providers to see how they meet these high-quality standards:
- Harvested by hand. Green tea leaves gathered by hand are superior to those harvested by machine because only the best leaves are collected, while machines pick everything
- Grown in the shade. Shade-grown green tea has more chlorophyll. The greener the tea, the more chlorophyll it contains, and chlorophyll has an ability to rebuild and replenish red blood cells, help eliminate toxins from the body, and fight inflammation and cancer.
- Stems and veins removed. The best quality matcha green tea has had the stems and veins removed from the leaves. These leaf parts can make the tea bitter and of lower nutritional value.
- Grown exclusively in Japan. Green tea cultivated outside Japan may be grown in less nurturing soil. In addition, toxins such as fluoride, aluminum, and lead have been found in some green teas grown in China, Pakistan, and India.
- Controlled grinding. Tea leaves that are ground in a controlled environment lose less of their nutrients.
- Laboratory tested. Matcha green tea health benefits depend on the product being tested in an independent laboratory for quality control and nutritional content.
- Organic. Japanese produced matcha green tea that is organic should have a JONA (Japanese organic) certification. Another organic certification is IMO Switzerland (European Union organic and USDA organic).
- Refrigerated storage. For the highest quality matcha green tea, look for products that have been stored in refrigerated warehouses.
To reap matcha green tea health benefits, include a high-quality matcha green tea on your menu whenever possible. Matcha green tea will cost you more than regular green tea, but it could pay off in better health.
Sources for Matcha Green Tea Health Benefits
Butt MS, Sultan MT. Green tea: nature’s defense against malignancies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2009; 49(5):463-73.
Gupta S et al. Growth inhibition, cell-cycle dysregulation, and induction of apoptosis by green tea constituent (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate in androgen-sensitive and androgen-insensitive human prostate carcinoma cells. Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology 2000; 164(1):82-90.
Kurahashi N et al for the JPHC Study Group. Green tea consumption and prostate cancer risk in Japanese men: a prospective study. Am J Epidemiol 2008; 167(1): 71-77.
Weiss DJ, Anderton CR. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. J Chromatogr A 2003 Sep 5; 1011(1-2): 173-80