Fairy Dust? Everything You Need to Know about Matcha
What if you could eat just one thing a day that sped up your metabolism, burned fat, calmed your mind and your body, prevented disease and aging, and tasted great on the go? Would it be worth your while to spend 10 minutes preparing it before you started your day?
Before you tell me to quit snorting fairy dust and ride my unicorn right on out of here, just listen. There is a pretty powerful substance out there – one you can buy at the grocery store – just a tablespoon of which can do everything that your jolt of Starbucks does without the eyeball jitters. And you can add it to something that you might already be eating.
Matcha smoothies are a nutrient-dense and delicious way to rev up your engines each morning or give you an afternoon boost when you’d rather go take a nap. You might have heard of matcha green tea and you may even know people who drink matcha smoothies and rave about how their lives have changed because of it but I’ll bet it sounds too good to be true.
A few years ago, I was mainlining coffee all morning and then crashing about 3:00pm. I resisted drinking more coffee because I worried it would keep me up at night but often I would take a nap making me groggy and worthless the remainder of my day. You should know that 7 hours is a very long time to fight fatigue but it’s what I was doing every weekday afternoon from 3:00 until I could face-plant into bed at 10.
And then a friend told me about matcha tea – something she had been drinking in place of coffee for over a year. I laughed out loud at her. Like I would give up coffee…that’s madness. But after a few more days of battling the afternoon crash, I decided to give it a try. And wow was she right!
First, matcha literally means “powdered tea.” Used in Japan for over 1000 years, it was originally intended to aid in the practice of meditation. Over the centuries the preparation of the tea became a practice of its own and as with many Eastern traditions, eventually made its way to the US.
As far as the science goes, most of the health benefits are similar to that of regular green tea yet intensified. The magic of matcha resides in its concentrated powdered form. It isn’t brewed by steeping leaves. When drinking matcha you are ingesting dried, finely-ground tea leaves which have been dissolved in hot water.
Most of matcha’s health benefits come from a potent antioxidant called Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) that exists in quantities up to 20 times that of other antioxidant-rich foods. The terms “antioxidant” and “free radicals” get tossed around a lot in the health community and most of us have just processed those terms like Tarzan might have:
Free Radical Bad. Antioxidant Good.
But here’s what you should know. Free radicals are atoms in your body in desperate need of completion — like a cupcake without icing. In an attempt to fill a void in its outer shell, this atom starts looking for anything that will share an electron. When it finds a willing sucker, it indiscriminately latches on creating a chemical bond. This would be like you walking around with your unfrosted cupcake trying to steal icing from other people. It’s going to cause problems.
“The biggest danger to the human body is their potential to react with cellular components like DNA or the cell membrane, causing cells to function poorly or die. …free radical damage to cells may initiate the early stages of cancer and heart disease. Free radicals are also suspect in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cataracts, diabetes, kidney disease, and age-related blindness.”[Beth Fontenot, MS, RD, LDN] Our body’s defense against this comes in the form of antioxidants made by our bodies and from the plants that we eat (or drink). EGCg is one antioxidant that is particularly good at this.
Matcha is also rich in a rare amino acid known as L-Theanine which creates alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed alertness …something I might want before a yoga class, a boring lecture on the Krebs Cycle, or a 2-hour presentation at work following a sleepless night with my 6-month-old. This is about focus and attentiveness without the side effects of being over-caffeinated.
Finally, matcha can be used as a weight-loss aid. It’s not a magic pill, but there is evidence to suggest that 5 cups of practically calorie-free green tea a day could increase thermogenesis (the body’s at-rest metabolism) from 8-10% of daily expenditure to 35-43% of daily expenditure. In addition, studies show that green tea and exercise together may do more to increase belly fat loss than exercise alone.
Matcha smoothies are the best way I’ve found to get those health benefits without all the gagging and dry-heaves. It’s a tasty, one-cup meal to get your day started.
Time for Smoothie Recipes!
If you are looking for a refreshing pick-me-up that won’t cause shakes or an afternoon crash, try one of these great recipes:
Mactha Green Tea Smoothie with Peaches
Author: Jessica Gavin
Prep time: 3 mins Cook time: 2 mins Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 3 cups
- 2 ½ cups frozen peaches
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 cup packed baby spinach
- ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roasted (salted okay)
- 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder – go for the Premium organic stuff, you’re trying to be as healthy as possible!
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend for about 90 seconds until the mixture is smooth. Add vanilla to taste if desired.
1. Pistachios can be omitted or substituted with almonds, cashews or walnuts.
2. Add vanilla extract if you want to add a little more sweetness to the smoothie.
3. Coconut milk can be substituted with soy, almond or dairy milk.
4. Suggested matcha addition is about 2 teaspoons per cup (50 mg caffeine). This recipe has 2 teaspoons total for 3 cups. You can add up to 6 teaspoons if you want a stronger matcha flavor or increased caffeine.
5. Purchase ceremonial grade matcha. It is the highest quality and worth the extra cost.
Avocado, Kale, Pineapple, And Coconut Smoothie
Sub spinach for kale if you like.
Servings: Makes About 2½ Cup
- ½ ripe avocado, pitted, peeled
- ½ cup coarsely chopped Tuscan kale
- ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped coconut meat
- 1 cup coconut water or iced green tea
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon matcha (green tea powder)
- 1 tablespoon light agave nectar
- Pinch of kosher salt
Using smoothie or ice crush setting, purée avocado, kale, pineapple, coconut meat, coconut water, lemon juice, matcha, agave, salt, and ½ cup ice in a blender until smooth.
Mactha Chocolate Shake
Nibs & Greens
Serves: 2 servings
- 1 cup packed spinach
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 2 large frozen bananas
- 2 tsp. Matcha powder – Superior grade works best here
- 2-3 medjool dates, pitted
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
Blend everything except for the raw cacao powder in your blender until smooth. Pour out half and set aside. Blend the remaining half with the raw cacao powder. In a jar, layer up your smoothie, alternating between the matcha shake and matcha-chocolate shake. Top with nibs, shredded coconut, chia seeds, or your favorite granola!
Now you’re ready to start your matcha smoothie journey! Let us know how it goes!