Unless you’ve taken a break from the Internet for the last year, you’re probably familiar with matcha. The bright green tea has taken Instagram by storm. The trend started in the form of lattes—but people aren’t just sipping the stuff anymore. They’re adding matcha to their smoothies and desserts, too.
Matcha is a type of green tea, and the benefits of traditional green tea are already well-documented on their own. So it follows that matcha’s health halo spans from weight loss to cancer prevention. That sounds great, but is it legit?
Matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, says Sass, which have anti-inflammatory effects and may work to protect your body against serious health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. One powerful polyphenol found in green tea, called EGCG (also known as catechin), has been associated with boosting your metabolism to slow or halt the growth of cancer cells. According to a study published in the Journal of Chromatography, matcha contains up to 137 times the amount of ECCG found in traditional Chinese green tea.
“When you order traditional green tea, you’re steeping the tea leaves in hot water until the leaves are totally infused and then you discard them,”
explains Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., an NYC-based sports nutritionist. “With matcha, you’re drinking the actual leaves, which have been finely powdered and made into a solution, traditionally by mixing about a teaspoon of matcha powder with a third cup of hot water.” Because you’re ingesting the entire leaf of the tea plant, you’ll get a more potent mix of nutrients and antioxidants than with traditionally prepared green tea.