Green tea and matcha (whole leaf powder form) are popular drinks that have been used all over the world due to their high content of antioxidants and polyphenols. The 4 main polyphenols in green tea are epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC) and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Now you can see why they’re abbreviated!!
Functions: In the human body there needs to be a balance between the good guys (antioxidants) and the bad guys (reactive oxygen species AKA free radicals), but with factors such as bad diets, stress and pollution etc, this is not always the case. Therefore, in simple terms, the main way these antioxidants benefit us is by reducing/fighting the bad guys so that a good balance is achieved, meaning it’s less likely that disease will occur.
The amount of antioxidants and beneficial compounds in green tea, along with their bioavailability (amount absorbed and able to exert an effect) in the human body can differ depending on many factors and it is not a magic pill that will cancel out all of your unhealthy habits. However, a study in Japan (paper here
) found that as green tea consumption increased, the rate of death due to all causes and cardiovascular disease decreased, with a particular benefit in women. In this part of Japan it is typical for people to drink an average of 3 cups per day.
A great way to get the maximum benefit from green tea is to use it as a replacement for a not so healthy drink such as a drink from the local coffee house which may have lots of sugar, cream, flavourings and more calories than a meal in it! Also a great option when at a restaurant instead of a fizzy or alcoholic drink.
Quality: Matcha is the entire leaf which has been dried & crushed into a powder, so you consume the whole leaf which delivers more antioxidants but this means you must choose one that is good quality. Go for organicoptions that are sourced from japan, not China, as ones from China in the past have shown high levels of lead.
Most green tea enveloped teabags that I’ve found in the UK are sourced from China or contain a mix, of which one of the countries of origin will be China. however, they must follow EU law and test for contaminants and ones that I’ve spoken to do this, plus as you aren’t consuming the whole leaf and most heavy metals will be bound to the leaf then the risk is far less, but do still try to aim for an organic brand (an indication that the environment is monitored and clean) and if possible not from China (sourcing good quality tea is particularly important if pregnant). If you’re at all concerned then ask your chosen brand if they check for such contaminants & source their leaves from clean environments to ensure you’re satisfied with the quality you’re getting. The same applies to other teas such as black and oolong.
|Matcha powder, this one has some ginger in it too for added flavour
Dosage: Keep in mind that you should not overdo it with the green tea or matcha, it does contain caffeine and as most people will know, excessive caffeine can cause nausea, sleeping issues, kidney stress etc so ½ a teaspoon of matcha powder is plenty for a drink, start with 1/3 of a teaspoon to ease yourself in if you’ve never tried it before and try not to go over 2/3 cups (update: this is approx 2g) of matcha per day (I see no reason why you’d even need the 3rd, especially not in the late afternoon/evening as it may keep you awake). Also, if you are deficient in iron then have your green tea separate from meals that are high in iron to make sure it doesn’t reduce your absorption.
To maximise your green tea benefits, add some juice from citrus fruits as the vit C helps the absorption of the antioxidants, so add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to your tea, this will also add flavour as some people aren’t fond of the taste.
As green tea is full of antioxidants it’s also a great, natural skincare ingredient, I use it to make my own homemade face masks/washes, I like to mix some leftover cooled green tea in a bowl with a squeeze of honey and coconut oil, it’s soothing, moisturising and after it’s washed off your skin it feels so soft!
Buying: Some people believe green tea is expensive but there are ones available from Marks and Spencer’s, which come in plain, jasmine or lemon flavours, all of which are organic, 20 bags per box AND only £1, which is very affordable!
A recent favourite of mine which tastes awesome, is the Heath and Heather brand, they are also organic but are more expensive, however they do have some lovely flavours that are hard to find anywhere else e.g. orange blossom, coconut and manuka honey flavours. The orange blossom variety is divine! If you can spend a little extra then you should treat yourself to these ones at least once, especially if you’re not fond of the taste from the plain versions.
Interactions: Green tea can interact with the pain killer codeine and can affect thyroid issues, therefore if you start any new medication or have a thyroid issue then speak to your doctor first especially if you’re taking it in supplement form which can deliver high doses.
I hope this post has helped some people understand a bit more about their tea and how to use it wisely.