Superfood: Matcha

Less than 400 mg of caffeine daily has no reported adverse health effects for the average adult. But even the 3-cup-a-day coffee drinker knows the side effects accompanying that afternoon pick-me-up — diuresis, irritability, headache, nervousness, insomnia…not to mention the withdrawal symptoms if a usual caffeine fix isn’t satisfied.

What if you could switch to a beverage (or whatever your preferred caffeine source may be) that offered the same mental alertness and ability to focus without the jitters? See you later, caffeine. Hello, L-theanine!

L-theanine is an exceptional amino acid found in tea — every kind of tea. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on matcha green tea, since it offers the “best bang for your teacup” with L-theanine and every other nutritional benefit of tea.

Dietary amounts of L-theanine increase alpha wave activity in the brain, which are the brain waves associated with a state of alert calmness. This is not an oxymoron. It is possible to be alert and calm at the same time, and how wonderful would that be at 8 a.m. every morning and 3 p.m. every afternoon? L-theanine cancels out the jittery effects of the caffeine contained in tea, relaxing the mind without inducing drowsiness. It increases brain levels of dopamine and serotonin and controls levels of blood cortisol. The result is decreased stress and anxiety (including all the associated negative physical effects), as well as an enhanced feeling of well-being.

Matcha is a finely milled green tea leaf powder that has been part of Japanese history and culture for centuries. It is consumed simply by mixing with almost-boiling water and can also be enjoyed as an ingredient in lattes, smoothies, ice cream, baking and more. Because you consume the entire leaf, the health benefits of matcha are amplified as compared to regular steeped tea. A typical 2-gram serving of matcha contains more antioxidants than blueberries, more beta-carotene than spinach, plenty of vitamin C, fiber, detoxifying chorophyll, metabolism boosters, cholesterol reducers and more.

The list is lengthy, so instead consider this: Regular tea is healthy. Regular green tea is healthy. A cup of matcha is equivalent to 10 cups of its steeped green tea counterpart. Bottom line, because of all the health benefits of matcha on body systems and disease prevention, regular consumption is directly linked to potential longevity.

Put your java aside and let this bright green super-powder lift your early morning and mid-day spirits. You can purchase matcha at any specialty tea store and probably your regular grocery store. Be ready to spend a bit extra on a quality grade.

Cup o’ Matcha

Place ½ to 1 teaspoon of matcha powder in a mug. Add a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) of cold water and whisk into a paste. Add almost-boiling water to desired thickness, anywhere from ¼ to ¾ cup. If you like, you can also add your favorite natural sweetener and a splash of milk.

Soy Matcha Latte

Place ½ to 1 teaspoon of matcha powder in a mug. Add a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) of cold water and whisk into a paste. Add ¾ cup almost-boiling soy milk (preheated in saucepan or microwave).

Matcha Muffins

Dry ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour; ¾ cup quick oats; 2 tablespoons ground flax; ⅓ cup sugar; 2 tablespoons baking powder; 3 teaspoons matcha powder. Wet ingredients: 1 beaten egg; ¼ cup canola oil; ¾ cup milk.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Spoon batter into 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Anita Parker, B.Sc., B.Ed., is the editor of All That Is Wellness. You can contact her at [email protected] All That Is Wellness (www.allthatiswellness.com) is a healthy lifestyle e-zine with reliable, relevant information about safe, effective fitness, mind-body wellness, wholesome nutrition and great recipes.

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