Farah Fahad has an impressive resumé: She's got a Master's in Clinical Psychology, is a licensed and registered dietitian, creator of the blog The Farah Effect, and worked on set at as a nutritional consultant for one of the most popular weight-loss television shows, The Biggest Loser. Given her background, Fahad combines her extensive knowledge of psychology and nutrition to understand the human psyche and how eating habits are established and maintained (and how to break bad ones!). Fahad is a wealth of knowledge on all things healthy and wholesome, which is why we're thrilled to have her on board as a newly minted Byrdie contributor. Today, she's breaking down the incredible benefits of a certain trendy green beverage…
Matcha isn’t just the latest caffeine craze to populate the shelves of your local health food store or fuel your busy afternoon with an extra (much needed) kick. Matcha has a long history that’s steeped in ancient Chinese and Japanese tradition. In fact, matcha has been used for over 4,000 years. But besides its expansive ancient roots, it’s also an untapped beauty and health resource. As a nutritionist myself, I love incorporating the powder into different facets of my diet for all of its beneficial factors. From relaxation to improved focus, below are seven reasons why you should be incorporating matcha into your diet ASAP.
Benefit #1: It gives you glowing skin.
Matcha powdered green tea has 137 times more antioxidants, or EGCGs, than regularly brewed green tea. These antioxidants help protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation. They can even get rid of harmful free radicals that your body’s been holding onto. Additionally, they boost your blood flow, which can help give you that oh-so-coveted rosy, natural glow in your cheeks.
Benefit #2: It helps you stay relaxed and alert at the same time.
Matcha is rich in L-theanine, a rare amino acid that actually promotes a state of relaxation and well-being within your brain’s functionality. While stress can induce beta waves (which lead to an excited and agitated state), L-theanine creates alpha waves (which lead to a state of relaxed alertness). And while L-theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than your regular ol' black and green varieties.
Benefit #3: It helps you remember things.
The L-theanine in matcha also improves your memory (read: helps you remember where you put your cell phone and car keys). It can help you learn and perform better without all the usual negative side effects of caffeine. In fact, studies show that those drinking green tea filled with L-theanine were also less susceptible to "distracting information" that might hinder their tasks (i.e. less susceptible to scrolling through Instagram during the work day).
Benefit #4: It helps boost your metabolism and burn fat.
The chemical components in matcha basically make up an internal gym for your body. (Which means less work for you—yes, please.) Drinking matcha can help you burn more calories, while studies show it can also help you burn up to 25% more fat. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, matcha can kick your weight loss into high gear.
Benefit #5: It keeps your immune system healthy.
ECGCs help keep sickness-inducing microbodies and oxidative stress in check. Matcha is also great for the type of inflammation that occurs when you have allergies or a sinus infection. Swap out your coffee for matcha during cold and flu season to reap the holistic benefits of catechins and theanine.
Benefit #6: It may slow down the aging process.
Okinawa, Japan, is what scientists and nutritionists call a Blue Zone, otherwise known as a geographic area of the world where people live longer. Because one of the most common beverages among Okinawans is matcha, Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution ($20), attributed such long life spans to the daily consumption of the beverage and its cancer-fighting free radicals.
Benefit #7: It may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Along with keeping you focused, relaxed, improving your immune system, and increasing your blood flow, matcha helps relieve depression and anxiety. The polyphenols found in matcha can heal you from the inside out, and therefore can make you feel happier and less stressed. Polyphenols are powerful plant-based antioxidants and micronutrients found in a lot of foods that typically bring you joy (like wine and chocolate).
As a nutritionist, I believe that matcha is only beneficial and that there is no harm in drinking it. You will get the most benefits out of drinking pure matcha. But if that's not your thing, you can make a latte with almond or coconut milk. But you have to be careful; you don’t want to be downing matcha lattes made with added sugar, so it's best to either make it yourself so you know what's in it or always ask. Also, just because a food item says it has matcha in it, does not mean it's healthy, you need to look at other ingredients as well. One of my favourite things to do is make healthier versions of sweet treats like muffins, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies, cakes, cookies, and pudding, and add matcha—it gives a great flavour and added nutritional benefits.