Archive for February, 2014

Matcha Green Tea Powder is the Healthiest Drink of All

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The coffee versus tea debate can go on forever and probably will do just that, but when it comes to the question of which drink is healthier, there’s a clear-cut answer. Of course, that answer is not as clear-cut as most people would believe. Tea is probably healthier than coffee in general, but the difference is much smaller than you might think. That is not true, however, when it comes to matcha green tea.

cup of matcha

A cup of matcha green tea

Matcha is a powdered form of green tea from Japan. The powder is made from the whole leaves of the highest quality tea plants. The plants are shade-grown, which means there are more nutrients in the leaves already and when you add in the fact that with this tea the whole leaves are consumed, instead of just the essence, it is easy to understand why this tea is the healthiest of all. Here’s a great website with more information on matcha green tea powder.

This powdered form of green tea is becoming much more popular these days. That said, most people in the west don’t even drink it. The brewing process is relatively complicated and involved and requires a number of specialized implements, making it difficult to prepare a perfect cup for the average person. And when this tea is brewed incorrectly, does not taste very good to most people. Thus, it makes sense that very few people outside of Japan, or maybe China, even try brewing this type of tea. If you’d like to give it a shot, here’s a video showing you how to prepare matcha:

Luckily for those who don’t want to bother with the difficult preparation, matcha can be eaten just as easily as it can be drunk. In fact, many recipes in Japan call for the addition of green tea powder. It goes very well with sweet things, so it is mostly used in desserts. It is commonly added to ice cream or to cake batter or cookie dough or any other baked product. But it doesn’t even have to be added into the dough or batter. You can simply sprinkle the powder over just about anything. In this way, you can use it as a topping for salads or for any kind of desserts or even for drinks, both alcoholic or nonalcoholic.

Perhaps the most famous thing made with matcha in the west comes from Starbucks: they have a latte drink made with this tea powder. That said, this drink is pretty terrible. Most of the health benefits of the tea or nullified by the ridiculously high sugar content. I would stay away from this thing and just make my own.

One question I get very often from people interested in trying matcha is where it can be purchased. Outside of specialty tea shops in large cities, it can be very difficult to find good quality green tea powder. Luckily, in the age of the internet, you can buy just about anything online. And this stuff is no exception. A number of online tea retailers sell matcha and this is my favorite way to buy this tea or any tea, really. Given the large number of tea stores online, it can be a little difficult to know which tea shop is the best, so here’s a website that reviews and compares some of the top online tea vendors and is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to buy tea online.

I hope you’ll forgive me this little interjection in the coffee versus tea debate, but I simply don’t think it’s fair to even have this debate until you’ve tried some of the best teas and the best coffees. You want to compare the best of both worlds, not the average drinks or the bad ones. And matcha green tea powder is one of the best teas available. Many people believe it is the best tea, period. So find your favorite online tea store, buy some of this tea and give it a try.

Video on the Tea vs. Coffee Debate

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Here’s an interesting video I found on Youtube that compares the health benefits of tea and the benefits of coffee. Will it put to rest the tea vs. coffee debate? I doubt it. But it’s informative and worth a watch.

The Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

This was a bit easier to write than the article on coffee, because it requires no research. The benefits of tea have become such common knowledge that most of us can list them in our sleep. The only difficulty is that there is a new benefit announced seemingly daily, so I suppose it does take a bit of research to figure out what the newest benefits are. Either way, let’s look at some of the more common health benefits of tea.

 

cup of white tea

A cup of healthy white tea

Tea helps fight cancer. That’s the big one that everyone is aware of. Tea is loaded with antioxidants, which combat free radicals, preventing cell damage. Because of this tea has also become a common ingredient in skin care products, as the high concentration of antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory ingredients make it very effective in fighting UV damage and other skin damage. Similarly, tea is now being added to hair products.

Like coffee, tea is also said to help prevent Parkinson’s disease. Green tea’s phytochemicals protect the neurons that create dopamine in the brain. This dopamine helps combat Parkinson’s. Also like coffee, tea helps fight heart disease, although how it does it is a bit different. Catechins in the tea help prevent hardening of the arteries. This also helps reduce the risk of stroke, but even if a stroke does occur, tea has you covered. It has tannins that help reduce the brain damage after a stroke or other brain injuries.

Another study has shown that drinking tea can significantly increase insulin production. Unfortunately this benefit doesn’t last long, so you have to drink quite a bit of tea to get it. You also have to forgo the milk, as it has a negative effect on this benefit.

Drinking tea is also said to help with weight loss. Not only does it lower the body fat content, but also blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Tea is also linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. The problem here is that tea has an adverse affect when combined with certain chemotherapy drugs, so doctors will often warn cancer patients against drinking it.

Overall, people who drink 3 to 6 cups of tea day are 45% less likely to die of heart disease. Drinking 10 cups per day apparently protects against liver disorders, although it’s hard to imagine most people drinking so much of it and I also recently read an article about a woman who drank ridiculous amounts of tea every day and ended up dying from liver damage, so take this one with a grain of salt.

Drinking one cup or more per day is also said to help reduce gingivitis. This comes from a Japanese study and they would know; they drink a ton of tea. Finally, cool and damp teabags placed directly on the eyes reduce puffiness. I’ve seen people with cucumbers on their eyes but I’ve never seen teabags, so I guess this one is not yet common knowledge.

Most of these health benefits require further study, as is always the case, but you can be sure of one thing: tea is not bad for you. And neither is coffee. Drink them both, but as always, don’t overdo it. Everything in moderation, right?

For more on the health benefits of tea see:

  1. Web MD: Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits
  2. LA Times: Tea’s health benefits exist, but many claims remain cloudy
  3. NY Times: Tea index

The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Coffee has always had a bit of an unhealthy reputation and when you ask most people which is healthier, coffee or tea, they will quickly say tea. This reputation is undeserved, as drinking coffee actually has quite a few health benefits (here’s an article on WebMD on coffee’s health benefits). The key, as with so many things, is to drink coffee in moderation. So let’s look at some of the benefits a cup or two of joe per day can bring.

coffee in a cup

A cup of hot java

One study has shown that java can help prevent skin cancer by absorbing harmful rays and promoting cell repair. Similarly, it has been shown to help prevent endometrial cancer, by lowering insulin and estrogen levels.

A UCLA study showed that women who drank 4 cups of coffee per day were 56% less likely to develop type II diabetes. The caffeine in coffee has been shown to reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s disease in men. A Dutch study showed that drinking 2 to 4 cups per day can lower the risk of heart disease by 20%. Finally, java contains a substance that inhibits the production of stomach acid, which can help combat indigestion.

Apart from these major disease fighting properties, there also a few lesser benefits of coffee. One is the reduction of cellulite. The research is mostly preliminary but apparently applying coffee topically increases micro-circulation which may help smooth cellulite.

Another study showed that drinking 3 cups of coffee can reduce the risk of depression in women by around 15%; that figure climbed to 20% with 4 cups of coffee. Java can also help reduce stress: a cup can make women more effective partners. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect on men. Finally, drinking coffee during the middle portion of your life can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementias in old age.

As you can see, drinking Java has a number of health benefits and I’m guessing many of them might come as quite a surprise to most people. On top of these benefits, a recent study has also shown that combining coffee with tea actually increases the individual benefits of both. Basically, this is the principle of putting two things together and ending up with a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. I suppose you could say coffee and tea make the perfect marriage: individually they are each good for us; combined, they’re better for us than simply adding up the individual benefits would suggest.

So the next time somebody tries to tell you to cut back on your coffee, you can now educate them. Let them know just how wrong they are about coffee being unhealthy and let them know what it is that makes coffee healthy and what it does for us. Of course, I’m assuming you drink 1 to 4 cups of coffee per day. If you are one of those people that drinks it by the gallon, then it’s not quite so good for you. Furthermore, if you’re one of those people who puts a few drops of coffee into a large cup of cream and soaks the whole thing up in a tub of sugar, then your java habit is also not especially healthy.

For more on the health benefits of coffee see:

  1. Huffington Post: 9 Amazing Benefits of Coffee
  2. New York Times: This Is Your Brain on Coffee
  3. Harvard Health: Coffee’s Health Benefits