The One Drink This Cardiologist Turns To When He Needs A Pick-Me-Up
While practicing good sleep hygiene, so that I wake up feeling rested and alert, is a regular part of my health routine, it's not always consistent. There are still days when I need a little extra boost to carry me through that afternoon slump. So what is it that I'm reaching for as a pick-me-up? Hint: It's not coffee!
Why I turn to matcha for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Matcha is a traditional Japanese beverage made from grinding the leaves of green tea. The highest quality matcha is ceremonial grade, made from the youngest green tea leaves, which are full of chlorophyll and give it a bright green tone. Instead of infusing the green tea leaves in water, drinking the powdered form increases the antioxidant intake of the beverage and provides five times more chlorophyll than green tea.
While coffee may be most people's go-to in the midst of an afternoon slump, matcha also helps to increase alertness and brain function. With more caffeine than green tea but less than coffee (find mbg's breakdown of popular caffeinated beverages, here), matcha creates a unique relaxed-and-alert effect because it contains L-theanine, an amino acid. Research suggests L-theanine may help reduce anxiety and stress but also increases focus and attention. In the end, you have the alertness benefit of coffee without the downward energy crash. Win-win!
Other health benefits:
High in antioxidants.
Matcha is high in a class of antioxidants called catechins, one in particular called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which has been shown to help fight inflammation.
May support liver health.
Studies have also demonstrated that green tea extract can reduce liver enzyme levels (a marker of liver damage) in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Therefore, matcha may help protect this essential organ so that it can function properly.
Promotes a healthy cardiovascular system.
As LDL or "bad" cholesterol increases, so does your risk of heart disease. Drinking green tea and matcha has been shown to keep your cholesterol levels in check and protect your heart.
How to enjoy matcha.
Try a matcha beverage by adding warm water to a half-teaspoon of a quality matcha powder, and whisk it with a bamboo whisk called a chasen or an electric whisk until you obtain a foamy texture.
Alejandro Junger M.D. is a cardiologist, founder and Medical Director of the Clean Program, and bestselling author of Clean and Clean 7 among other health books. He graduated from medical school in Uruguay, where he was born. He completed his postgraduate training in internal medicine at NYU Downtown Hospital and a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at Lenox Hill Hospital before studying eastern medicine in India.
His drastic lifestyle and diet change from his move to New York City led to irritable bowel syndrome and depression. Becoming a patient of the system in which he was practicing started a journey to search for an alternative solution. He is an expert in gut health and nutrition, incorporating Functional medicine with Ayurveda and a combination of ancient and modern wisdom. He and his family live in Los Angeles, where he continues his ever-evolving mission to clean up the planet one person at a time.