Matcha Moves Me
Well, that was a long hiatus, wasn’t it? I have a good excuse. Really.
Here it is: I’ve been moving. Since my last post? No, but it certainly feels like it.
Moving is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Good self care is required if you’re going to make it through a household move with your health intact. Yet most of us end up relying on less-than-nutritious food options while in transition. I’ll just say that I saw more than my fair share of pizza on paper plates over the past weeks. And my body is none to happy about it.
But since movers do not survive on pizza alone (and because I kind of believe that if I don’t spend time in the kitchen I may cease to exist), I came up with a new energy bite recipe just before all of the boxing and unboxing began. So. Many Boxes.
But enough about boxes, let’s talk bites. And matcha.
About the bites
Let me just lead with this: These are freaking delicious. Really. They are creamy and minty and have a little chocolaty crunch thanks to the cacao nibs I’ve tucked inside. They are handy little balls of sustained energy, too. The dates provide fiber, the cashew butter is a source of good fats, and the matcha and cacao are loaded with antioxidants. The stimulant properties are different from that of caffeine alone in that these leave you feeling energized without the jangly, nervous, edgy effects that many experience with caffeine alone. Read on to find out more about the nutritional powerhouse that is matcha.
By now, you have no doubt overheard more than one coffee shop convo about matcha as it spoken of with near reverence. You know, much like the juice bar conversations you used to hear about acai berries. Of the salad bar conversations about kale and quinoa. We love our superfood darlings, don’t we? To the point that we fetishize them, unfortunately.
The biggest problem with fetishizing a food (At least from a personal health perspective, that is. I mean, don’t even get me started on the toll our quinoa obsession took on the native Peruvians who have relied on it as a dietary staple for centuries.) is that we always seem to believe “if some is good, more must be better.” <insert eye-roll emoji> Yeah, no.
What is matcha and why is it good for me?
I’m so glad you’ve asked!
We’ve all heard that green tea has many health benefits, right? Well, when you drink regular green tea, you are drinking a brew made from the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) that have been steeped in water and then discarded. With matcha you’re getting the whole leaf since it is simply powdered green tea leaves. So all of those beneficial properties of green tea are present in far greater amounts than with brewed tea. OK, so you’ve got me: in this instance more is actually better. There are more antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. There’s also more caffeine (so pregnant and lactating women, as well as those sensitive to caffeine, will want to avoid matcha).
Some of the health benefits include:
- Mood and cognition: A recent study has shown evidence that L-theanine (an amino acid that gives green tea its umami flavors) and caffeine have clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction. It was also found to lead to relaxation by reducing caffeine induced arousal. Meditating monks have long relied on matcha to find that ideal balance of focus and calm.
- Heart health: “Catechins present in green tea have the ability to prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, ischemic heart diseases, cardiomyopathy, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure by decreasing oxidative stress, preventing inflammatory events, reducing platelet aggregation and halting the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells,” explains the author of the study, published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines.
- Cancer prevention: While the exact mechanism by which green tea might help prevent cancer is not yet known, there is evidence to suggest that the strong antioxidant activity of tea polyphenols may be at play. Here’s what cancer.gov has to say about tea’s potential for cancer prevention: “These chemicals, especially EGCG and ECG, have substantial free radical scavenging activity and may protect cells from DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species (12). Tea polyphenols have also been shown to inhibit tumor cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in laboratory and animal studies (1, 13). In other laboratory and animal studies, tea catechins have been shown to inhibit angiogenesis and tumor cell invasiveness (14). In addition, tea polyphenols may protect against damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) B radiation (13, 15), and they may modulate immune system function (16). Furthermore, green teas have been shown to activate detoxification enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase and quinone reductase, that may help protect against tumor development (16).”
- Periodontal health: A study published in Nature, proved that catechins inhibit the growth of a bacteria that causes cavities and periodontal disease.
And now, back to the more-isn’t-always-better thing… While studies show matcha can be very good for you, it is best consumed in moderation. Here’s what Janie Zeitlin, a registered dietitian in White Plains, NY said in a recent NBC News article, “Consuming too much of this potent antioxidant has been linked to decreased iron absorption, lead contamination, liver damage if taken with acetaminophen and to altered effectiveness of prescription medications. In fact, these adverse effects may be three times as likely to occur when drinking matcha as opposed to brewed green tea.”
But in doses of about one-half teaspoon a day (which one of these bites contains far less than), it can be really beneficial. So get out your food processor already. Mommy needs some matcha!
Matcha Mint & Chip Bites
- 1/2 cup cashew butter
- 6 Medjool dates
- 1 T matcha powder
- 1 T maple syrup
- 3/4 t mint extract
- 2 T cacao nibs
- 2-3 T cacao powder
Put the first 5 ingredients into a food processor and pulse together until a consistent, doughy mixture is achieved. Pinch together a small amount between your fingers. If the mixture holds its form, you are ready to roll. Literally. If not, add additional cashew butter, a tablespoon at a time until it holds together when pinched.
Add the nibs and pulse several times to evenly incorporate.
With clean hands, roll the mixture into small balls (about 1 tablespoon). I find that warming it in my hands by first squeezing each portion in my fist several times before I begin rolling, helps the balls hold together better.
Once all of the mixture has been formed into balls, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of cacao into the center of your work surface. Roll each bite to cover completely in the cacao.
Bites will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.