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Fortifying Your Diet: Matcha Green Tea Amino Acids

Nicholas Noble | April 16, 2020

Awareness of diet has grown steadily over recent years. Many are interested not only in their type of diet (e.g. keto, paleo, vegan), but what the actual composition of the foods in those diets are. People are learning more about the importance of balanced eating, selecting foods suited around a goal of complete nutrition.

More than ever, that means an emphasis on macronutrients such as healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins and minerals. Collectively we’ve also become curious of the role of micronutrients (i.e. nutraceuticals); these are often trace elements, probiotic compounds, and specialized antioxidants.

Whole-food Nutrition

Greater attention means more of us have realized just how healthily diverse the average whole-food is, even matcha! Virtually every produce item in your home is host to hundreds, if not thousands of constituent compounds. These form complexes of macro and micronutrients which are relevant to optimal health.

One of the biggest reasons to evaluate diet is rooted in how we’re feeling. For example, you’ve probably asked yourself why you might not feel as calm or energized as you’re used to. In doing so, we commonly arrive at specific vitamins (or amino-acids) that our overall health might not be getting enough of.

This way we can be proactive in seeking ways to increase intake. We might decide to eat more, choose specific veggies, or turn to supplements or other fortifying options, as examples.

Fortified Diet: Matcha Green Tea Amino Acids

If your health is feeling off kilter, the good news is that there are a number of innovative ways which may help improve nutritional balance, or which may aid in fortifying your individual diet. Before isolated supplements, perhaps it’s a whole-food diet we should try first to rely on. 

One reason to love matcha green tea is because it’s essentially a whole-food. Consuming green tea’s whole-leaf powder means access to a surprising number of vitamins and minerals. It’s also a reasonable source for people looking to improve intake of essential amino-acids.  

Why Matcha is More Nutritious than Regular Green Tea

Unlike regular green tea, the powdered whole-leaf known as matcha tea is chemically distinct. The composition of the tea leaves change because of special use of fertilizers, hand-picking techniques, and shading from sunlight.

These conditions cause the tea plant to create greater levels of amino acids, some polyphenols, and other nutraceuticals. [5] Especially compared to regular green tea, matcha has a higher proportion of amino acids and proteins. This difference is correlated with the quality of matcha during chemical analysis, as well as in qualitative taste. [2]

Essential Amino Acids in Matcha

In fact, about 20% of matcha green tea’s composition is in the form of protein-building amino acids. The majority of these are essential for life’s functions, [1] while the others may be ‘conditionally-essential’, often determined by diet or genetic factors.

LIST OF ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS IN MATCHA

Research indicates that matcha green tea contains levels of almost all essential and conditionally-essential amino acids [1-2]:

  • L-threonine
  • L-valine
  • L-isoleucine
  • L-phenylalanine
  • L-leucine
  • L-lysine
  • Histidine*
  • Methionine*
  • Tryptophan*

CONDITIONALLY-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS IN MATCHA

  • L-glutamine
  • L-arginine
  • L-tyrosine
  • Cysteine*
  • Proline*
  • Glycine*

*Levels may be lower than others.

Other Health Optimizing Amino Acids in Matcha

When specially grown and in order to be crafted into matcha, the green tea leaf also produces high levels of certain ‘non-essential’ amino acids. Unlike the list above, these are not critical to survival. However, many are studied for their health optimizing effects.

Key examples include ‘L-theanine’ and ‘y-amino butyric acid’ (GABA). [1-4] It’s strongly suggested that these are behind frequent claims of improved cognition and calmness, from matcha.

Composition of Matcha Green Tea

Besides these uniquely grounding amino-acids, matcha also contains a group of  non-essential amino acids. While not critical to survive (your body usually can produce its own), they may still be made use of. These are reported to include: L-aspartic acid, L-asparagine, L-serine, L-glutamine acid, and alanine. [1-2,6]

In terms of overall composition, these non-essential amino acids may account for up to half of the total protein values of matcha, [6] the greatest proportion being the calming amino acid known as L-theanine. Moreover, when compared against regular green tea, there’s not only an elevated presence of those suggested as cognitive enhancing (calming, focus) – but most all other amino acids as well. [5] 

So, whether essential, or simply optimal for health – available data suggests matcha may be an excellent source for amino acids. Also, not mentioning other nutrients, these contents may be more readily absorbed and digested due to the powdered form of matcha. [5] 

The Bottom Line

True that might be, even if green tea intended for your average tea bag was powdered and consumed, the dietary value between it and matcha would be unequal. Only by the intense labor behind shading, hand-picking, and traditional processing is it possible to raise matcha’s nutritional levels so significantly. 

In practice, the experience of enjoying a bowl of matcha, more than regular green tea is one of calm and alert relaxation. Thus it’s reasonable to say that high quality matcha is not only likely to uphold that experience, but also one which imparts greater overall dietary (not only proteinogenic) value than normal green tea.

Ultimately, matcha may support a healthy lifestyle – and it may be a great choice for those looking to fortify their diet. Besides potentially aiding your overall wellness, at least the superior flavor of matcha (versus regular tea) may help encourage the safe, daily enjoyment of this satisfying drink.

-Team Matcha Kari

SHOP MATCHA

 

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References
[1] Musial, C., Kuban-Jankowska, A., & Gorska-Ponikowska, M. (2020). Beneficial Properties of Green Tea Catechins. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(5), 1744.
[2] Ye, Y., Yan, J., Cui, J., Mao, S., Li, M., Liao, X., & Tong, H. (2018). Dynamic changes in amino acids, catechins, caffeine and gallic acid in green tea during withering. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 66, 98-108.
[3] Kaneko, S., Kumazawa, K., Masuda, H., Henze, A., & Hofmann, T. (2006). Molecular and sensory studies on the umami taste of Japanese green tea. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54(7), 2688-2694.
[4] Horie, H., Ema, K., Nishikawa, H., & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Comparison of the chemical components of powdered green tea sold in the US. Japan Agricultural Research Quarterly: JARQ, 52(2), 143-147.
[5] Wang, J., Zareef, M., He, P., Sun, H., Chen, Q., Li, H., ... & Xu, D. (2019). Evaluation of matcha tea quality index using portable NIR spectroscopy coupled with chemometric algorithms. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 99(11), 5019-5027.
[6] Ashihara, H. (2015). Occurrence, biosynthesis and metabolism of theanine (γ-glutamyl-L-ethylamide) in plants: a comprehensive review. Natural product communications, 10(5), 1934578X1501000525.

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