Matcha and maca are two healthy powders that are exceptionally rich in nutrients and often get confused for each other – but in reality, maca (also spelled macca) powder is drastically different from matcha green tea powder.
Knowing the differences and similarities between matcha vs. maca can help you better understand which one – or both – may be worth integrating into your daily wellness routine.
Matcha vs. maca | The difference between two superfood powders
Keep reading as we explore what distinguishes matcha from maca and help you understand what they have in common.
What is maca?
Maca is a medicinal root vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family of vegetables – think broccoli, beetroots, radishes, and cauliflower – and it originally only grew at 4,000m above sea level in a remote part of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes Mountains.
For centuries, the Incan people have considered maca a sacred plant, saying that maca can help restore balance, energy, and vitality to the body. The root vegetable can often be found in three colors: cream/yellow (the most common), red/purple (less common), and black (the most rare and valued).
It is renowned for growing in one of the harshest climates and was an important food source for the Andean people. However, due to its growing popularity for its healthful properties, maca is now grown all over the world.
To make maca, the root is harvested, dried, cleaned, and then ground into a very fine powder. Maca powder can be added to water, smoothies, tea, juices, or shakes. It has a slight nutty butterscotch taste and often pairs well with other sweet flavors.
What is matcha?
Matcha powder is a type of green tea with deep roots in Japanese culture and is known for being rich in antioxidants and for the clarity, focus, and clean energy it gives. It is a potent type of green tea in powdered form, where you ingest 100% of whole-harvested leaves and their long list of potential benefits.
The careful shade-growing, harvesting, and processing of matcha in which young tea leaves are hand-picked, steamed, dried, and ground into a very fine powder produces a vibrant green tea powder rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
Matcha is known for its delicious umami and earthy flavor and is typically made by whisking the powder with hot water, creating a frothy, bright green beverage.
Matcha has been key in Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries but has recently become quite popular worldwide. Because of matcha's popularity, it is now grown and processed in other countries besides Japan, such as Taiwan and China.
However, not all matcha powder is made the same way, and there are growing concerns about quality. Lower-quality matcha may be contaminated with heavy metals, contain additives or pesticides, have a bitter taste, and/or lack the esteemed health benefits it has become so famous for.
Because of these concerns, it's essential to buy high-quality matcha. When looking for matcha, you want to find a powder grown and produced in Japan. It should come in an opaque container to prevent oxidation, be a bright, vibrant green (not dull brown), and have a rich, umami taste. One way to spot lower-quality matcha is by taste — poor-quality matcha or matcha that is old and past its best-by date will often be quite bitter.
Health benefits of maca
Maca is thought of as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are believed to help the body adapt to various stressors (hence the name) and ultimately return the body back to a state of equilibrium and harmony.
One of the biggest draws of maca powder is its potential to improve sexual health and balance out hormones. One study showed that maca improved erectile dysfunction in men, while another showed positive benefits in both men and women for sexual function and increased libido.
Maca is also being studied as a way to manage depression and alleviate sexual dysfunction in women. In one such study, women who had been taking antidepressants were given either maca or a placebo. The women given maca had lower levels of sexual dysfunction than those given the placebo. Sexual dysfunction may be defined as low libido, vaginal dryness, or difficulty reaching orgasm.
In addition to improving libido in both men and women, maca may also improve sperm concentration and quality in men.
According to promising studies, maca may also help people do the following:
- reduce symptoms of menopause
- improve energy
- alleviate inflammation
- speed up wound healing
- improve cognitive function.
Notably, although maca seems promising, especially regarding sexual health, there is limited research on maca root. Most of the research has been done on animals — meaning there aren't enough large-scale human clinical studies. All in all, more peer-reviewed research is needed to confirm that maca root definitively supports these areas of health.
Health benefits of matcha
The way matcha is grown gives it unique health benefits and nutrient profiles compared to other teas. The lack of sunlight in the last few weeks before harvest gives the plant a higher amount of chlorophyll and its vibrant, rich color. The lack of oxidation during matcha powder processing also creates a higher antioxidant content compared to traditional green tea.
Matcha is especially rich in a type of antioxidant known as catechins. An antioxidant's primary role in the body is to neutralize free radicals and, therefore, reduce oxidative stress. Inappropriate oxidative stress has been linked to many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type II diabetes, among other chronic conditions.
One such catechin that matcha seems to be exceptionally high in is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. EGCG has been well studied for its potential to reduce inflammation, speed up metabolism, support brain health and cognitive function, and potentially help prevent certain chronic diseases.
Matcha also contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which is known for improving clarity and focus and promoting relaxation. Research shows that L-theanine can increase the hormones GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which increase relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Matcha may also be helpful with:
- Lowering cholesterol
- Improving gut health
- Supporting healthy liver function
- Protecting against cancer
- Protecting against heart disease
- Weight loss management
Potential dangers of maca powder and matcha powder
When it comes to adding supplements or herbs, it's always essential to research and ensure that what you're adding is right for YOU. So, are there any risks regarding maca and matcha?
Like many other supplements, maca has not been tested for safety in expecting mothers, women who are breastfeeding, and children. The FDA does not regulate it.
Since maca has been used for thousands of centuries and is a food source, most assume that the risks are low, but we just don't have enough studies to say it's 100% safe in these more vulnerable populations.
There is also some concern about possible lead toxicity when consuming maca.
Side effects of maca: Side effects seem rare, but some people have reported GI difficulties or headaches after ingesting maca. Maca also impacts hormones and may act like estrogen in the body, so it's essential to consult your healthcare professional before using it if you have conditions/diseases such as breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or if you're on hormone therapy.
Side effects of matcha: Side effects of matcha are also quite rare and are primarily due to its caffeine content. High doses of matcha may lead to GI distress, irritability, insomnia, and headaches. Again, because matcha contains some caffeine, pregnant women and children are advised to use it with caution.
It is essential to buy matcha from a reputable source, as lower-quality matcha may be contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or additives.
Which one is right for you, maca or matcha powder?
If you are looking for a pick-me-up, need a boost in concentration and focus, and often feel anxious, then matcha powder may be worth considering – especially if you are looking for a healthier caffeine alternative to coffee.
If you want to support the regulation of hormones or help boost your sexual performance, then maca may be worth consulting your healthcare provider about.
According to studies, matcha seems to have a more immediate impact on the body than maca powder. So while you will likely notice some of the supportive health benefits of matcha powder within minutes after ingestion, it may take weeks or months to notice any of the same from maca.
Because these two adaptogens are so different, you might consider trying both simultaneously for various reasons and taking them longer to feel the full spectrum of potential benefits for your well-being.
The bottom line
Both maca and matcha are impressive superfoods with respect to their origins, taste, uses, and nutritional qualities. Maca offers potential benefits for increased energy, balanced hormones, and improved libido, while matcha boasts high levels of antioxidants and provides clean, focused energy.
Whether to use maca or matcha ultimately depends on individual preferences and health goals. But you don't need to choose one or the other. They are different enough that both may be useful to you!
It is crucial, however, to consult your healthcare team before making any significant dietary changes or using new supplements. You must ensure that they align with your individual health needs and any existing medical conditions.
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Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
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