This post is By Diana Weil, Matcha.com's Integrative Nutritionist and Food Relationship Specialist.
Sometimes it can be challenging to know the right choice as a parent. You love your kids and always want what's best for them! And while they might look like a miniature version of you, kids do have different needs and can't exactly be considered mini-adults. That being said, have you ever wondered if you can safely share your delicious cup of matcha with your kid? It's a great question!
If you're wondering whether or not your kids can drink matcha, it's likely that you're already a fan of the delicious and earthy tea. Truly what's not to love about this beautiful and vibrant drink?! Not only does matcha taste wonderful, but it's also a powerhouse of nutrients and boasts numerous health benefits.
Benefits of Matcha for Both Kids and Adults
One of the most talked about benefits of matcha comes from an amino acid called L-Theanine. This amino acid produces a calming and relaxing feeling and can therefore counteract some of the adverse side effects of caffeine. Think about that jittery, anxious feeling you may get after drinking coffee. We, for one, think this makes matcha a much better beverage choice than both coffee and energy drinks for not only adults but especially for kids.
Matcha for the body and brain
Matcha also contains many antioxidants (100x more than regular green tea), which help your body fight damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage our DNA and cells, leading to diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer. We are exposed to free radicals through exposure to toxic chemicals, pollution, smoke, alcohol, fried foods, cell phones, etc. Drink matcha is an excellent way to increase your antioxidants and combat free radicals.
In addition, matcha also contains a number of necessary nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, among others.
This all sounds really good, right? So why wouldn't we want our kids to enjoy all these benefits?
The most significant consideration when it comes to letting your whole family enjoy matcha is the caffeine content. High-quality matcha contains about 35-50 mg per gram of matcha. While this is less Caffeine than a typical cup of coffee (about 90 mg) and much less Caffeine than an energy drink (about 111 mg), it still needs to be taken into account.
What is Caffeine Exactly?
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance globally and has been for much of human history. 90% of adults in North America consume at least one caffeinated product daily. A staggering amount! It's a natural substance that occurs in more than 60 plants but can also be created in a lab. The synthetic form of caffeine is often added to medicine (like pain relievers and cold medication) and some foods and drinks.
How does caffeine impact our bodies?
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, boosts energy levels, and increases alertness. It does this by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is responsible for, among many other things, relaxing the brain and making you feel tired.
Caffeine may also increase brain activity, including dopamine and norepinephrine, giving you that alert and focused feeling. Caffeine is easily absorbed in the gut and can cross the blood-brain barrier. While the Food and Drug Administration classifies caffeine as safe, excess consumption can lead to serious health consequences and, in rare cases, even death.
Unsurprisingly, people have different tolerances to caffeine (tolerance can be built) and different responses. In fact, people generally fall into two camps when it comes to caffeine- slow metabolizers and fast metabolizers. This can have a significant effect on your response to caffeine.
Caffeine's Effect on Kids
How does caffeine effect children?
Caffeine is generally thought of as an "adult" substance. Still, with the addition of caffeine to so many foods and products (like soda), more and more children are regularly consuming caffeine. There are even some caffeinated products that specifically market themselves to young adults. As a result, children and teenagers actually make up the fastest growing population of caffeine users, with an increase of 70% over the last 30 years.
Research around kids and caffeine
Even though caffeine consumption is on the rise for our youngest generation, very few studies have studied the physiological effects of caffeine in children and young adults. There are, however, a few concerns that come with children consuming caffeine. One is that childhood and adolescence are crucial times for growth and brain development. Both of these stages require proper sleep and nutrition. Caffeine is often linked with sleep disruption and disturbance.
Another huge factor to consider is the source of caffeine. Most children and teenagers are getting a hit of caffeine from energy drinks and sodas, which, unfortunately, also include a huge amount of sugar. For reference, a 12 oz of Mountain Dew contains 55 mg of caffeine and 39 grams of sugar. Excess sugar has been linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure among other diseases.
Matcha is a healthier alternative than sodas and energy drinks
For this reason alone, matcha makes a wonderful substitute for energy drinks and sodas. But remember, no matter the source, caffeine in both kids and adults may result in sleeping problems, jumpiness and hyperactivity, headaches and dizziness.
They also experience some significant benefits like increased energy and improved focus. The benefits of matcha providing relaxed, focused energy make it potentially suitable in a number of way for kids. For example, kids who aren't naturally early birds or may struggle with ADHD may want to consider trying a daily cup of matcha to start their day before school.
As kids develop, so do their taste buds. So one of the biggest benefits of sharing your matcha with your family (when they're ready) is that you can encourage healthy drink choices. Opting for a delicious cup of matcha surely beats a glass of soda spiked with sugar.
What do the experts say?
Since there is no proven safe amount of caffeine for children, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry advises against caffeine for kids under 12 and recommends limiting caffeine to less than 100 mg for those 12-18 years old. The recommended maximum dose for adults is 400 mg.
Canada offers up different guidelines, however. Canadian pediatricians recommend that children between the ages of 4-6 have no more than 45 mg of caffeine a day, children 7-9 have no more than 60mg of caffeine a day, and children 10-12 have no more than 85mg. The maximum recommended daily dose for adults aligns with the United States at 400 mg.
When and if you decide to share your matcha with your children, one thing to be sure of, for yourself and your family, is the quality of your tea. Not all matcha is created equal. This is especially important when we bring our kids into the equation, as poor quality matcha may contain unhealthy contaminants. When looking for matcha, always buy Japanese-grown matcha and look for bright, vibrant green products stored in an opaque container. Dull, yellow matcha powders are a sign of poor-quality tea. Storing matcha in clear containers allows light to damage the powder leading to poor quality, taste, and fewer nutritional benefits.
The Bottom Line
While you might not want to share your matcha (who would really?!), the bottom line is that when it comes to your kids, the most conservative option is to wait until they are at least 12 years old. When you are ready to share, keep it to no more than 1-2 cups daily and stick to mornings and/or early afternoons to avoid any sleep disturbances. Always make sure you choose high-quality matcha to get the most health benefits. But, if in the end, you decide to keep your matcha for yourself, we won't tell. Promise.
- Dunwiddie, T. V., & Masino, S. A. (2001). The role and regulation of adenosine in the central nervous system. Annual review of neuroscience, 24, 31–55. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.31
- Heckman, M.A., Weil, J. and De Mejia, E.G. (2010), caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in Foods: A Comprehensive Review on Consumption, Functionality, Safety, and Regulatory Matters. Journal of Food Science, 75: R77-R87. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01561.x
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