A daily serving of this potent green tea may kick your metabolism into a higher gear.
Call it the new green juice. Over the past year, matcha, the vibrant green tea, has become the drink of the moment, popping up everywhere from Gwyneth's Instagram to the menu at Atera, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York. While matcha is lauded as a healthy alternative to espresso—a caffeine boost without jitters, plus a heavy hit of antioxidants—the latest buzz is that it may yield another major benefit: shedding extra pounds.
"A compound in matcha called EGCG [epigallocatechin gallate] has been shown to boost metabolism and stop the growth of fat cells," says Cynthia Pasquella, a Los Angeles nutritionist who has worked with Charlize Theron and Sandra Bullock. EGCG is an antioxidant catechin abundant in green tea, with some found in black and oolong teas and apples. "Matcha has played an important role for a number of my clients," Pasquella asserts.
Jillian Tuchman, a New York dietitian and nutritionist for Aloha supplements, agrees. "It's smart to swap it for coffee, which can play with blood sugar, leading to weight gain," she says. The research is compelling too: A 2000 study in the journal Endocrinology found that daily injections of EGCG caused lab rats to lose up to 21 percent of their body weight within one week, likely due to its effect on leptin, the satiety hormone; and a 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionshowed that participants who drank catechin-rich green tea extract daily dropped almost twice as much weight in 12 weeks as participants who didn't.
Tina Williams, 26, a client of Pasquella's, lost nearly 15 pounds over three months last year after changing up her diet and incorporating matcha as a replacement for her morning coffee and midday snack. "It satisfied my three o'clock sugar craving, so I didn't end up eating those calories," she says. "Within three weeks I started to see results."
So what is matcha exactly? While green tea usually consists of dried, chopped leaves that are steeped in a bag, matcha is a fine powder made from plants specially shade-grown to develop flavor and the nearly neon hue. Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks have been drinking it for centuries for a Zen alertness.
For each serving, hot water is mixed into around a half-teaspoon of powder (no bag) using a small bamboo whisk that gives it a nice frothy texture. The real boon is that ultimately you ingest the leaves themselves for a greater dose of nutrients—including EGCG—than what's extracted through steeping.
While studies have mixed conclusions about precisely how much matcha or EGCG may be needed to lose weight, Pasquella and Tuchman suggest one to three cups a day (and if you're sensitive to caffeine, stop by 2 P.M. so it won't interfere with sleep). "Matcha is just one part of a well-rounded regimen," says Tuchman. "Can you have a doughnut but drink matcha and still lose weight? No." And those matcha Kit Kats and matcha-infused cupcakes at places like Sprinkles bakery? Says Pasquella, "Don't even think about it."