Matcha seems to be everywhere these days. Once found only in Japanese restaurants and specialty shops, the powdered green tea is now a Starbucks mainstay and recently made an appearance as Shake Shack’s custard of the week.
This popularity surge comes as no surprise to us, as matcha is as healthy a drink as you can find. Studies have shown that a cup of the shade-grown green stuff is packed with EGCG, an antioxidant that has been linked to cancer prevention, lowered cholesterol, and weight loss.
Although innovative uses for matcha abound, research suggests that not all recipes are created equal if you want to enjoy the full health benefits of this super-tea. Here’s what you need to know about the ingredient pairing that that maximizes – and the one that neutralizes – matcha’s antioxidants.
Best Pairing: Citrus
Try adding a squeeze of lemon to your next cup of matcha, as doing so could greatly increase the amount of antioxidants available for absorption. According to a Purdue University study, green tea’s antioxidants (called catechins) become unstable in non-acidic environments like the intestines, so less than 20 percent of the goodies you sip remain after digestion.
But here’s the good news. The researchers were able to up the amount of catechins available for absorption to as much as 80 percent – just by adding a splash of good ol’ vitamin C. Lemons worked best (bonus: it adds a kick of brightness that perfectly complements matcha’s grassy notes), but any type of citrus juice will improve your body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants.
Worst Pairing: Iron
Researchers may have discovered the Kryptonite to this superfood, as a March 2016 Penn State study found that consuming green tea with iron-rich foods causes EGCG to bind with iron and lose its antioxidant effects in the process. This means that the classic Japanese combination of matcha and adzuki beans, while delicious, may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a healthy boost to go with dessert.
Ready to make your own cup of matcha? Here’s how.
More Matcha Recipes: