For the sake of their future born’s safety, pregnant women try to give up on anything potentially harmful – cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods, too much sugar, the list goes on.
To compensate for the lack of guilty pleasures, mothers-to-be usually turn to more acceptable options, one of the most popular these days being Matcha tea.
Just like other superfoods, this Japanese traditional tea is rich in fantastic nutrients beneficial for wellbeing, but is it safe enough to drink during pregnancy?
Read on to find out more about Matcha tea and why its use may seem controversial when expecting.
What is Matcha tea?
Many consumers don’t know that Matcha tea production starts from the same green tea (Camellia sinensis plant) that you find in bagged or loose-leaf form, only ground into fine powder.
To make Matcha, the plant is grown in 90 % of gradually induced shade for around 3 weeks, opposed to regular green tea that is exposed to direct sunlight. The compromised photosynthesis is responsible for the inhibited amount of the flavourful element tannin, giving Matcha a unique bitterless tang.
After harvesting, the leaves are briefly steeped at high temperatures before being dried and ground into a fine powder, traditionally on a stone mill. As opposed to steeping and then removing it from the liquid, when preparing Matcha tea, you actually consume the leaf as the powder dissolves in water or milk.
Matcha tea composition
Since it’s essentially ground-up green tea, Matcha possesses similar properties and components. That said, the fact that the plant is treated, harvested, and consumed a bit differently makes it more wholesome than other forms of conventional tea. Therefore, all of the beneficial ingredients in green tea, such as Theanine, Catechins, Polyphenols, and Flavonoids with antioxidant effects are more prominent in Matcha.
A study on Matcha nutrient composition determined that Matcha may also be a great source of vitamin C, although the amount varies depending on the brewing temperature and type of Matcha.
Another study proved that Matcha is rich in minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron and copper, which are all important for a healthy body.
On the other hand, questionable nutrients like caffeine, are also more present in Matcha, which during pregnancy calls for more caution and controlled dosage.
Caffeine in Matcha tea
The controversy around Matcha and pregnancy mostly revolves around caffeine.
According to recent research on caffeine influence, heavy consumption of caffeine (more than 200 mg/day) during pregnancy has shown a correlation to fetal growth issues, such as disrupted embryo development and early miscarriage. Some studies even suggest a relation between high caffeine intake and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) although further research is needed for clearer results.
Even though caffeine isn’t on top of the list of the ‘DOs’ during pregnancy, moderate and controlled consumption doesn’t necessarily mean trouble.
To maintain a healthy and safe pregnancy, expecting mothers are recommended to reduce their caffeine intake before and during pregnancy to at least under 200 mg/day.
How does this compare to Matcha?
One study using the HPLC method found 36.2 mg/g of caffeine in Matcha, while another approach found 23.9 mg/g. A study on caffeine in green tea came to even higher results of 38.7 and 35.3 mg/g, depending on the leaf type. To make a decent cup of Matcha, you need at least a teaspoon of powder (around 2 g). Given the scientific results, this means up to 78 mg of caffeine per cup, which is still far in the safe zone of the daily caffeine intake recommendation.
Keep in mind that each brand of Matcha has a different nutrient composition, so to be sure about the caffeine – amount ratio, always check the nutritional value chart.
Benefits of Matcha tea
Camellia sinensis plant contains Polyphenols, famous for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, making this tea widely used for improving metabolism. It is also great for weight loss and nourishing gastrointestinal health. Studies have further shown that after the consumption of Matcha tea in different forms (drinks and snack bars) the prominent amino acid Theanine was directly related to improved cognitive skills, elevated mood, boosted attention span and memory.
Recent data on the green tea fight against diseases outline more amazing benefits of Matcha consumption:
- Antiviral properties
- Reduced risk of cancer and tumor creation (antioxidant effect of Polyphenols)
- The cardioprotective role, thanks to Catechins
- Prevention of neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s)
- Inhibited effects of aging
- Reduced threat of arthritis
- Improved concentration and boosted energy
- Fighting allergies by controlling histamine-induced inflammation
Side effects of Matcha tea
Just like with other pleasures, moderation is key. Due to the high content of caffeine in a small amount of powder, drinking too much Matcha and too often a day may lead to caffeine overdose.
Some of the side effects include:
- Gastrointestinal sensitivity
- High stomach acidity and acid reflux
- Insomnia and restlessness
In pregnant women, these symptoms may be even more detrimental due to the already-existing pressure on the gastrointestinal environment.
Current research evidence also suggests that the Polyphenols in Matcha powder may restrict iron absorption up to 70%, which during fetal growth may compromise the baby’s proper development. This again is related to immoderate, excessive consumption of Matcha.
Another concerning discovery about Matcha tea is the possibility of lead contamination. Green tea leaves absorb lead from the environment, but after brewing, the tea is safe for drinking as the lead mostly stays in the discarded leaves. Since drinking Matcha means consuming the entire leaf, there is a possibility of lead poisoning. Research on the topic suggests alarming consequences of increased lead intake for the unborn child, such as spontaneous abortion, pregnancy hypertension, and even degraded fetal growth.
Knowing the Matcha origin and sticking to safe brands is the best protection from possible toxicity in your tea.
Finally – is Matcha safe during pregnancy?
In right dosages, Yes! In fact, restricting to under 200 mg/day, with a safe and reliable Matcha brand, Matcha can be extremely nourishing for both the mother and the baby.
Keep in mind though that each body and pregnancy is different and general recommendations may not apply to everyone. Therefore, consulting your doctor for instructions is highly advised before consuming Matcha.