How do the Matcha Benefits Really Stack Up?
If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, then you’ve no doubt heard of superfoods: nutritional powerhouses that are loaded with high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
But how much information about superfoods comes from scientific data – and how much is hype, brought to the attention of the healthy living industry by clever marketing campaigns? Twenty years ago, pomegranates were a hard-to-eat holiday treat, dark chocolate was a dessert, and no one had even heard of goji or açai berries Today, Google shows over 20 million web pages that reference açai berries alone. Clearly, superfoods are here to stay.
But what’s the science behind the superfoods? How do they compare? Is a fancy berry whose name you can’t pronounce really that much better than a plain old red apple? Will red wine and dark chocolate keep you young?
One way to measure the nutritional potency of superfoods is by the number of ORAC units that they contain. Developed by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health, ORAC (or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units measure the level of antioxidants in foods.
Research indicates that humans should consume at least 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day to significantly impact antioxidant activity and reduce as much free damage as possible to the body’s cellular structure. Most Americans only get about 1,200 ORAC units per day – well below recommended levels.
Are you giving your body and brain the antioxidants that it needs to stay healthy and strong? Discover the number of ORAC units contained in one gram of each superfood listed below, and decide for yourself which ones are right for you.
Matcha (1,384 ORAC units per gram)
Topping the list of superfoods is matcha powder, which is a high quality, finely ground type of green tea that you dissolve in water and drink directly. One of the greatest Matcha benefits features very high levels of catechins, the most potent and beneficial antioxidants. Vibrant and green, matcha powder also delivers a high amount of L-Theanine, an amino acid that improves mental alertness and overall mood. Another notable matcha benefits are the high levels of polyphenols which help to reduce the formation of disease-causing free radicals in the body.
Cranberries (909 ORAC units per gram)
These shiny red gemstones are heavily associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they deserve a space on the table year-round. Cranberries fight inflammation, help prevent infections, and offer numerous health benefits – if you can stand the tart, bitter taste. If you have to add a couple of cups of sugar to cranberries to stomach the flavor, you’re probably negating their healthy effects.
Black Beans (849 ORAC units per gram)
Loaded with magnesium, folate and fiber, black beans can reduce your cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers. They are inexpensive and easy to add to many dishes, from egg breakfasts to Southwest salads and spicy chili. Reduce the gas-inducing effects of beans by rinsing them well before you prepare them.
Lentils (728 ORAC units per gram)
Unlike most beans, lentils don’t have to be pre-soaked before you can cook them, and their high iron content makes lentils a favorite of vegans and vegetarians. These protein-rich legumes are also low on the glycemic index, which means they provide sustained energy with less of a crash than other starches.
Artichokes (655 ORAC units per gram)
Artichokes are actually thistles that haven’t bloomed yet. They contain one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any vegetable on the planet, mostly in the pulp of their leaves. Artichokes can be a pain to prepare, but with a little practice you can make them a regular part of your diet.
Almonds (445 ORAC units per gram)
Did you know that almonds are the most nutritionally dense nuts? Out of all the nuts, almonds provide the highest concentration of nutrients per ounce, including potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin E. Smear almond butter on toast for a healthy treat – but keep an eye on your serving size, because one ounce of almonds has a whopping 191 calories.
Strawberries (430 ORAC units per gram)
Enjoy your strawberry shortcake without any guilt, because this sweet summertime superstar is loaded with antioxidants and packed with vitamins. In fact, just one cup of fresh strawberries meets your daily requirements for vitamin C – a crucial nutrient that promotes healthy eye function and helps your immune system to function efficiently.
Red Delicious Apples (428 ORAC units per gram)
Low in calories and full of fiber, juicy apples have been linked to a lower risk of asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Red Delicious apples boast the highest level of antioxidants thanks to their vibrant color, a darker hue than most other varieties. Make sure to eat the peeling to enjoy the full effects.
Red Wine (370 ORAC units per gram)
Whether you like to sip a fruit Pinot Noir from the Oregon Coast or a robust Shiraz from Australia, red wine delivers a sizeable amount of antioxidants with every glass. However this high-calorie drink might also deliver a headache or hangover. Always drink red wine in moderation.
Goji Berries (253 ORAC units per gram)
A recent arrival to the grocery store shelves, goji berries are bursting with vitamin A (for healthy, glowing skin) and complex starches (for improved immune function). You’ll most likely find them dried, or concentrated in a juice. Goji berries may have an adverse reaction with certain medications, including drugs for diabetes or hypertension.
Oatmeal (231 ORAC units per gram)
Inexpensive, easy to prepare and rich in fiber, oatmeal is a go-to morning meal that is perfect for chilly mornings. A comforting bowl of oats can help improve your metabolism, aid with digestion, and lower your cholesterol levels. Skip the pre-sweetened packets, and toss in some fresh fruit and a teaspoon of maple syrup instead.
Dark Chocolate (227 ORAC units per gram)
Chocoholics rejoice: dark chocolate has been proven to enhance your health. Cocoa beans are an outstanding source of antioxidants and nutrients that lower the risk of heart disease. Choose a dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to enjoy the full effects, and leave the milk chocolate varieties for the kids.
Pecans (180 ORAC units per gram)
Whether you say “pee-cans” or “puh-cons,” these tasty tree nuts are an excellent source of protein, manganese and unsaturated fats. But if you’re looking for the best source of omega-6 fatty acids in a nut, walnuts offer twice the amount that you will find in pecans.
Walnuts (135 ORAC units per gram)
Known for providing a hefty dose of healthy fats, ¼ cup of walnuts contains more than 100% of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acids. But eat them in moderation, because fat is still fat – and that quarter-cup of chopped walnuts has almost 200 calories.
Green Tea (125 ORAC units per gram)
Green tea offers all the matcha benefits, just at a much lower dose. This popular beverage contains flavonoids and catechins, and delivers one-tenth amount that matcha does. These polyphenols help to reduce the formation of disease-causing free radicals in the body.
Pomegranate (105 ORAC units per gram)
A unique cold-weather fruit that is in season between September and February, the pomegranate has been cultivated by humans since ancient times. It contains clusters of seeds that look like juicy gemstones, but can be difficult and time-consuming to eat. Toss separated seeds into salads and smoothies, or opt for pomegranate juice concentrate.
Blueberries (93 ORAC units per gram)
One of the only naturally blue foods on the planet, blueberries may improve cognitive function including memory. The perky little berries are easy to eat, because there is no chopping required – just add them to your cereal, smoothie, or salad. You can also freeze blueberries without affecting their antioxidant content.
Açai (55 ORAC units per gram)
Açai is a relative newcomer to the healthy eating scene. This long, red-purple fruit it comes from a particular type of palm tree grown in South and Central America. Fresh açai fruit doesn’t rank that high on the ORAC chart. Benefit more from the berries by choosing freeze-dried fruit or concentrated juice.
Pumpkin (48 ORAC units per gram)
Orange vegetables like pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots are known for their high levels of beta-carotene, which the body coverts to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes healthy eyes, and boosts your immune system. Best of all, these autumn squash can be made into delicious pumpkin pie.
Broccoli (31 ORAC units per gram)
Like the entire family of cruciferous vegetables, crunchy broccoli provides a high level of fiber for healthy digestion, along with a potent dose of vitamin C. Broccoli also contains folate, which can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Steam your broccoli to enhance its cholesterol-reducing effects.
Spinach (26 ORAC units per gram)
Leafy greens are all the rage, but don’t let the low ORAC count on spinach fool you – one cup of fresh spinach leaves contains 30 grams. Choose the darkest green leaves you can find, which have the highest levels of vitamin C. Spinach is super low in calories, and very high in iron, calcium and phytonutrients.
This list of Superfoods gives us a better insight into what we are eating and how these foods can help our bodies function as designed. The matcha benefits clearly have an edge on many aspects that are measured an listed. While no food on this list is a bad one, it is nice to know where you are getting the most band for the buck, so to speak.