Updated: May 27
May is mental health awareness month. Today in 2020, in the throes of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to prioritize your mental health. Mental health is essential for leading a happier, healthier life: it allows you to realize your full potential, cope with stress, and be more productive. Everyone could use a little boost. Even the smallest actions can improve mental health. Simple acts like talking to a friend, exercising, and getting sleep can help get you on track. One little thing I like to do to improve my mental wellbeing is drinking green tea. Sure, the simple action of drinking something hot while wrapped up in a blanket comfortably on my couch may be enough to soothe my frayed nerves. However, green tea is much more than a simple hot drink. Several scientific studies show that green tea contains components that are beneficial for cognitive function and mood.
The most researched active components of green tea include Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), L-Theanine (L-THE), and caffeine. EGCG is thought to have many health benefits. In the context of mental health, however, EGCG has been shown to have a calming effect, relieve stress, improve memory, improve the ability to feel pleasure, and exerts protective effects in the brain. L-THE has been shown to encourage relaxation, reduce tension, stress, and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase alertness (especially in conjunction with caffeine). Caffeine is a substance of which most people are familiar. It is mostly associated with its ability to increase energy and alertness. Still, caffeine has also been shown to have positive effects on memory, motivation, and can contribute to feelings of wellbeing (albeit through more indirect means). While these components are shown to be sufficient alone, research has shown that they are more effective together, making green tea the perfect package for a mental pick-me-up.
Due to its many benefits, green tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the world. There are many different types of green tea and various forms. Because it is so popular, it is very easy to find. You can most commonly find green tea sold in tea bags, as loose-leaf, or as a powder (matcha). Matcha tea is of particular interest because it is composed of whole ground tea leaves, and as such, is more concentrated than brewed tea. Many researchers theorize that more benefits may be gained from consuming matcha for this reason. Many baristas, cooks, bakers, etc. have creatively taken advantage of matcha’s powdered form to incorporate it into specialty drinks, baked goods, and dishes. However, not much is known about the benefits of green tea when prepared in this way. While I am always delighted to try green tea in a new way, I still prefer to drink it in the traditional sense.
How to prepare matcha green tea
Equipment: small cup, sifter, whisk
Ingredients: Matcha green tea powder and boiling water
Sift ½ to 1 tsp of matcha powder into your cup (the sifter will prevent clumps)
Add 2 to 3 oz of boiling water to the powder
Wisk the powder and water until it becomes a paste
Add more water to taste (up to 8 oz)
Drink and enjoy!
Matcha is more bitter and more expensive than its brewed counterpart, so it is not everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended). You can still glean many of the incredible benefits from the subtler brewed version. I think I’ll enjoy a cup right now! What are you doing for your mental health today?
Don’t like the taste of green tea? No problem! Don’t feel constricted to only drinking green tea. Be creative and eat it too! You can incorporate green tea into your meals in a variety of ways. Use matcha or brewed tea in smoothies, as the liquid for oatmeal, rice, or steamed vegetables. You can also use matcha green tea powder in soups, stews, puddings, sauces, curries, or baked goods. The possibilities are endless!
Is your green tea too bitter? Did you steep it too long? No worries. You can improve the taste of your tea by adding lemon juice, mint, or plant-based milk and stevia leaf. Feel free to experiment with herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg as well.
Opt for freshly brewed tea rather than bottled tea. Bottled tea typically contains more harmful ingredients like sugar and even lead (eek!) and less beneficial components like phytochemicals and amino acids.
P.S. Here’s how Nichole from Purely Planted makes her morning matcha latte.
Greetings! My name is Mary Pittman. I am currently enrolled in Georgia State University’s Coordinated Nutrition Program. Someday soon, I will be a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree! I have worked in a hospital for six years, four of which were in the ICU. I have worked with hundreds of patients and have seen many illnesses. Many illnesses can be treated and prevented by a healthy lifestyle. It is my dream to learn how to help people who struggle to find a healthier way to live. My other interests include painting, playing my violin, and learning Harry Potter trivia (sorry, not sorry).