Don’t assume that snacks and beverages that boast matcha in the name are healthful just because they contain this trendy ingredient. Matcha, a type of green tea made from the whole tea leaf, has been found to have more phytochemicals and, in particular, more of the antioxidant EGCG than regular brewed tea. It’s also rich in L-theanine (an amino acid unique to tea that may have some calming effect on the nervous system), and it is a source of potassium, vitamin K, and other nutrients.
Though matcha is traditionally consumed as a beverage (hot or cold), today you can find it in an increasing number of high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-fat foods. For instance, the grande (16 ounces) Matcha Lemonade at Starbucks has 7 teaspoons (27 grams) of sugar; order a venti (20 ounces) and you’ll get about 10 teaspoons (38 grams) of sugar.
There are also matcha cookies: One brand-which lists fully hydrogenated palm kernel oil and sugar at the top of the ingredients and matcha powder (along with artificial matcha powder) in the middle-has 145 calories, 7 grams of fat (5 saturated), and 13 grams of sugar per ounce, similar to many other cookies. Pocky-brand matcha biscuit sticks contain 340 calories, 14 grams of fat (12 saturated), and 24 grams of sugar per 2.5-ounce container.
There is even matcha KitKat candy. Artisanal matcha green tea ice creams typically have as many calories and as much fat as other flavors.
If you want the flavor and potential health benefits of matcha without nutrition pitfalls, stick with the tea itself, which is made by whisking the powder in hot water-or add matcha powder to a healthy fruit or yogurt smoothie.