What You Need to Know about Phytonutrients & Matcha

Bianca Kamhi, Holistic Health & Accountability Coach 


What are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are chemicals that are produced by plants. In fact, “Phyto” is an ancient Greek word that literally means, plant. Plants use phytonutrients to stay healthy. For example, some phytonutrients protect plants from insect attacks, while others protect against radiation from UV rays. Common phytonutrients include carotenoids such as lutein, catechins, flavonoids, coumarins, indoles, isoflavones, lignans, organosulfates and plant sterols.


What are some benefits?

There are SO many benefits to consuming phytonutrients. Perhaps most importantly:

  • phytonutrients are known to provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), phytonutrients can “help build stronger immunity and intercellular communication, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter estrogen metabolism. They note that consuming phytonutrients can be an effective strategy for reducing cancer and heart disease risks. “

So, how do you get phytonutrients into your daily life?

A general answer to this is that you must maintain a balanced eating pattern that includes different forms and colors of fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrient rich foods are easily accessible all around you! A list below proves this. And it also proves that phytonutrients are found in places you may not expect… including matcha powder! 


Foods rich in phytonutrients include: 

  • Red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruit (such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, peaches, mangos, melons, citrus fruits, and berries)

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, Swiss chard, and romaine lettuce)

  • Garlic, onions, chives and leeks

  • Tea (such as matcha and all green tea, black tea and other herbal teas)

  • Whole grain products (such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and whole wheat whole grain breads and whole grain cereals)

  • Nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds)

  • Legumes (such as dried beans, peas, lentils, soy beans and soy products)

  • Dark chocolate


More on Phytonutrients and Matcha:

Having researched and studied phytonutrients extensively, I always love knowing that I am doing well for my gut when I start my day with my warm matcha latte. Green tea powder, and in this case matcha powder, contains an abundance of catechins, which is one of the more common phytonutrient examples that I had mentioned earlier. Here you can read the wonderful and powerful therapeutic benefits that catechins can have on the body. 


What Nutritional Scientist say:

Specifically, ceremonial grade matcha is rich in a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).This is a natural antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and provide other benefits. EGCG is one of the most powerful compounds in green tea powders. There was a study listed in the National Library of Medicine that tested the benefits of EGCG on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and it showed to improve the health conditions of those who were participating in the trial. 

The catechins in green tea powder are also known to have benefits for oral health, by stopping bacteria growth in the mouth and also lowering the risk of any oral infections. This other study even shows that the catechins in green tea powder will help reduce bad breath. 

Every morning (and then again a few times throughout the day), I choose to make a matcha drink in order to better my health and fill my body with catechins for all of the incredible benefits that it provides. Along with this, I add in a bonus and compliment my matcha with oat milk — which is a plant milk derived from whole oat grains by extracting the plant material with water… so a double whammy when I want even more plant extract materials in my matcha cup… but oat milk is an entirely different and interesting topic we can get into next time! ;) 

Important terminology needed to learn more

Understanding how phytonutrients work in the body requires a grasp of some new vocabulary. Learning the following terms will help you understand the importance and value of phytonutrients to your health.

  • Phytonutrient: A chemical compound found in plants that has positive impacts on human health and nutrition. Phytonutrients can also be referred to as phytochemicals.

  • Free Radicals: Any molecule containing an unpaired electron. Free radicals are very reactive and can trigger oxidation.

  • Oxidant: These molecules contain oxygen and are highly reactive. They easily react with other molecules changing their chemical nature. These changes can ultimately become toxic to the cell.

  • Antioxidant: A molecule that slows or reduces the damage done to an organism by free radicals and other oxidants. Antioxidants help prevent a chemical reaction called oxidation from occurring. They do this by neutralizing unpaired electrons on potentially dangerous molecules.

  • Carotenoids: A class of naturally occurring plant pigments. Carotenoids produce red, orange, and yellow color in fruits and vegetables. These phytonutrients protect plants from oxidative damage.

  • Polyphenols: These phytonutrients are concentrated in the leaf tissue of plants. They deter predators and help keep plants healthy. Polyphenols are the largest class of antioxidants in your diet.

  • Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are a subcategory of polyphenols. They share the same function in plants, but differ in chemical structure. Bioflavonoids contain unique chemical signatures, like ketones and alcohol groups (carbon-oxygen double bond and oxygen-hydrogen single bond, respectively).

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