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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.

Currently a tremendous western trend, matcha has been consumed as a traditional beverage in the east for centuries. Globally, matcha is a $1.6 billion industry. The question remains, is the tea able to stand up to its reported benefits?

Matcha differs from green tea in both growing and brewing. The increased chlorophyll and bright green color comes from growing in the shade. The leaves rich in L-theanine are dried and ground into a fine powder. Matcha is then prepared by whisking the powder into hot or cold water, creating a frothy brew.

The shady growth produces high levels of antioxidants and amino acids. The antioxidant properties are associated with neuroprotective activity, improved blood sugar regulation, and anti-carcinogenic effects. Rutin, also in matcha, has anti-inflammatory properties that may protect against diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. The immunity-strengthening vitamin C, and chlorophyll add strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

So far, matcha is a powerhouse of health benefits against cognitive decline, diabetes, heart disease, possibly cancer and other inflammatory diseases! Throw in possible prevention of infectious disease, and this is a well-rounded beverage.

The L-theanine and caffeine content in matcha are much higher than green tea. L-theanine is best known for its ability to promote calmness, reduce tension and promote relaxation. Interestingly, the caffeine jittery effect is softened by L-theanine. The end result is improved concentration on long-term cognitive tasks, alertness and vigor — without the caffeine jolt. Best of all, committing to one cup daily will start providing health benefits. However, this is one time that more is even better.

Not a tea drinker? No problem! Matcha can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings and a host of other items. When purchasing, make sure it is the only ingredient. Added sugars and flavorings can reduce the health benefits. When trying for the first time, start out slow. Try teaspoon to 3 ounces of hot water. Water temperature should remain between 175-195 degrees to maximize antioxidant benefit.

It should be noted, those with gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastritis or migraines need to use caution with matcha. Many will do well with small amounts of the beverage, but it could also be a trigger for those conditions in larger amounts.

Matcha is an uplifting yet calming beverage that can provide an array of health benefits. While it is not a "magic cure" for health conditions, it does provide opportunity to improve one's health — one cup at a time!

Here is a gluten-free, dairy free matcha recipe. If your dietary needs do not include dairy-free, you may use regular mini chocolate chips.

Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for over 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for over 30 years. Core to her practice remains use of nutrition to improve health, vitality, and quality of life. Dianna holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master's degree in public health education. Dr. Dianna may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.

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HEALTHY LIFE RECIPE

GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY-FREE MATCHA ENERGY BITES

Makes: 16 servings

1/2 cup nut or seed butter of your choice (peanut, almond, sunflower etc.)

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 tablespoon Matcha powder

1/2 tablespoon ground flax seed

1/4 cup chopped nuts or seeds

1/4 cup chocolate chips (dairy-free)

1/2 tablespoon chia seeds

1/3 cup cacao powder

1). In small saucepan over medium heat, melt nut or seed butter, honey, and coconut oil. Stir constantly until the mixture is combined completely.

2). In bowl, combine oats, Matcha, flaxseed, chopped nuts or seeds, dairy-free chocolate chips, and chia seeds.

3). Pour nut/seed mixture into oat mixture and combine.

4). Using spoon or small ice cream scoop, form balls out of mixture.

5). Roll in cacao powder. Store in air tight container for up to 1 week.

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