For all you people who can’t start their day without a cup or three of strong coffee, what if I told you there was a great alternative. A drink that will give you all the energy and strength of your coffee but with many of the same benefits as tea and the euphoria you experience from a bar of chocolate?
Well, I am here to tell you that such a drink exists, a drink made with the leaves of a tropical rainforest tree. That drink is yerba mate and we think you should be drinking it.
What is Yerba Mate?
While many of you may be unfamiliar with yerba mate, the people of South America have been brewing it up and enjoying it for a very long time. It is sometimes known bu the locals as the drink of the Gods because of its energizing effects and various health benefits. The indigenous tribes of South America have long valued its ability to rejuvenate, energize and aid focus and its nourishing properties.
The drink is produced from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis – a holly tree native to various parts of the South American rainforests. It still grows wild but these days is widely cultivated and sold both in South America and abroad.
If you have never tried it and are are wondering what it tastes like, you mat be pleasantly surprised. It has a grassy type of flavor that is comparable to green tea but it is still somewhat of an acquired taste. It is hardly a staple outside of South America but it is certainly gaining popularity especially as more people are discovering more about its many benefits. For those of us that would like to cut back on our coffee consumption but don’t get nearly the same satisfaction from tea, yerba mate may be just the alternative brew we were looking for.
Yerba Mate Health Benefits
1) Nutritional Value
When compared to your cup of joe, yerba mate is a nutritional powerhouse. It is loaded with nutrition and contains an extremely impressive array of minerals, vitamins and healthy chemical compounds.
Drinking yerba mate will give you a dose of Vitamins A, C, E and many of the B vitamin family. It also contains decent levels of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium and zinc.
2) Antioxidant Properties
Not only is yerba mate brimming with nutrition, it is also full of antioxidannts. It has powerful antioxidant properties and is home to many beneficial phytonutrients including tannins, flavonoids and as many as 15 different amino acids.
A study done by researchers at the University of Illinois compared the antioxidant value of 15 tea based drinks and found that yerba mate contained the highest levels of polyphenols and antioxidants of all the drinks tested. (1)
3) Increased Energy
One of the best-known qualities of yerba mate is that it gives you a heck of an energy boost. The energy kick that you get from the drink is described as being gentle and clean which is a definite plus for those who feel jittery after their morning espresso.
According to many people, drinking yerba mate will give you the same levels of alertness you get from your coffee minus those unwanted side effects. It does not induce anxiety or jitters and does not hinder your sleep patterns.
It can prove useful for people who are suffering from fatigue whether physical or mental and is sometimes used by athletes looking to improve their athletic performance naturally and legally.
- 8 ounces of yerba mate contains around 85 mg of caffeine which is more than you’d get from tea but not as much as coffee contains.
4) Mental Function
The vast majority of us would not say no to a natural product that could enhance our focus levels, concentration spans and general alertness. Whether you are a student cramming for exams, feeling fatigued at work or simply run down mentally, then yerba mate may have the answer.
Like that other famous brain booster – coffee, yerba mate contains caffeine that is well known for its brain enhancing abilities. The brain enhancing abilities of yerba mate are not limited to caffeine. This healthy brew also contains similar alkaloids called theophylline and theobromine which also have mild stimulant properties.
A study published in 2011 discovered that yerba mate had anti-inflammatory properties and more importantly the ability to treat colon cancer. When they exposed cancer cells to certain compounds found in yerba mate tea, the researchers observed the death of the cancer cells, a process known as apoptosis. (2) A lead researcher involved in the study noted that the caffeine derivatives found in the tea was able not only to induce cancer cell death but also reduce inflammatory markers. This is significant since inflammation may lead to the progression of cancer.
6) Immune System Support
Yerba mate contains saponins which are a type of phytochemical present in many plants. Saponins are known to be effective against high cholesterol and cancer and also to improve bone health. Research has also demonstrated that saponins have anti-inflammatory actions and can help stimulate immune system health which in turn protects the body from disease and illness.
- A cup or two of yerba mate each day will increase your intake of these important compounds and may well help protect you from disease. (3)
7) Weight Loss and Athletic Performance
The complex variety of saponins found in yerba mate such as oleonic and ursolic acid glycocides may also help you shed some unwanted weight. Research done on animals has demonstrated that these saponins have a positive effect on body weight. (4)
Consuming yerba mate also increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation during physical activity. A study published in 2014 found that consuming yerba mate was effective both in terms of weight loss and improved athletic performance. (5)
Another very recent study found that consuming yerba mate had a marked effect on body composition. Researchers found that it decrease the percentage of body fat and reduced the waist to hip ratio. (6) The findings taken as a whole suggest that supplementing with yerba mate or drinking it regularly might be a natural way to combat obesity.
8) Heart Health
If you decide to drink yerba mate each day, your heart will be grateful. Studies have demonstrated that it helps improve lipid levels which also reduces cholesterol. A study published in 2009 showed that yerba mate helped lower LDL cholesterol in both healthy patients and those taking statin medications. By reducing your body’s levels of bad cholesterol, yerba mate can reduce your risk of a variety of cardiovascular diseases including heart attack and atheroscelerosis. (7)
How to make Yerba Mate Tea
First of all, you should buy the best quality, organic products which are available as loose leaves, tea bags or ready-made cold drink. Better quality products are dried at lower temperatures rather than roasted and they will retain more of the nutritional and health benefits.
- Bring your water to a gentle simmer as boiling water tends to produce a more bitter tasting tea.
- Use around a teaspoon of yerba mate leaves for each cup.
- Let the leaves steep for around five minutes and then strain.
- You can enjoy it hot or chill it for later.
- Add lemon or honey to taste of desired.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
Although not as high in caffeine as coffee, yerba mate does contain caffeine and too much can cause a variety of symptoms including palpitations, insomnia and anxiety. People with anxiety conditions or pregnant women should avoid it. People with serious heart conditions should also speak to a doctor before taking yerba mate.