Yerba mate has many health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and improved health. It has antioxidant properties and helps in healthy weight loss. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a well-known non-alcoholic beverage widely consumed by people of South America. It is made from dried leaves of Ilex paraguariensis tree which is a native South American tree. It is found in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Yerba mate has been used by indigenous people for many centuries as a beverage with medicinal properties. It is gaining popularity in Europe, United States, and other countries because of its stimulating effect and health benefits. Many include yerba mate as an alternative to coffee and tea.
Mate tree is a subtropical flowering plant that grows up to a height of 18 m. It requires a good rainfall and can withstand temperatures of -6 degrees Celsius. It flowers between October and November and produces fruit between March and June. Mate leaves undergo several stages of processing which include blanching, drying, and aging of the leaves. The conditions of processing may differ but the overall process generally remains the same.
Nutritional Value of Yerba Mate
Mate tea contains various nutrients that help in maintaining good health. It is a good source of polyphenols, xanthines, caffeoyl derivatives and saponins. Amongst minerals, it contains zinc, chromium, potassium, copper, aluminum, iron, manganese, and nickel. Yerba mate also contains vitamins that include vitamin C, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2.
Health Benefits of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate has many health benefits, which are discussed below:
Consumption of yerba mate provides antioxidant benefits to the body. It has many phytochemicals such as polyphenols, chlorogenic acid, and caffeoyl derivatives that make it a beneficial antioxidant.
Research suggests that mate extract may reduce oxidative stress that increases the risk of damage to liver and heart. It also reduces the nitrosative stress that may cause DNA damage, cell death, and lipid peroxidation. As compared to green tea, yerba mate is more effective in preventing cytotoxicity associated with blood flow restriction heart disorders such as stroke, etc.
Many people think of yerba mate as a brain booster and studies show that this is true. The tea’s active ingredients are able to improve memory and attention, as well as focus. The antioxidants in the tea can prevent plaque deposition in the brain, potentially countering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Increases Sex Drive
Yerba mate is traditionally known as a mild aphrodisiac, used primarily by men to increase their libido and sex drive. The rich mineral and vitamin content can also help improve fertility, hormonal balance, and reproductive health.
The unique compounds found in yerba mate, such as xanthines, are able to promote smooth muscle relaxation, which can be very good for digestion, particularly if you are struggling with constipation, bloating, cramping, and other digestive issues.
Benefits Cardiovascular Health
Yerba mate contains compounds such as polyphenols that are beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Findings of a research suggest that intake of yerba mate has a beneficial impact on lipid parameters and it helps reduce LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic people. Consumption of yerba mate protects myocardial tissue of the heart and is also beneficial in reducing oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS ) which may cause stroke, etc.
A study conducted to ascertain effects of yerba on E. coli suggests that it has antimicrobial properties that may help in preventing health risks caused by E. coli bacteria. Due to this, it has the potential to be used as antimicrobials in various beverages and foods against E. coli. The flavonoids found in yerba mate may be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Anti-inflammatory properties make yerba mate beneficial in reducing the risk of chronic diseases, therefore improving overall health.
Health benefits of yerba mate include prevention of cancer. Antioxidants like chlorogenic acid are the primary active ingredients in yerba mate tea, which actually have higher antioxidant level than green tea, meaning that this tea is very good for seeking out and neutralizing free radicals. This is why yerba mate tea is often considered an anti-cancer beverage. That being said, some studies have linked increased cancer risk in the upper intestinal tract to prolonged use of yerba mate.
Yerba mate may be beneficial in reducing complications from hyperglycemia in diabetes. Hyperglycemia results in dicarbonyls, which causes many diabetic complications. Yerba mate, as an antioxidant, plays a role in the process of glycation, which reduces the dicarbonyl action, resulting from oxidation and hyperglycemia.
Yerba mate is shown to be beneficial in reducing obesity. This weight loss effect of yerba mate is attributed to increased fat oxidation, slowing of gastric emptying, and an increased feeling of satiety. Similar to coffee, yerba mate is able to provide an energetic boost without contributing much in terms of calories. When combined with the other nutrients provided by yerba mate, your metabolism can begin to speed up, due to the natural stimulant qualities.
While yerba mate tea isn’t always thought of as a boost for bone strength, it does contain a number of minerals that are essential for bone mineral density in the body. Calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc are all part of the process that keeps osteoporosis at bay as we age.
High levels of iron found in yerba mate tea mean that it can significantly help in red blood cell production, and will prevent anemia. With boosted red blood cell production, more oxygenated blood can flow to the organs and extremities that need those resources most.
Boosts Immune System
The vitamin C levels in yerba mate tea are only the beginning in terms of immune system health. Aside from the white blood cell boost provided by ascorbic acid, there are also a number of saponins and antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body and act as a primary line of defense for the immune system.
How to Prepare Yerba Mate Tea?
Traditional yerba mate is prepared by pouring hot water on dried leaves of Ilex paraguariensis in a gourd. This is repeated many times and then consumed out of the gourd using a metal straw.
How to Select Yerba Mate Tea?
Yerba mate is easily available across stores all over the world in loose form or tea bags. A toasted version is also available in the stores. Mate can be served as a hot or cold drink with milk or fruit juice.
Yerba Mate Tea Side Effects
Despite the many benefits of drinking yerba mate tea, excessive and regular use of this tea does present some health concerns. The side effects and risks include:
Heart Risk: There could be a risk to the heart, due to the high content of caffeine. Even though there is approximately 80 mg of caffeine found in yerba mate, as compared to 100-200 mg in a cup of coffee, yerba mate tea is often consumed throughout the day, with 4 or 5 cups not being an unusual amount for daily consumption. This consistent caffeine boost to the system can take a toll on the cardiovascular system, and be dangerous for those who already have high blood pressure.
Cancer Risk: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been associated with increased risk of cancer. It is important to make sure that yerba mate during processing does not get contaminated by PAHs as that may pose a risk of cancer of oral cavity, esophagus, larynx. It may also increase the risk of upper intestinal tract cancer over the long term, while it also shows other signs of being anti-cancerous in the body.
Pregnant Women and Children: Yerba mate is not safe for children as well as pregnant women. It may also be avoided by women during breastfeeding post delivery.
Liver: Long-term and heavy use of yerba mate may have a negative effect on liver function and may lead to liver disease.
And generally speaking, yerba mate can safely be consumed in small to moderate quantities to enjoy its benefits, but before making it a regular part of your health regimen, it is best to speak to your doctor.
Is Yerba Mate Tea Better than Coffee?
Yerba mate tea is lower in caffeine and doesn’t generate the same type of crash as coffee drinkers often experience. Coffee has trace amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, whereas yerba mate has a much broader range of nutrients to offer, including saponins, quercetin, and xanthines, which provide so many of the unique health benefits of this tea. Coffee may pack more of a morning punch to wake you up, but that can have a negative effect on your body’s acidity levels and cardiovascular health, as well as your nerves.
In the battle between coffee and yerba mate tea, it depends on what matters more to you, but for those seeking a more well-rounded and healthy beverage, yerba mate seems like an obvious choice, in moderation.