Imagine a drink that leaves you feeling vibrant, healthy, restored, and even happier - with zero negative side effects.
It’s not coffee, it’s definitely not alcohol, and nope, it’s not even hot chocolate.
We’re talking about yerba mate. Even though it sounds too good to be true, yerba mate is scientifically proven to be one of the healthiest beverages in the world.
So, What Is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a variant of green tea traditionally enjoyed in South America.
Although it’s not yet as well known as green tea or coffee in the United States, it’s incredibly popular in Central and South America. In fact, it’s so well known down south that it is the national drink of Argentina.
Yerba mate is derived from the leaves of the rainforest-dwelling holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis) and has naturally occurring caffeine levels similar to that of coffee.
This tea also has as many antioxidants as green tea does and boasts the mood-boosting effects of a piece of chocolate.
The History of Yerba Mate
If you’ve ever explored South America or enjoyed yerba mate made South American-style, you’ve likely seen it sipped out of a small, ceremonial gourd.
Often called “the tea of the gods,” this type of green tea doesn’t contain tannins so it’s not bitter like black or even strong green tea. The Aché Guayakí tribe has benefitted from this nutrient-rich drink for generations, enjoying the focus, clarity, and energetic boost that sipping a few ounces of mate affords.
Because yerba mate is native to South America, and drinking the tea has such positive side effects, this tradition of the ancient, ceremonial gourd remains alive and well throughout many South and Central American countries.
What are the Health Benefits of Yerba Mate?
According to a 1964 review from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society, “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value.” Although that was nearly 70 years ago, numerous studies have since proven that yerba mate is one of the most nutritious plants in the world—it contains nearly all of the vitamins that are necessary for human survival. A small cup of yerba mate boasts 196 active compounds, including 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and a range of antioxidants. To put this into perspective, regular green tea has just 144 active compounds. When you look at its nutrient profile, yerba mate is a veritable superfood, multiple studies confirm that a cup or two a day can seriously improve health and wellbeing.
1. Yerba Mate to Reduce Cholesterol
Yerba mate could even be more heart-healthy than regular green tea - seriously! A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that mate consumption resulted in a reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol in those with higher cholesterol levels. Participants in the study enjoyed a small cup of yerba mate three times a day for 40 days. After 40 days patients’ cholesterol levels were tested again, and researchers found that those who drank mate decreased their levels of LDL cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.
2. Yerba Mate and Immunity
Many teas and spices, including yerba mate, contain phytochemicals called saponins. Saponins are especially good at positively stimulating the body’s immune system by decreasing chronic inflammation and helping fight disease. Research shows that saponins have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels. Because yerba mate contains so many antioxidants and phytochemicals, it’s considered an excellent immune-boosting drink (Mate: 1, flu season: 0).
3. Yerba Mate and Cancer
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, multiple studies have proven mate’s cancer-fighting abilities. According to a 2011 study from the University of Illinois, when cancer cells were exposed to compounds derived from yerba mate they experience cell death or apoptosis. Researchers also noted that the caffeine in yerba mate increases its anticancer abilities. Double win!
4. Yerba Mate for Weight Loss
It’s long been known that compounds in green tea can aid in weight loss—it seems that yerba mate is no exception. Drinking mate before exercise can even increase fat burning and caloric expenditure for the duration of the workout, according to a 2014 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism. The researchers who sponsored the study agreed that yerba mate could support healthy weight loss in active men and women.
Gimme That Mate
OK, so now that you know how great it is for you, you’re ready to down a few cups of yerba mate every day, right?
Good news—a little goes a long way when it comes to drinking mate. In fact, most yerba mate gourds only hold about 150-350 mL of liquid. Compared to the venti-sized coffees most Americans suck down every day, that’s tiny!
Yerba mate naturally has a little less caffeine than coffee. Thanks to the abundance of vitamins and minerals, however, you’ll likely enjoy a long lasting energy boost long after drinking your tea.
You can find yerba mate, loose leaf or in bags, in the tea aisle of most organic grocery stores. Prepare mate as you would any other tea, and be sure to use water that’s not quite boiling (water that’s too hot could result in a more bitter tasting tea). Allow the yerba mate to steep for three to five minutes, and then enjoy!
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