Yerba mate is catching on around the world. While it’s always been popular in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, yerba mate is now a favorite pick-me-up for enthusiasts worldwide. Mate is even getting its own emoji in 2019!
Famous people of all stripes are starting to jump on the yerba mate trend. Pope Francis is often spotted drinking mate. Viggo Mortenson – a.k.a. Aragon from Lord of the Rings – is a mate fan after spending his childhood in Argentina, while Metallica guitarist James Hetfield picked up the habit from his Argentine wife. Then there’s Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen who drinks chimarrão, as well as athletic stars from Europe and the U.S. like Antoine Griezmann, Scott Jurek and Laurenne Ross who have started drinking mate for its energy boost. Even Barack Obama has tried it and loved it.
Of course, yerba mate is much more than a cool trend. For many, it’s an integral part of their culture. For others, it’s a great nutritional alternative to coffee and tea. Today we’ll go over the big benefits of yerba mate, so you can decide whether you want to try a sip! Warning: after reading this article, you may just become a mate enthusiast.
Table of Contents
Yerba mate gives you a slow-releasing energy boost.
With less caffeine than coffee but more than tea, yerba mate is a balanced caffeine option. Yerba mate has about 78 mg of caffeine per 5 oz cup, which is just less than coffee at 85 mg. That’s not all: yerba mate is also known as a unique caffeine experience.
While coffee drinks often complain of caffeine jitters or a coffee crash afterward, mate drinkers don’t. That’s because yerba mate is released differently throughout the body. It’s mixed with other compounds and nutrients, which your body absorbs slowly and in a soothing way. In other words, yerba mate gives you more energy than a cup of tea but doesn’t have the negative side effects of coffee.
Yerba may enhance your sports performance.
Athletes worldwide enjoy the slow and steady energy boost of yerba mate. In particular, footballers are often seen drinking yerba mate before a match. While there aren’t many studies about the performance boost of yerba mate, one study found that a 1-gram capsule of yerba mate before exercise burned 24% more fat during the workout.
Burning fat instead of carbs creates energy efficiency in the body. This means that yerba mate could be significant in enhancing performance. At least anecdotally, athletes in various sports use yerba mate to get more energy and perform better. This benefit can be worthwhile for athletes and non-athletes alike, as yerba mate reduces fatigue in general.
Yerba mate has more antioxidants than green tea.
Yerba mate, called “the drink of the gods,” is packed with antioxidants. It beats out even green tea in the number of antioxidants it contains! Yerba mate has about 24 different vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids with antioxidants and 196 volatile chemicals.
With all these compounds, yerba mate rightly has a reputation as a “liquid vegetable.” In fact, it has all the major nutrients (including vitamin A, vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur and zinc). This makes yerba mate a nutrition-filled choice with antioxidants to boot.
The social culture around yerba mate is key. Because you can share yerba mate with a co-worker or in a round of friends, yerba mate is a great excuse to socialize. In fact, drinking mate is often an activity in its own right. Families will spend an hour (or more – just heat up more water!) simply chatting and drinking mate together.
Often, it’s a way to get away from screentime and connect personally with others. In the summertime, public parks, sidewalks, and benches are crowded with mate drinkers enjoying quality time together. In this sense, yerba mate is a much needed social break. Though coffee culture can also be social, mate is even more so. Put away your phone and invite your friends to drink some mate.
Yerba mate can help you lose weight.
Yerba mate is excellent for fighting infections – and with all those nutrients we can see why! Many of the antioxidants present in yerba mate are anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, which means a cup of yerba mate could keep you healthy during cold and flu season.
Because of all its active ingredients, yerba mate is even a better choice than green tea for your immune system.
Yerba mate is better than coffee for your digestive tract.
If you want to keep your digestive tract healthy, go for yerba mate instead of coffee. Yerba mate can fight against parasites and also clean up your tract naturally. Some studies show that yerba mate can even deactivate E. coli bacteria – talk about powerful!
In addition, new studies show that yerba mate can also help fight against colon cancer. The anti-inflammatory compounds in yerba reduce inflammation markers and prevent colon cancer from activating. Besides this, yerba mate is often used to prevent urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this positive effect of yerba mate is very different than coffee. Since coffee is highly acidic, it can cause ulcers, IBS, gastritis, acid reflux, and Crohn’s disease. Yerba mate, on the other hand, is digestive-friendly and promotes good digestive health.
Yerba mate boosts bone density, unlike other caffeine agents.
Surprisingly, yerba mate is also associated with boosting bone density. Unlike both coffee and tea, yerba mate increases bone density. In one study, women at risk for osteoporosis who regularly drank mate increased bone density by 10%.
Typically caffeine is linked to bone density loss, so the fact that yerba mate increases it is another plus for mate enthusiasts.
Yerba keeps your heart healthy.
As if you needed another excuse to drink it, yerba mate is also good for your heart. It can lower high blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol and keep arteries clear. According to researchers, the antioxidants in yerba mate protect against heart disease too.
Remember that green tea, which is rich in antioxidants, can’t even do this, and coffee is often linked to heart disease. This benefit of heart health is unique to yerba mate.
Debunking Negative Yerba Mate Myths
Myth #1: Yerba mate causes cancer.
For most cancers, yerba mate actually helps fight them. With huge amounts of antioxidants and other compounds, yerba mate is a nutritional boost against cancer, including colon cancer.
Most people who mention that yerba mate causes cancer are referring to throat cancer. Some studies show that drinks consumed at extremely hot temperatures are associated with throat cancer. However, this applies to all hot drinks, including coffee. South America in general also has higher rates of smokers, which could also skew studies looking at throat cancer in mate drinkers.
Remember that when drunk properly, yerba mate is consumed at hot but not scalding temperatures. When you heat water, it should be close-to-boiling and when you serve mate, it should never be too hot to drink. This is for two reasons: first, you don’t want to burn your mouth and second, because boiling water will burn the yerba and ruin its taste.
Myth #2: Yerba mate leaves have carcinogens in them.
Another myth is that yerba mate is stuffed with cancer-causing carcinogens. In particular, some consumers are worried about the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Like coffee (and other foods like grilled meats), yerba mate has a small amount of PAHs. PAHs arise during the drying process of yerba, which involves smoking the leaves and stems.
However, there’s no longer much concern about this process today. In the past, the smoking process was less controlled. Nowadays, this process has been greatly improved, as many yerba brands use air-drying instead. In addition, many countries require that yerba mate be tested for PAHs as a control method. There are even yerba brands these days that specialize in organic yerba that guarantees that PAHs are minimized. Generally speaking, you won’t run any greater risk of PAHs than a cup of coffee.
Yerba mate is a unique drink that gives you an energy boost without the coffee crash, provides tons of cancer-fighting antioxidants and is a great excuse to socialize during the day. It also has other health benefits, as it helps you lose weight, promote digestion and keeps your heart healthy. Oh, and by the way, it’s delicious.
With all this evidence in favor of yerba mate, our only question is: why wouldn’t you ditch coffee and tea for yerba mate?