The health benefits of yerba mate

This is the latest in our #yerbamatemission campaign blog posts, and we’re just going to come right out and say it: the health benefits of yerba mate exceed that of any other hot drink. You’ve probably heard something about it being a healthier form of caffeine, but let’s take a look at the details. Here comes the science bit...

Steady stimulation

Unlike coffee, yerba mate provides slow release stimulation, which is a result of its unique combination of caffeine and theobromine [1]. The caffeine acts first, and when you would usually experience headaches, ‘crashes’ or the shakes as a result of withdrawal, theobromine kicks in. This xanthine is commonly found in cacao, and offers a longer-lasting sense of elevation and euphoria.

Within a few minutes of drinking yerba mate, people report feeling uplifted, more focused and alert. The caffeine stimulation last for longer than coffee, with added hydration and refreshment. Research suggests that moderate caffeine consumption boost mental functioning, meaning better focus and concentration in our busy modern lives. [2] Don’t just listen to us though - Obama has even said that it helps his focus!

Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

Mate also provides an array of vitamins essential for a healthy and well balanced diet: vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B5, B-complex, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese and selenium for starters [3]! Back in 1964, a group of investigators from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.” Commenting on its pantothenic acid [vitamin B5] content, they remarked that it is “rare to find a plant with so much of this significant and vital nutrient”.

So for those of you on a plant-based diet or for anyone who is hoping to cut down on their meat consumption, yerba mate can offer a way of supplementing essential nutrients in your everyday diet, particularly as the mineral content is significant and made more bioavailable through infusion.

You may well also have have heard about green tea’s infamously high antioxidant content, but in fact in 2005, researchers at the University of Illinois found that yerba mate contains “higher levels of antioxidants than green tea”. [4]

Wellbeing, fitness and exercise

Mate can form a beneficial a part of a healthy diet and weight management regime, given that its stimulant effect suppresses appetite while boosting metabolism and aiding fat burning (5).

It can make a great pre-training stimulant, plus it has also been shown to support recovery from strength-based training [6], enabling muscle to be rebuilt 8.6 % more effectively on the day after exercise.

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  1. Filip R, Lopez P, Coussio J, Ferraro G (1998). Mate substitutes or adulterants: study of xanthine content. Phytotherapy Research, 12(2):129-131.
  2. Ruxton, C (2008). The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin, 2008
  3. Gourmet, G. (2016). Yerba Mate Health Benefits. The best Green Tea you will find. (Online) Gauchogourmet.com. Available at: http://www.gauchogourmet.com/health-benefits-of-yerba-mate.html
  4. De Mejia, E.G. (2005), Effect of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) Tea on Topoisomerase Inhibition and Oral Carcinoma Cell Proliferation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
  5. Heck, C.I. and De Mejia, E.G. (2007). Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations. Journal of Food Science. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00535.x/full
  6. Pereira Panza et al. (2016) British Journal of Nutrition, “Effects of mate tea consumption on muscle strength and oxidative stress markers after eccentric exercise”.