Tea and coffee drinkers may not know that yerba mate infusions are considerably healthier and more beneficial: a summary of its properties and the reasons why it could be considered a super drink.
Mate tea is one of the most nutritious drinks in the world, as confirmed by numerous scientific studies that prove its positive effects on physical and mental health. Yerba mate naturally contains almost all the micronutrients needed by the human body. Regularly drinking mate will improve your immune system in general, detoxify your body and prevent many diseases. In addition to antioxidants and polyphenols, yerba mate is rich in minerals, amino acids and essential vitamins. The vitamins contained in Yerba Mate are mainly from the B-complex, which includes 8 of the 13 essential vitamins needed for the optimal functioning of DNA, cell renewal and metabolic efficiency of fats and proteins.
It also contains important minerals such as potassium and magnesium, which improve the cardiac function, among many other benefits. It contains chlorophyll, phytonutrients, tannins, trace elements and flavonoids, which add more properties and health benefits (Read more about the nutritional properties of yerba mate here). Its caffeine content is compensated with theobromine and theophylline; acting on the central nervous system with a powerful effect that is both energizing and restorative at the same time, for the mind and the body.
In fact, yerba mate meets all the requirements to be considered a superfood: it has a powerful effect on health; it is loaded with nutrients and enzymes; it constitutes a rich source of fiber, vitamins and minerals; and it has many phytonutrients and phytochemicals such as antioxidants, detoxifying agents, phytoestrogens and cell regulators. Read more about why Yerba Mate could be considered a superfood.
All these elements make yerba mate a nutritional paradise with more antioxidants than green tea, being considered one of the best drinks in the world by the popular magazine CNN Travel, which describes mate as one of the world’s “most surprising and pleasing discoveries”. In this list, yerba mate ranks higher than the world’s best-selling energy drink. Read more about what makes mate one of the best drinks in the world.
The mate tea has powerful compounds that have been used for therapeutic purposes since ancient times by the Guarani people, indigenous natives of South America (Read more about the origin of yerba mate here). But the healing power of mate is not a jungle myth. The virtues of drinking mate have been proven many times throughout history, as well as its effectiveness in controlling certain diseases.
For example, a study conducted by the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil, and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, claims that drinking Mate tea regularly can prevent and even reverse Type 2 diabetes. This study, carried out in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients, showed that the yerba mate infusion helps control lipids and blood sugar; and when combined with a proper diet, yerba mate is highly effective in reducing “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels in pre-diabetic patients; reducing the risk of developing coronary heart disease as well.
By preventing the accumulation of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the arteries, yerba mate also reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases, while also increasing HDL cholesterol, known as “good cholesterol”, lowering the risk of heart diseases. Polyphenols in Yerba Mate also protect myocardial tissue and prevent cell death caused by blood flow restriction.
An experimental study developed by the University of Buenos Aires and published in the prestigious Movement Disorders journal; has shown that yerba mate could extend the life of neurons affected by Parkinson’s disease. According to the study, some compounds in Yerba mate such as theobromine and chlorogenic acid have better neuroprotective properties than caffeine and nicotine, suggesting that yerba mate could contain the key not only to prevent Parkinson’s disease, but even to develop treatments in the future. Read more about how yerba mate could prevent Parkinson’s disease.
Although the habit of drinking mate is not enough to prevent osteoporosis, it does have a protective effect on bones and helps maintain bone density, according to a study by the University of Rosario. This has been extensively studied in patients at risk of losing bone density rapidly, such as menopausal women.
By preventing oxygen from damaging red blood cells (a process known as oxidative stress), drinking 1 liter of mate tea per day can also prevent diseases that result from this process, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Also, the University of Illinois discovered that caffeoylquinic acid and its derivatives extracted from yerba mate not only induce the death of colon cancer cells; they also reduce the inflammation that triggers this type of cancer.
The yerba mate infusion, in its traditional form, is a powerful antioxidant that surpasses red wine, green tea, black tea and orange juice. With its high content of polyphenols (chlorogenic and gallic acids) yerba mate is able to restore cellular balance and counteract the harmful effect of free radicals, which accelerate the aging process and the development of chronic diseases.
However, the mere presence of polyphenols in food or drinks does not guarantee that they can be fully assimilated by the body. So what’s the secret behind yerba mate’s great antioxidant power? According to several studies over the years, this can be due to the way we drink mate: by adding hot water (its traditional preparation) all the antioxidants are extracted efficiently. In other words, although there are other ways to drink mate like cold brew (called “tereré”) and boiled mate (in tea bags), the one that can contains up to 90% more antioxidants than the famous green tea is the traditional hot mate tea, where the largest amount of yerba mate is used. Learn how to prepare traditional mate tea here.
The antioxidant power of yerba mate can also be enhanced during the manufacturing process, especially in the ‘aging’ stage where it remains carefully stored between 6 and 15 months to achieve maturity and its distinctive flavor, color and aroma. Hence the importance of choosing high quality yerba mate with a reliable production process (Read more on how to recognize high-quality yerba mate). Another factor that greatly affects the antioxidant properties of Yerba Mate is the addition of natural herbs such as mint, pennyroyal, peppermint and lemon balm, which add their healing properties to those of the Yerba Mate, increasing the antioxidant effect.
Antioxidants improve the body’s natural defenses and prevent cell deterioration, often accelerated by the stress of everyday life and the excess of free radicals. This is why yerba mate increases the self-protective and preventive capacity of those who drink it.
Many studies have shown that yerba mate, if consumed daily, improves cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol levels between 15% and 18%, which can prevent diseases such as arteriosclerosis. It also has a slight hypotensive and vasodilating effect that may be beneficial for people with high blood pressure. This is because yerba mate boosts the activity of cardio-protective enzymes called saponins, which contribute to the body’s ability to lower LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad cholesterol”) much faster than usual. In turn, saponins increase HDL cholesterol, known as “good cholesterol”, preventing cardiovascular diseases.
The body needs cholesterol to form healthy cells. But when too much cholesterol circulates in the blood, this becomes oxidized and builds up into fatty deposits that clog the arteries, increasing the risk of certain diseases such as arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular conditions. The antioxidant power of polyphenols as well as the action of vitamin C, magnesium and manganese contained in yerba mate, reduce cholesterol oxidation and prevent its accumulation in the arteries, acting as a hypotensive vasodilator agent and contributing to cardiovascular health. Read more about the nutritional properties of yerba mate.
Therefore, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise; including yerba mate in your daily life is an excellent natural way to lower your levels of bad cholesterol.
Drinking mate tea improves digestion by stimulating bowel movement as well as the flow of bile and digestive juices. Yerba mate is an excellent ally to relieve constipation, as long as you also drink 2 liters of water per day. Besides providing a good fluid intake, which also helps the digestive system; the effect of yerba mate on intestinal activity is a proven fact. It works by stimulating contractions and movements in the gastrointestinal system (that is why sometimes yerba mate has a slight laxative effect).
This benefit is enhanced when we add digestive herbs to our mate tea, the most commonly used are dandelion (digestive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and diuretic), sage (digestive, antibiotic, astringent, antioxidant and relaxing), rosemary (digestive, purifying, stimulating), pennyroyal (digestive, aphrodisiac and calming during menstrual discomfort), and mint (digestive, analgesic, anti-inflammatory). So don’t hesitate to create your own yerba mate infusion adding some of these herbs.
It is also good to combine your mates with high-fiber foods. Among the best snacks to eat with your mate tea and improve digestion are fresh fruits such as apples, pineapple, oranges (you can even add a few slices to the infusion); high-fiber bars and nuts. Thanks to the energy boost, yerba mate also allows you to follow healthy habits that improve the digestive system, such as exercising and practicing sports.
Thanks to its caffeine content (sometimes referred to as “mateína”), yerba mate increases energy and focus, favoring a better performance in daily activities that require concentration and alertness, such as study, work or physical activities. Although the effect is similar to that of coffee; and even though both have relatively the same amount of caffeine, the stimulating process is different. Sometimes the effect of coffee can be too strong; while yerba mate “awakens” people in a gradual and pleasant way. This may be because the caffeine in yerba mate is diluted in a larger amount of water, which is later drunk sip by sip. Read more about the undisputed advantages of mate over coffee.
Mate is also noticeably healthier than commercial energy drinks and hypertonic drinks, since they have a high concentration of substances such as caffeine (sometimes they have so much caffeine that they can cause insomnia and nervousness) sugar (up to 10%), colorants, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Yerba mate, on the other hand, is a natural drink and its energizing effect comes from nature itself, not from an artificial process. Mate also brings countless benefits to the body, while these commercial drinks, even if they are not toxic, do not add a lot of value either. Read more about the comparison between yerba mate and commercial energy drinks.
Mate, as a very special energy source, stimulates neurons and promotes brain activity, conscious awareness, memory and reasoning. It also contains other xanthines, theobromine and theophylline, whose relaxing effects help regulate all body systems. So it seems that yerba mate’s restorative effect on mind and body is superior to other drinks containing caffeine; as it has a double effect that is both stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Drinking mate tea throughout the day can be energizing and stimulating but also calming. And although yerba mate provides physical energy and lifts your spirits; it does not affect the quality of your sleep and rest.
Yerba mate also has a diuretic and slightly laxative effect, as it reduces fluid retention and improves renal function. This helps the body to eliminate toxins and purify itself naturally. This diuretic effect is completely natural. Yerba mate inhibits the antidiuretic hormone, also known as arginine vasopressin (AVP) or argipressin; promoting urinary elimination. However, this should be balanced with a healthy consumption of 2 liters of water per day to keep the body hydrated.
Yerba mate also stimulates bowel movement, helping the body in its natural process of eliminating waste and toxins. This is why it is recommended for people suffering from constipation. This benefit can be enhanced by adding digestive herbs to your mate tea and eating high-fiber foods.
However, experts agree that yerba mate in no way replaces the minimum water intake recommended every day: 2 liters. So along with your mate kit, remember to always have a glass of water at hand to make the most of yerba mate.
Yerba mate is a valuable source of benefits that favor the practice of sports; starting with its dose of caffeine that stimulates the nervous system and is ideal before any physical or intellectual activity. This drink is recommended for athletes as an alternative to commercial energy drinks.
Before training, mate works as a stimulant beverage, more natural than energy drinks and other sports supplements. During training, mate helps to metabolize carbohydrates more effectively and prevents the accumulation of lactic acid in the body; which translates to more and better energy, increased physical endurance, less burnout and the ability to train for a longer time. But in addition to all that, the rate of recovery after exercise increases considerably with yerba mate, according to a study by the British Journal of Nutrition. Mate improves motor skills and has anti-inflammatory effects after training, especially in high-impact activities. Read more about the benefits of yerba mate before, during and after training.
In fact, some say yerba mate is the secret to the success of some acclaimed soccer players from the national teams of Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, including stars such as Leo Messi and Luis Suarez who drink mate tea regularly. Yerba mate gives them energy and improves their overall physical condition, resulting in a better performance on the field. Read more about how soccer players take advantage of yerba mate.
But the benefits of yerba mate have transcended the borders of South America and today, more and more international athletes are drinking mate; such is the case of French scorer Antoine Griezmann, who confesses to drink mate tea every morning; or the Chinese striker Wu Lei, who caused a stir in Chinese Media by posting a photo of him sharing drinking yerba mate with his teammate “El Mono” Vargas; or even Alice Beretta, a professional Hockey player for the Italian national team.
In addition to having zero fat and almost no sodium, yerba mate is very low in calories, so it can be easily included in any diet and in the routine of anyone who is trying to control their weight or to eat healthy. Here you can read more about yerba mate and weight loss.
Being a diuretic and purifying infusion, mate tea prevents weight gain as a result of fluid retention, while promoting the elimination of toxins. It also boosts your metabolism and helps you burn more calories, especially when you undertake physical activities (for which, incidentally, yerba mate provides the energy you need). Read more here about how mate helps in the practice of exercise and sports. Although yerba mate should not be a substitute for meals; it is true that drinking mate produces satiety and decreases appetite in general; which can contribute to weight loss. And, by having a positive effect on mood, it can also prevent what is known as “emotional appetite” or hunger caused by stress.
But what makes yerba mate the perfect complement to a healthy lifestyle are its multiple nutritional properties; which, more than just losing weight, helps maintain a long-lasting state of well-being. Yerba mate’s health benefits are so advantageous, that drinking it regularly is highly recommended for staying in shape physically, mentally and emotionally.
In fact, for those who like to watch their personal appearance in general, yerba mate is an excellent ally in their aesthetic routine. For example, it has excellent properties for skin and hair. There are shampoos, oils, creams, soaps and even bath salts made with yerba mate extract.
Yerba mate also has a positive effect on mental and emotional health and it is considered a sort of natural antidepressant. This is why it has the reputation of being a “good companion” at any time of the day. Drinking mate in the morning, for example, guarantees motivation and energy for the day thanks to its caffeine content. However, this energy provided by yerba mate is gentle to the mind and the body, without unpleasant side effects. And because we drink mate tea slowly, this energy is assimilated gradually by the body. Unlike other drinks like coffee, tea or commercial energy drinks; drinking mate tea has very little influence on your sleep cycle, so it usually does not produce insomnia. Read more about the advantages of mate over coffee.
In addition, mate is traditionally shared with family, friends and colleagues in drinking rounds called “mateadas”, especially in Argentina. The perfect ritual to create nice memories with your loved ones, while encouraging a healthy social life.
Although it sounds like mate is a miracle drink; the truth is that all these properties have been scientifically proven and by simply including yerba mate in your daily routine, you can have the power of the jungle to yourself. However, there are more effective ways to harness that power.