Is Yerba Mate Better Than Coffee?
Have you stumbled upon Yerba Mate as you search for coffee alternatives and are wondering is yerba mate better than coffee?
If you’re a coffee lover, why would you want to know about a tea? Perhaps you’re trying to reduce your caffeine intake. Or maybe you’re looking for a stimulant beverage with additional health benefits. Or you like to try new things.
Yerba mate is the answer! It has less caffeine than coffee and tons of health benefits.
What Is Yerba Mate Tea?
Yerba mate is a traditional drink from South America, most commonly in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil.
You can drink it hot or cold, though it’s traditionally drunk hot.
The taste is often described as earthy, herbaceous, and bittersweet.
I often taste a little hint of chocolate! Nowadays, you can often find it as part of a tea blend.
You can buy it just about anywhere online. Many tea retailers have delicious offerings. Matte Latte from the Republic of Tea is one of my favorites.
This rich herbal infusion (technically it is not a tea because there are no tea leaves) is made using the twigs and leaves of the mate (Ilex paraguariensis – a species of holly) plant.
The leaves are usually roasted or dried over a fire, and then steeped in hot (not boiling!) water. If the water is incredibly hot, the tea will be bitter, and nobody wants that!
The usual way to drink it is in a gourd (mate) with a metal straw (bombilla) that has a filter at the end. This filter keeps you from drinking the leaves. Yuck!
More modern cups are made of glass or plastic. I think I’ve seen ceramic ones, too.
Traditionally, yerba mate is steeped in one, shared gourd. In a ceremony, the “cebador” (preparer), makes a gourd of mate, which he drinks to make sure it’s okay.
He then makes it again to pass from guest to guest, a full cup being made between each pass.
I like the social aspect of the tradition. While waiting for their turn, friends can enjoy each other’s company or discuss the news of the day.
What are the Health Benefits of Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate contains caffeine (along with other chemicals), which stimulates the brain, heart, and other parts of the body. This stimulation comes without the jitters that sometimes come with coffee. Mate may:
- Lower blood sugar
- Lower total cholesterol, especially “bad” cholesterol
- Reduce fat and aid weight loss (Yahoo!)
- Reduce bone loss rate in postmenopausal women.
Some studies also show that it can:
- Kill colon cancer cells and reduce associated inflammation
- Stimulate the immune system through saponins. Saponins are what positively affect blood cholesterol levels, cancer, and bone health.
- Yerba mate contains 196 active compounds, including but not limited to:
- Eight different vitamins (like A and B5).
- Essential minerals: calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
- Compounds like carotene, fatty acids, flavonols, chlorophyll, inositol, polyphenols, tannins, trace minerals, antioxidants, and at least 15 different amino acids.
All of which is to say it’s packed with nutrients!
What are the Side Effects of Yerba Mate Tea?
While this tea has many health benefits, there are side effects.
Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. (Don’t forget that snake venom is also “natural.”)
Drinking too much yerba mate can result in caffeine overdose (same as coffee or other caffeinated teas).
Symptoms can include trouble sleeping, upset stomach, nausea, nervousness, and increased ringing in the ears. Other symptoms are headaches, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. If you are sensitive to caffeine, symptoms can be worse.
Is it Safe to Drink Yerba Mate Tea Every Day?
As with anything, moderation is the way to go.
Bringing the water to a simmer rather than a boil should get rid of this risk. Besides that, it won’t be bitter if you don’t use boiling water. Remember that you can drink it cold, too!
If you drink mate too much and you’re a smoker, yerba mate can skyrocket your risk of cancer.
This may be due to the existence of (PAHs), a known carcinogen. As these also exist in grilled meat, the risk is really about over-exposure.
Drink in moderation, people!
Children and pregnant/breastfeeding women should not drink mate. If you have high blood pressure, blood-clotting problems, diabetes, anxiety, alcoholism, or any other chronic health issues, you’ll want to check with your doctor before drinking it.
Final Thoughts on Yerba Mate
When done in moderation and not-too-hot temperatures, this earthy, rich drink has a lot to offer! There are so many health benefits that can outweigh the risks.
Drink up and enjoy!
This post was written by Monica Whaley
Monica is a multiple-degreed writer who’s been personally and professionally blogging since 2008. She provides flavorful article/blog writing and ghostwriting services, along with SEO and social media management. When not writing, she enjoys singing, playing with pens, and learning to watercolor.
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