Yerba Mate, a plant, and the beverage derived from it, has been steadily rising in popularity over the past few years in many parts of the world. In other parts, namely South America, it has been used daily for hundreds of years as a refreshing and healthy drink due to its nutritional value.
Whether it was a jealously kept secret or just simply overlooked by the rest of the world, it’s time to see what yerba mate has to offer in terms of health benefits.
Yerba Mate, a species of the holly plant, begins its life as a small shrub and develops into a tree that can crow up to 15 meters. Its leaves are evergreen and it is widely cultivated in some parts of South America: Brazil (the largest cultivator), Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Incidentally, these are the countries where the use of the plant yerba mate, and the beverage derived from it, is widespread. People of all ages can be seen sipping this beverage, which is commonly known as mate, no matter the time of day or what they might be doing.
A gourd filled with this drink is traditionally used in its consumption, along with a metal straw (bombilla). Although this is not a lost practice as many people still drink it this way, a lot more people use thermal flasks so they can carry their favorite beverage around with them. It is prepared by filling a container about three quarters full with the dried leaves and twigs of the plant and pouring hot water in the container. It is important to repeat; hot and not boiling water (at a temperature of about 75-80°C). However, the preparation can be more simple thanks to the widespread popularity of this plant, as yerba mate tea-bags are available for purchase almost everywhere. After the preparation feel free to add a bit of sugar or honey to ease the slightly bitter taste of this exotic herbal tea.
What has astounded scientists while studying this plant is the enormously beneficial impact it can have on your health as it boasts over 50 different chemical compounds than, for example, green tea or any other herbal tea has. Chemicals which have an active role in various metabolic processes and can influence your energy and focus levels are abundant. They can be put to good use with a moderate and regular consumption of this herbal tea. So, take a moment and check out what health benefits yerba mate has to offer.
1. High concentration of antioxidants
Over the past few decades, the importance of antioxidants and its use in disease prevention has been greatly discussed. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances which have the ability to prevent certain types of cell damage. It can be found in many food sources like fruits and vegetables and can be purchased as dietary supplements. Many herbs used to make herbal tea also have a high concentration of antioxidants.
So far, green tea was thought to have the highest concentration because of which it’s daily consumption is recommended. However, yerba mate dwarfs most herbal antioxidant sources as it contains 90% more antioxidants than green tea. As rich in antioxidants as it is, drinking yerba mate tea can potentially prevent some types of neurological disorders and some types of cancer. We are all familiar with the potential effects antioxidants can have on life expectancy and the reduction of the aging process. After all the benefits these molecules can have, the last two seem like a cherry on top.
2. High levels of vitamins and minerals
We are all aware that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle regular intake of vitamins and minerals is necessary. Which is excellent as yerba mate contains high levels of both. The vitamins this plant contains (A, C, B1, B2, Niacin, B5) are much needed in order for us to maintain healthy body functions. Vitamin A is key for good vision, maintaining a strong immune system and the improvement of cell growth. Vitamin C is quite familiar to all of us. As human beings are not capable of producing its own vitamin C we have to obtain it through diet. This vitamin is very important for our immune system as it is found mainly in our immune cells and quickly consumed during infections. The B complex vitamin group allow our bodies to stay energized throughout the day.
The main role of these vitamins is the production and transfer of energy derived from carbohydrates. However, they can also influence the quality of ones skin and hair which is why they are used in many hair loss treatments. As for the minerals (Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc), they all belong to the macro-mineral group which aids in maintaining normal body functions; from growth, nerve impulse transmission, oxygen transportation and normal muscle functions. The number of chemical compounds which are beneficial for health in yerba mate is simply amazing; 196 active compounds as opposed to 144 found in green tea.
3. Prevents heart conditions
There are millions of people around the world who suffer from various heart conditions. As a healthy diet is often linked to these conditions, yerba mate can aid in preventing them. The main reason behind this statement is the fact that high levels of antioxidants, which we have discussed, and amino acids can help prevent various heart conditions. Most amino acids are already present in human beings, but some we can only obtain through diet. Antioxidants and amino acids can move fat and cholesterol through your bloodstream. This prevents fat and cholesterol from accumulating on artery walls. This accumulation can lead to serious heart conditions. Yerba mate can also help prevent the hardening of arteries and blood clots, which are the main cause of strokes and heart attack, from appearing.
4. Physical and mental prowess
Keeping a trained body and sharp mind is important to most people in our day and age. Yerba mate can assist you with this as well. The previously mentioned antioxidants and B complex vitamins are the main factors which will help you keep your body strong and healthy. How? As we have already mentioned, B complex vitamins help you utilize carbohydrates more efficiently so you can stay energized for longer periods of time. Antioxidants will be of use once again, as their use in reducing oxidative stress is beneficial in this case. The inflammatory response which the body has after strenuous exercises can be reduced thanks to antioxidants.
When it comes to keeping mental focus at a high level, yerba mate won’t sell you short. It contains levels of caffeine (85 mg caffeine per 236 ml) which are higher than in most herbal tea but lower than in coffee and energy drinks. You might think that it won’t be as effective as coffee or energy drinks, but you are wrong. Coffee is known to give a sudden burst of focus followed by a crash, but this isn’t the case with yerba mate. Thanks to the number of compounds found in yerba mate (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids) you will feel a more balanced boost of focus without the sudden crash of focus. Perfect for people who regularly exercise and want to keep their performance at work at the highest level possible.
5. Weight control
Yerba mate contains polyphenols which play a role in fat metabolism by inhibiting enzymes like pancreatic lipase and lipoprotein lipase. These enzymes have the ability to transport and break down fat in your body which gives yerba mate its weight losing properties. It can also prolong the feeling of satiety by slowing down gastric emptying. With a balanced diet, regular exercise and regular consumption of yerba mate you can achieve your target weight in no time. However, it’s important to note, as it is with every dietary supplement, to first consult your doctor if you plan to include yerba mate in your weight losing program and to consume it in moderation.
If you want an exotic alternative to the regular herbal tea you usually enjoy and want to try something new, then yerba mate is perfect for you. Whether you want to drink it in the traditional way or just by using tea bags, feel free to purchase.
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