The Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea
This 'Magic' Tea Can Burn Fat and Help Prevent Cancer
I first stumbled upon the magic of Yerba maté tea on a trip to Uruguay...
While wandering the capital of Montevideo, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the coastline. Huge albatross stretched their wings on the white sand beach, which was lined with green palms and peach-colored ceibo flowers. At one point, I even spotted a pod of whales breaching in the distance...
But what really stood out was the mysterious beverage that practically everyone seemed to be drinking...
During each of my encounters with the locals, I couldn't help but notice the strange-looking bulbs they
were slurping at with a metal straw. Everywhere I went, folks were scurrying happily about, drinking from this:
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I finally asked a young woman, "What in the world is everyone drinking?"
“It's maté, of course!” she exclaimed. “It's only the best drink in the entire world. You must try it!”
Right then and there, she produced another gourd from her purse, sprinkled in some green twigs and tea leaves from a bag, and offered it to me. I took it graciously as she popped the top on her portable thermos and poured steaming hot water over the tea.
“This is a bombilla,” she explained proudly, offering me a silver straw with slotted holes. “Just put it in the gourd and você bebe!”
I thanked her and excitedly took my first sip of Yerba maté...
At first I didn't know what to think; maté has a very earthy, almost bitter flavor — not unlike green tea. I didn't take to it immediately, but it was an interesting new experience for me — and the young lady was nothing if not exotically attractive — so we sat drinking on a park bench in the center of town. After I finished it, I thanked her, returned the gourd, and was on my merry way.
When I started walking again, it hit me: Man, I feel AWESOME!
But what was it about Yerba maté that made me feel so damn good? There had to be a catch...
Maté gives you a nice, focused energy boost, like a strong cup of coffee — but with none of the caffeine-jitters you typically experience with a few cups of joe. And better yet, there is no crash after you're done drinking... and you can actually fall asleep whenever you like.
That's because maté contains xanthines, a class of chemical compounds that also includes the mild stimulants in many teas and chocolates.
I drank maté for the rest of my trip, and I even picked up a gourd and bombilla to take home with me.
When I returned home, I decided to get the inside scoop about why exactly maté made me feel so good and if it had any other benefits.
Boy, does it ever...
Here are a few of the health benefits to drinking yerba maté tea.
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Yerba maté tea contains very high levels of polyphenol antioxidants. According to the Journal of Food Science, maté "contains 92 mg of the antioxidant chlorogenic acid per gram of dry leaves, and no catechins, giving it a significantly different antioxidant profile to other teas."
Some studies have shown maté to have 90% more antioxidants than green tea — which is an antioxidant powerhouse.
It also contains a bevy of vitamins and minerals. Among the vitamins it contains are vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, and B Complex. It also contains an abundance of minerals like calcium, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc — each of which offers its own health benefits.
Maté is so packed with nutrients, in fact, that the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society claimed it contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”
Not too shabby for a humble tea. But the benefits don't stop there...
Appetite and Weight Loss
Maté also has the added benefit of appetite control.
Not only does maté suppress your urge to snack, but it can even speed up metabolism! Maté contains alkaloids like theophylline and theobromine, which makes it a great diuretic to help shed water from your body's cells.
Yerba maté is also thermogenic, which increases calorie burn. Plus, the natural energy it gives you makes it a great beverage to get your exercise rocking at full speed...
'Good' for Cholesterol, Bad for Cancer
A study by University of Illinois scientist Elvira de Mejia found that maté drinkers experienced both an increase in “good” cholesterol HDL (High-density lipoprotein) and a lowered risk of colon cancer.
Talk about a one-two punch...
The study found that "consuming 0.5 liters of yerba maté tea was found to increase activity levels of the enzyme that produces HDL cholesterol, and to lower levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Study participants who drank maté tea had a 10% increase in the level of cardioprotective enzyme PON1, a precursor to HDL, compared to others drinking milk or coffee."
Perhaps more notable was the findings regarding colon cancer. The study found some compounds in maté may actually "disrupt" colon cancer cells in a laboratory setting.
From Science Daily:
In the in-vitro study, de Mejia and former graduate student Sirima Puangpraphant isolated, purified, and then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from maté tea. As the scientists increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died as a result of apoptosis.
"Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged," she said. "The caffeine derivatives in maté tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation,” de Mejia noted.
Now, to be totally truthful, I'd still drink Yerba maté even if it had none of these health benefits. It makes you feel like a million bucks. It is a great substitute for coffee, especially when 3 o'clock rolls around and you need that afternoon boost.
But the tremendous health benefits make drinking Yerba maté a no brainier. And if you have trouble with the somewhat bitter taste, a splash of lemon and a bit of honey go a long way to making it a more palatable drink.
I'm steeping a cup of Yerba maté right now. What are you waiting for?
Yours in health,
Contributing Editor, Clear Health Now