Yerba Mate and Health

Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate

In many parts of South America a beverage called yerba mate is as popular as coffee is in North America, if not more so. Yerba mate is most often prepared in a gourd called a mate and consumed through a filtered metal straw called a bombilla. Lately, yerba mate has begun making inroads in other parts of the world and is now found in tea bags and bottled beverages.

As is so often the case with real tea, there are marketers who will sometimes exaggerate the health benefits of yerba mate. One notion that’s often been cited is that yerba mate contains no caffeine but rather a substance called mateine. The truth is, apparently, that mateine is just another name for caffeine.

There is evidence, however, that yerba mate may offer some health benefits. A 2007 article in Consumer Reports suggested that the evidence was unclear regarding mate’s health benefits but also mentioned studies that suggest that it may fight cancer cells, lower LDL cholesterol and have other cardiovascular benefits. Also present in yerba mate, beneficial compounds like polyphenols (which also appear in tea) and saponins.

A comprehensive review by researchers at the University of Illinois, the results of which appeared in the Journal of Food Science, discovered that yerba mate might have “possible effects in the area of weight loss and management and current research has provided some supportive evidence.” The study also suggested that yerba mate possessed “a much higher antioxidant capacity than green tea.”

Earlier the same year researchers at the University of Illinois also reported results which indicated that yerba mate was a good source of polyphenols. It compared favorably to green tea in this respect.

Check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more on the wide world of tea!

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