Coffee has some tremendous health benefits. It’s loaded with antioxidants that fight cancer-causing free radicals, is rich in riboflavin, and may actually reduce your chances of getting diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
For many though, it just packs too powerful a punch, causing jitters, anxiety, and an upset stomach.
If coffee has always been a bit too much moxie for your mornings, take a more balanced approach to your morning energy boost with a warm cup (gourd?) of yerba mate instead.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a tree grown in South America, indigenous to the rainforests there, with thick glossy leaves. In many parts of the world, like Uruguay and Spain, yerba mate is actually consumed more often than coffee, and is a staple of many morning social gatherings.
The leaves of this plant are being touted as a nutrient-rich alternative to coffee that offers sustained energy, along with numerous other health benefits.
So what are perks of sipping this instead of your usual morning Joe?
One of the many perks of sipping yerba mate is the mellow, gentle energy boost it provides. Yerba mate contains caffeine, as well as theobromine (the “happy” chemical found in chocolate).
Whereas caffeine is known to create an intense rush of energy on its own that leaves many people anxious and with the jitters, thanks to the balance of caffeine and theobromine in yerba mate, your energy is sustained longer, without the abrupt mid-afternoon crash.
Coffee is notorious for causing digestive upset for many devout drinkers, resulting in emergency trips to the bathroom — hardly the start to a productive day.
Yerba mate actually has the exact opposite effect, and is frequently used as a remedy for digestive upset, thanks to it natural tendency to stimulate the production of bile and digestive enzymes in the stomach.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Aside from giving you the boost of energy you need to dominate your morning run, yerba mate’s digestive benefits also work to slow digestion, making you feel full longer.
Yerba mate also makes your body’s metabolism work more efficiently, digesting and using carbs for energy instead of storing them as fat, and encouraging your body to burn fat cells for sustained energy. In short, it’s the way yerba mate works both chemically and nutritionally that often stimulates weight loss in drinkers.
Free radicals are damaged atoms that can actually cause changes in your DNA, leading to cancer and immune issues in the body. It’s believed that the natural antioxidants found in foods can actually help to prevent free radical damage to your body’s cells, thereby reducing your chances of getting cancer and strengthening your body’s immune system.
Yerba mate has 90% more antioxidants than green tea, and can also fight signs of aging caused by free radical damage.
Coffee can actually cause high blood pressure in some people. Ironically, yerba mate does the opposite, and can prevent blood clots, hardening arteries, and even headaches.
Risks of Drinking Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is still relatively new to North America, so the long-term effects are still being studied. While it’s clear that the caffeine content poses little cause for concern, some studies are beginning to suggest a link between certain types of cancers — including bladder and esophageal cancers — and the consumption of hot yerba mate.
However, as the data comes in, it’s beginning to look like the correlation may actually be due to mate being brewed at too hot a temperature, as is the case with similar correlations between oral cancers and the consumption of hot beverages.
Scientists are beginning to point to high levels of a specific type of carcinogen in several varieties of yerba mate, which could be the culprit. For this reason, it’s typically recommended that you always consult a physician before you start drinking yerba mate, and that you drink no more than a cup a day.
How to Brew Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is made by soaking the leaves and stems of the plant in cool water, and then adding hot water just before drinking it. Check out this video to get a sense of how it works.
Please note, it is not recommended to steep yerba mate in hot or boiling water.
You can buy yerba tea leaves in several varieties, many of which are available online at Fusion Teas.
Mate can be made in a conventional tea strainer or French press, but the traditional method of drinking it actually involves making it and drinking it directly from a gourd. You can get some really beautiful gourds from Guayaki Yerba Mate.
You can also cold brew mate by leaving the leaves in a jar of filtered water overnight in your fridge, thereby eliminating the concerns about carcinogens being released by brewing with hot water.
Or if you prefer, you can simply buy Guayakí Yerba Mate in a convenient can, available online or at your local eco-oriented grocer.
Is Yerba Mate Healthy?
Healthy is always subjective — there is always a too-much-of-a bad-thing warning lurking around the latest health craze, and yerba mate is no exception. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t be drinking a pot of coffee a day any more than you should be drinking four gourds of yerba mate a day.
However, in moderation yerba mate has tremendous health benefits, is loaded with nutrients and beneficial amino acids, and can deliver jitter-free, sustained energy that doesn’t wreak havoc on your digestive system.
Have you tried Yerba mate? Will you? Show us your cup at @AvocadoMattress or #Avocadomattress.
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