By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Are you a coffee achiever? Or do you prefer the more subtle effects found from sipping a cup of high-quality tea?
In my last couple of articles here on Confluence I discussed the why’s of my breakup with my longtime companion, coffee, and my new love affair with matcha tea.
Coffee has its own mystique and thousands of people turn to it daily to wake up in the morning and for its ability to bump up energy levels throughout the day. But for some of us the costs are too great. When the coffee wears off we can feel more tired than ever, our digestion can be impacted, we can feel jittery and anxious, and our blood sugar balance can go haywire.
But is that all caused by the caffeine in the coffee?
I don’t think so… and that’s good news.
Because there’s another certain elegance and mystique involved in selecting the perfect tea, perhaps brewing it in a lovely teapot, and sipping it from your favorite cup.
Next week I’ll break down the different forms of the Tea plant – black, green and white.
Today I want to talk about a specific tea that will bring you even more benefits than flavor and a more subtle caffeine boost. It is the tea made from the herb known as Yerba Mate (llex paraguriensis). In Paraguay and Argentinian this tea is considered a staple.
You’ve likely seen it on the shelves of your favorite natural foods store, either in tea form or as a natural energy drink in the cold cases. This South American herb contains a compound called mateine, which is basically identical to caffeine.
However, like matcha, yerba mate (often just called mate, which is pronounced matAY) also contains a slew of other constituents that can help you lose weight, balance your blood sugar, boost your immune system, and much more. In addition to giving you a nice, natural energy boost!
I’ve enjoyed drinking mate for years, but when I was a coffee drinker I didn’t find that it affected my energy levels all that much. But now that I’ve turned to teas to get my daily caffeine boost, I’m loving the gentle yet steady lift I get from a cup of yerba mate.
And, now that I know all the other beneficial things it can do for me, I’m turning to yerba mate more and more often.
This plant is extremely popular in Argentina, Paraguay and some other South American countries. There, people might sip on it all day long, using a gourd and a metal straw with strainer holes (called a bombilla).
They place the dried mate leaves in the gourd and then pour the hot water over. It’s common to see folks walking down the street with their gourd and their flask of hot water.
For some yerba mate can be an acquired taste, it has a very distinctive, slightly smokey and bitter yet sweet flavor that I find to be tasty. You might want to experiment with different brands to find your favorite. You can add a little sugar or honey, or if you’re trying to stay away from sugar, use stevia or monk fruit.
Nine Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate
Natural Steady Energy
Yerba mate contains less caffeine than coffee (about 85 mg compared to 110-150 per cup), but that’s more than a cup of black tea. So, it reduces fatigue and gives you that boost of energy, but without the jitters or the crash that some of us experience with coffee.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Several studies have shown that yerba mate reduces fasting glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes. It might also reduce triglycerides for those with prediabetes, especially when combined with other nutritional adjustments.
Can Assist in Natural Weight Loss
Studies have shown yerba mate to be beneficial in reducing obesity, and many people find it helpful when on a weight loss plan. It can dampen your appetite, increase your feeling of satiety or fullness, increase metabolism, and decrease your total number of fat cells as well as reducing how much fat they hold.
It provides an energetic boost without with barely any calories. Some research suggests that it can increase the amount of stored fat that gets burned for energy.
High in Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
This plant contains several beneficial nutrients including polyphenols, a group of antioxidants that can lower your risk for several diseases. Additionally, it packs high concentrations of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B’s, C, E, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur and zinc.
It also contains saponins, bitter compounds that have certain anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties. Plus, it may contain seven out the nine essential amino acids.
Improves Mental Focus
In addition to the natural energy boost, I’ve personally experienced the way mate makes my brain perk up. Apparently, caffeine can affect specific signaling molecules in your brain and this is why it’s so beneficial for your mental acuity.
The tea’s active ingredients improve focus, memory and concentration. Some studies have shown that people who consume a single dose of yerba mate experience improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time.
Plus, the antioxidants present in this plan prevent plaque deposits in the brain, and can potentially counter the effects of – or even help to prevent – dementia.
The high vitamin C levels in this tea give your immune system a natural boost, by increasing white blood cells – but that’s only the beginning. The saponins and antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress in the body and this is a first line of defense for your immune system.
Additionally, it has been shown that it has antimicrobial properties that may prevent health risks caused by E. coli bacteria. It’s got flavonoids that can decrease inflammation and this makes yerba mate a potentially great helper in lowering your risk of chronic disease.
Protects Against Heart Disease
I found many articles and study references about Yerba Mate’s potential to prevent heart disease. Again it’s the antioxidants and polyphenols, as well as something called caffeoyl derivatives that give it this power.
Although there is currently some debate on cholesterol’s role in heart disease, studies are showing that yerba mate seems to reduce cholesterol levels. Can’t hurt, right? In one study, participants who drank 11 ounces of yerba mate each day lowered their ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels by 8.6 to 13.1%.
This plant can also assist with the dilating of your blood vessels, meaning it increases your body’s healthy circulation which will also lower your risk of heart disease.
Helps Healthy Digestion
There are some unique compounds in mate, like xanthines, which promote smooth muscle relaxation. This can really help with your digestion by easing constipation, and reducing symptoms like bloating and cramping.
The tea can also increase your production of bile and other gastric acids. In addition to keeping your colon clean so you can experience effective and efficient waste elimination, it will help to reduce the stomach bacteria that often cause bad breath.
Can Enhance Physical Performance
The caffeine in yerba mate can help with your sports performance because it is known to improve muscle contractions and reduce physical fatigue.
In one study people who took a capsule containing one gram of ground yerba mate right before exercising burned 24% more fat during the moderate-intensity workout. If your body is relying more heavily on fat for fuel during exercise that will spare your carb reserves for critical high-intensity moments such as sprints, or uphill cycling.
What to Watch For When Purchasing Yerba Mate
This herb is readily available—in many forms— in all natural foods stores and online. The higher the quality you choose the better taste and results you will experience.
It’s a relatively inexpensive tea, so choose organic whichever company you are buying from. You can buy it in packaged tea bags (sometimes mixed with other herbs for flavor), or in as a bulk tea that you can brew up traditional style in a gourd, or you can simply use a tea ball or tea strainer.
If you want to try out the pre-made energy drinks, watch out for added sugar. Some of them are really loaded. Choose one with fewer grams of sugar or you’ll lose out on all that nice blood sugar balancing, and all that sugar could possibly counteract some of the other benefits.
Try out some yerba mate and see what you think!
Sarah Grace Powers is a Holistic Life Coach and the creator of The Ageless Body Blueprint. She works with women over 40 who want to embrace ageless living and who are ready to release the weight—physical or emotional— that holds them back from achieving their dreams and making their impact in the world. She is a certified herbalist and certified life coach with decades of experience. Download her free report: Five Surprising Mistakes That Sabotage Your Weight Loss Efforts When You’re Over 45.
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