Yerba mate… yes, we said yerba mate, not yeah mate (correctly pronounced yer-bah mah-tay) is a tea that is growing in popularity. Touted as the green tea of South America, yerba mate comes with a multitude of health benefits, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and contains similar levels of caffeine as that found in green tea.
Yerba is a tea derived from the dried leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant and originates from the subtropics of South America. It’s mostly found in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and was first consumed by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay and Argentina who have been brewing this for centuries and claim it can do everything from boosting energy levels and intelligence to providing all the nutrients needed for life.
Today, yerba mate is still only grown in South America and is consumed as a tea. Typically, it’s an infusion prepared with hot or cold water, although traditionally the water shouldn’t be boiling and no higher than 70 to 80 degrees. Yerba mate is most commonly consumed as a loose-leaf tea, although you can sometimes find it in energy drinks due to its caffeine content and in supplement form.
But what does the science say? Google yerba mate and you’ll see it pitched as a metabolism boosting weight loss tea, so I took the time to review some of the latest research and separate the facts from good ole marketing.
Weight Loss– During a 12-week intervention obese adults consumed yerba mate and the study highlights that calorie intake and abdominal fat wasn’t reduced, although body composition and measurements significantly reduced with an overall decrease in fat mass. 1 Further animal studies have been undertaken, also highlighting its weight loss benefits and use as a potential weight loss tool through increased metabolism. 2
Reduced Cholesterol– Research shows that daily consumption of yerba mate can reduce total cholesterol by up to 10%. 3
Reduced Fasting Glucose– A 60-day pilot study shows that consumption of yerba mate 3 times per day significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels. 4 Menopause – With the increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in postmenopausal women, yerba mate’s cholesterol and glucose lowering properties are beneficial for females experiencing menopause. 5
Fungal Diseases– A study tested 8 different brands of yerba mate showed fungal contamination in all but one of the batches tested. This increases the potential risk of fungal diseases and is something for anyone with fungal diseases to consider before consuming.6
Overall yerba mate has proven health benefits, in particular, those associated with weight loss, reduced cholesterol and blood glucose levels. It has undergone multiple scientific studies in both humans and animals with very little in the way of side effects.
Amy Savage, Nutritionist BHSc (Nut Med)