Ingredient Spotlight: Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is a traditional South American drink that’s gaining worldwide popularity. It’s said to have the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the joy of chocolate.
And while yerba mate is known for numerous health benefits, we’ll narrow our focus to four of our favorites.
Yerba mate contains several beneficial plant nutrients, including:
- Xanthines: These compounds act as stimulants. They include caffeine and theobromine, which are also found in tea, coffee, and chocolate.
- Caffeoyl derivatives: These compounds are the main health-promoting antioxidants in the tea.
- Saponins: These bitter compounds have certain anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Polyphenols: This is a large group of antioxidants, linked to a reduced risk of many diseases.
Interestingly, the antioxidant power of yerba mate tea seems to be slightly higher than that of green tea. What’s more, yerba mate may contain seven out of nine essential amino acids, in addition to nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs.
Can Boost Energy and Improve Mental Focus
At 85 mg of caffeine per cup, yerba mate contains less caffeine than coffee but more than a cup of tea. Therefore, just like any other caffeinated food or beverage, it may increase your energy levels and make you feel less tired.
Caffeine can also affect the levels of certain signaling molecules in your brain, making it particularly beneficial for your mental focus.
Several human studies observed improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time in participants who consumed a single dose containing 37.5 – 450 mg of caffeine.
Additionally, those who regularly consume yerba mate often rave that it enhances alertness like coffee — but without the jittery side effects.
Caffeine is also known to improve muscle contractions, reduce fatigue, and improve sports performance by up to 5%.
Since yerba mate contains a moderate amount of caffeine, those drinking it can expect similar physical performance benefits. In fact, in one study, those given one 1-gram capsule of ground yerba mate leaves right before exercise burned 24% more fat during moderate-intensity exercise.
A higher reliance on fat for fuel during exercise spares your carb reserves for critical high-intensity moments, such as cycling up a hill or sprinting towards the finish line. This could translate into better sports performance.
May Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
Animal studies show that yerba mate may reduce appetite and boost metabolism, which can help with weight loss. It seems to decrease the total number of fat cells and reduce the amount of fat they hold.
Human research suggests that it can also increase the amount of stored fat that’s burned for energy.
Furthermore, in a 12-week study in overweight people, those given 3 grams of yerba mate powder per day lost an average of 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg). They also reduced their waist-to-hip ratio by 2%, which indicates lost belly fat.
In comparison, the participants given a placebo gained an average of 6.2 pounds (2.8 kg) and increased their waist-to-hip ratio by 1% over the same 12-week period.