Yerba Mate vs Coffee: Should You Switch?

Yerba Mate in calabash mug with bombilla
Diana L

What started as a popular drink in South America is now spanning the world – it's called Yerba Mate. This cultural drink has now become trendy with athletes and performers. But Yerba Mate is more than a trend, it's a great alternative to drinking coffee.

While both can give you the kick of caffeine you are craving, Yerba Maté provides a healthy bonus! Read on to learn about the health benefits of Yerba Mate.


Benefit 1: Slow-releasing energy boost

The caffeine content in Yerba Mate is less than a cup of coffee. It has about 78 mg of caffeine per 5oz cup, while coffee has 85 mg in a cup. The difference is the compounds and nutrients in a cup of Yerba Mate are slowly absorbed into the body. This avoids the jolt, jitters, and crashes that can be experienced by caffeine in coffee.

Athletes in particular enjoy this slow and steady release of energy. Studies have shown that mate drinkers who consume a cup before activity may burn more fat while exercising. Yerba generates a more energy-efficient bodily process using fat instead of carbs which could help enhance performance and reduce fatigue.


Benefit 2: Nutrient and antioxidant-rich

You probably know that green tea is loaded with antioxidants. Mate takes antioxidants to a new level! Yerba mate is rich in plant nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that support a strong immune system.

With all those nutrients plus the powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, Yerba mate may help you stay healthier when you meet up with the next cold or flu bug.

drinking yerba mate as an alternative to coffee

Benefit 3: Easier on the digestive tract

Drinking yerba mate helps promote good digestion. Coffee can be highly acidic which may cause or upset ulcers, IBS, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, acid reflux, and heartburn. In contrast, Yerba Mate can help fight off parasites and keep your tract clean, naturally. Mate may also help prevent UTIs and kidney stones. Some studies also show that the anti-inflammatory compounds in mate may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.


Benefit 4: Bone density booster

Caffeine has been potentially linked to bone density loss and risk of fracture. Studies show yerba mate was associated with a positive effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. 


Benefit 5: Healthy heart

Yerba Mate may help lower high blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, and improve heart health, protecting against heart disease.


Benefit 6: Avoid bad breath

Yerba Mate's antioxidants, known as polyphenols, have a big effect on bad breath, as reported by WebMD years ago. 

Researchers mixed black tea extracts with three types of bacteria associated with bad breath in petri dishes for 48 hours. They compared the results with bacteria that sat alone. Tea polyphenols stopped bacteria growth by 30% and lessened the creation of substances that lead to bad breath.

More good news is that all tea that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant actually contains the same bad-breath-busting polyphenols. Some herbal teas also contain polyphenols, but the amount varies depending on where the tea originated.

Plain and simple, yerba mate is healthier than coffee.

Yerba Mate in calabash mug with bombilla


Digging into the Myths about Yerba Mate

When it comes to our health, we all want to do the best thing. If you have been researching Yerba Mate, you may have read some articles that concerned you. But let's consider what the myths are all about.

Does Yerba Mate cause cancer?

Since the 1930s there has been a theory that hot liquids create a risk of throat cancer. The idea was that hot liquids may destroy the inner lining of the esophagus. While the cells regenerate during the healing process, something goes awry and the cells turn cancerous.

However, if you go on to read, the liquids used in the studies were much hotter than any human consumes. Plus, if this claim is based on hot liquids, wouldn't it make sense that this would apply to any hot liquid whether it is tea, soup, hot chocolate, or even coffee?

When preparing Yerba Mate, the water should be brought close to boiling and allowed to cool as it steeps. Steeping with boiling water will burn the Yerba and destroy the flavor. Plus it will burn your mouth even before it gets to your throat.

Do Yerba Mate leaves contain carcinogens?

Some are concerned about the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in yerba mate. Just like grilled meats, and coffee, yerba mate may contain PAHs if the leaves and stems were smoked during the drying process. PAHs also occur in coffee due to exposure to air pollution during sun-drying of the beans as well as during the roasting process.

Today, the smoking process of Yerba Mate is much more controlled, and many mates are air-dried instead of smoked. Several countries are also requiring that mates be tested for PAHs. So doesn't this sound like there is no greater risk from Yerba Mate than there is from coffee or your own backyard barbecue?

Just a few thoughts while you sit, sip, and ponder...

The content in this article is offered as information only. Always refer to your doctor for complete medical advice.

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