South America's Secret Ingredient. Health Benefits of Mate - Rivertea Blog
Carmen Rotaru | On 02, Feb 2013
Mate is South America’s favorite beverage, in some places being more popular than coffee. Find out more about the health benefits of mate and why this drink should be included in your daily routine.
Yerba mate is a Spanish name of a plant which originated in South America. The scientific name for this plant is Ilex Paraguariensis. Mate also stands for the tasty beverage which has its origins in this plant. Mate is a delicious infusion very popular in the Latin South America and Brazil where it features a different name, “chimarrão”.
People call it “yerba”, but this is actually strange because this plant isn’t at all an herb, but a tree. At maturity this tree species grows up to 15 meters tall. It has its origins in the subtropical climate of South America, to be more specific it can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Uruguay and also Paraguay.
Mate beverage’s preparation is very similar to tea preparation, the mate leaves being steeped in hot, not boiling water. The flavor of mate is vegetal, slightly grassy, reminding us of the green tea taste. The most popular mate blends involve mate and citrus rind or mate and peppermint.
Like any other herbal tea, mate has its own chemical composition and health benefits. Mate contains 196 volatile (or active) chemical compounds, of which, 144 are also found in green tea. Yerba Mate contains 11 polyphenols, which are the chemical compounds known to be responsible for most of the health benefits in plants and infusions originated from them. Mate features antioxidant properties, being as healthy as a salad made of the greenest vegetables and of the freshest fruits. Mate also contains vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and carotene, for instance.
Mate and the Nervous System
Mate has traditionally been used by indigenous populations from South America for treating depression and anxiety. University of Illinois published a review of yerba mate in the November/December 2007 “Journal of Food Science” which showed yerba mate’s chemical compounds. The plant’s composition includes panthothenic acid which is known to act as anti-allergy and anti-fatigue stimulant. This compound is believed to help relieving depression, as fatigue is a common symptom of the disease. It also relives anxiety and can be really helpful for those of you who wanted to quit smoking and didn’t manage until now.
Mate, an Energy Booster
Mate stimulates body and mind, relieving fatigue-related headaches, stress symptoms or sleep deprivation. It also enhances cognitive performance due to its caffeine compound which is known to be very efficient in fighting fatigue.Caffeine, if drank with moderation, can have an important role in enhancing energy and boosting one’s metabolism.
The iron, magnesium and calcium compounds in yerba mate are thought to also have a role when it comes to the boosting effect this herbal tea has on its drinkers. In fact in South America, including Brazil, this herbal tea is really popular when it comes to energizers, even more popular than coffee and green tea.
Mate and Heart Disease
In a study made in 2009 at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, the researchers proved that mate infusions lower cholesterol level and also has a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to this study the level of cholesterol of the persons who agreed to participate at the study, dropped by 8.7 percent after 40 days of drinking yerba mate. The beverage was consumed by the participants at the study three times per day. It was also concluded that due to the theophylline compound of the mate beverage the heart muscles are stimulated. Theophylline is used medically for the purpose of treating and stimulating the heart and it seems that mate beverage is fairly rich in this compound.
Mate and Weight Loss
Some Swiss researchers tested yerba mate back in 1999 to verify its weight loss benefits. They discovered that mate featured a thermogenic effect which actually means that mate is an appetite suppressant, mate consumers feeling fuller for longer period of time.
Another study in the United States in 2001, reported that taking a mix including yerba mate, guarana and damiana three times a day for 45 days decreased appetite and resulted in weight loss. The study was made on 47 healthy overweight adults. More recently, in 2009, another study was conducted, this time on mice; it showed that yerba mate may have qualities that act as anti-obesity agents.
Mate, a Natural Diuretic
Yerba mate features diuretic properties due to its caffeine, and theophylline compounds. Drinking mate increases urination rates, thus decreasing the amounts of water in the body. This is also a benefit, but can represent a side effect if the drink isn’t consumed with moderation. Dehydration can lead to several other health related problems like anemia or heart issues, so it’s better to avoid drinking more than five cups per day of the mate beverage.
Mate’s Side Effects
Because of the caffeine compound of yerba mate, this beverage has a role in stimulating the heart and blood pressure, raising the rates of the heart and increasing the level of blood pressure. Those of you who are sensitive to stimulants should avoid mate beverage. Also pregnant and breast feeding women should consume this beverage with moderation as it is rich in caffeine which can lead to miscarriages or agitated infants as mate is also an energy booster.
Researchers have different opinions when it comes to cancer and yerba mate. While some of them say that yerba mate is highly important regarding anti-cancer benefits, there are others who say that mate can increase cancer risks. This subject is highly controversial in the medical world and still remains to be studied.
Like any other beverage or food, yerba mate should be consumed with moderation, not more than five cups per day. Also known as “drink of friendship” for people in South America, this beverage represents not only a social leant, but an extremely efficient natural health aid.
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