Since it first hit the consumer market in the U.S., yerba mate has been covered ad nauseum by the media for its purported health benefits and has been glorified as a viable caffeinated alternative to America’s favorite drink, coffee. Nowadays, you can find all manner of yerba mate-infused beverages at the grocery stores, taking up space alongside bottles of cold brew.
Looking past the marketing hype and hyperbole surrounding this exotic-sounding, South American plant infusion, there are actually several legitimate reasons that might inspire you to replace your morning cup of coffee with a gourd of yerba mate. Here are five good reasons you should consider switching over from coffee to yerba mate:
Supports Healthy Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association published a study that found that theobromine, a compound found in yerba mate, had the short-term capacity to lower blood pressure when consumed in high doses. This, however, would require you to drink an insane amount of yerba mate to have an effect.
However, a more recent study found that older women who had been accustomed to drinking more than a liter of yerba mate each day had a lower incidence of hypertension. The authors suggested that these findings might indicate a long-term benefit of yerba mate on blood pressure health, though it’s still unclear what aspect of yerba mate consumption is responsible for this effect. Large studies over the past couple of years have also found that coffee consumption has a similar correlation with hypertension risk, so this benefit is a toss-up between the two beverages.
Moderates Cholesterol Levels
The same study that associated yerba mate consumption with blood pressure health also found a reduced incidence of high or imbalanced cholesterol levels in older women. Again, it’s unclear to researchers what aspect of yerba mate is responsible for this effect, but other studies complement these findings. An oft-cited study from 2009 found that drinking one liter of mate per day over a 40-day period led to lower levels of LDL cholesterol in all of its study participants, including people with normal or unhealthy levels of it, even participants who were taking statins to lower their LDL number. Yerba mate consumption also raised HDL levels of participants who did not have healthy lipid profiles.
Consuming this much coffee, on the other hand, has the potential to raise your LDL cholesterol, according to a report from Harvard researchers. Apparently, drinking more than five cups of specifically French press coffee has been associated with elevated LDL levels, due to the presence of oils that do not get filtered out through this preparation.
Maintaining Bone Health
Consumed over time, coffee may have detrimental effects on bone density for women. One study comparing the postmenopausal bone mineral density of coffee drinkers to yerba mate drinkers found that coffee drinkers faced an increased risk of hip fractures. Yerba mate, on the other hand, had no effect on increasing hip fracture risk. This finding is significant when you consider the increased risk of osteoporosis that women face after menopause. After the age of 40, women typically end up losing 30 to 40 percent of their bone mineral density.
A separate study of postmenopausal women suggested that yerba mate consumption is beneficial to bone health due to its ability to helps bones retain their mineral density. In the study, long-term yerba mate drinkers who consumed at least a liter each day had 5 to 10 percent higher levels of bone mineral density in both their upper and lower spine than their peers. This level of retention suggest that yerba mate can have a significant effect on improving the overall health of women in anticipation of menopause.
Options to Address Your Acid Reflux
If you’re one of the 20 percent of Americans who suffer from mild to moderate cases of acid reflux, you hopefully have tried to control your symptoms through dietary changes and stress reduction rather than first turning to proton pump inhibitors for relief. Over the long run, PPIs can increase your risk of early death.
Coffee, unfortunately, is one of the top triggers of acid reflux, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to give up your caffeinated buzz. While each individual has different experiences with acid reflux triggers, some people have found that drinking yerba mate let’s them get their caffeine hit without aggravating their symptoms of acid reflux.
A Less Jittery Brew
Speaking of caffeine, yerba mate contains a level of caffeine that can give you the alertness of coffee without the jitters. A mug of brewed coffee contains about 130 mg of caffeine, which for some people can cause the unpleasant sensations of heart palpitations, anxiety, and shakiness. Green or black teas, on the other hand, only contain about 50 mg of caffeine, perhaps not enough of the compound to contribute to a sense of wakefulness. Yerba mate, with approximately 80 mg of caffeine per mug, is for some people that Goldilocks “just right” amount. Once brewed, you can continue to top up your cup with hot water as you like throughout the day.