Nowadays, there are so many ways to lose weight it can really make your head spin… Should you join the fitness hype, subject yourself to the newest fad diet, or put your faith in the latest miracle treatment?
I know the number of options seems endless, so how to pick what’s right for you? For that, you need to do your research and weigh the pros and cons. Luckily for you, that’s where the Zotrim blog comes in.
What Will I Learn?
In this post, I’ll look at yerba mate and how this herbal tea can help you during your weight loss journey. You’ll find out things like what yerba mate is, its benefits and side effects, and how much caffeine it actually contains.
Bottom line: should you start drinking yerba mate tea for weight loss? Let’s find out…
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a herb. More precisely it’s a species of the Ilex genus – called Ilex paraguariensis – which is found across South America.
The popular name yerba mate (Spanish) literally means “mate herb”, with mate meaning something like “container for a drink”. So the term yerba mate isn’t actually the name of the herb, but that of the drink made out of it.
Fun fact: you’ll sometimes see it written as “yerba maté” so people don’t confuse it with the English word “mate”, but in Spanish “maté” actually means “I killed”…
How to Make Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate has been used as a herbal tea for centuries, long before the Europeans ever set foot in South America.
You traditionally have yerba mate in a cup called a gourd. You drink it through a metal straw (called bombilla) which contains a filter to make sure you don’t suck up the leaves.
Preparing your mate is easy:
- Fill your cup/gourd just over half full with yerba mate
- Pour in hot (not boiling) water, about half full
- Let the yerba leaves soak up the water
- Put your filtered metal straw in
- Fill it up with more hot (not boiling) water
In countries like Paraguay and Argentina it’s common to see people sitting together sharing their gourds as a sign of friendship.
Why Drink It?
You know how people swear by herbal teas for health and weight loss? Well, yerba mate is no exception.
Not only is it a nice warming drink, but it’s packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for your body. On top of that, it contains ingredients that can help you with your weight loss goals as well.
So, before we get to those yerba mate benefits and how it can help you on your weight loss journey let’s have a look at what’s actually in it.
Yerba Mate Ingredients
The Ilex paraguariensis plant is packed with healthy nutrients and antioxidants. Here are the most important ones (as found in multiple studies like this one):
- Polyphenols – this is actually a group of antioxidants. Yerba mate contains, among others, the flavonoids rutin and quercetin.
- Minerals – yerba mate contains magnesium, potassium and manganese
- Amino acids – our healthy herb contains an impressive seven out of nine essential amino acids
- Xanthines – three of them, to be precise: theobromine, theophylline and caffeine (more about that last one in a bit)
If all of that wasn’t enough yet, yerba mate contains nearly all vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Some people even say it has everything your body needs to survive…
I’m not one of those people. But the list of ingredients is definitely impressive!
Ok, but how do all these ingredients help your body?
I’ll let you know in the next section, where I explain all the yerba mate benefits. But first, as promised, a little more about caffeine…
Yerba Mate Caffeine Content
They’re questions I’ve seen asked a lot: does yerba mate have caffeine and, if so, how much caffeine is in yerba mate? And how does it compare to drinks like coffee and tea?
As you probably know, caffeine can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Caffeine can:
- Give you energy
- Increase metabolism and fat burn (source)
- Improve alertness
BUT, too much caffeine can have potential side effects like:
- Trouble sleeping
In the end, it all comes down to how much caffeine you take. As long as you only have a bit you can reap the benefits. But do you take too much instead then you might just end up worse…
So, let’s look at the exact yerba mate caffeine content, and how it compares to coffee and tea.
I did a bit of research for you and found this study that was published in the Journal of Food Science in 2010. It’s a large review of caffeine in foods.
You don’t have to read the full study of course. Here’s a summary of the average caffeine content (mg) per 8 oz (240 ml) in some popular drinks:
|Drink||Caffeine (mg/8 oz)|
|Yerba mate tea||78|
The yerba mate caffeine content is right in the middle there with 78 mg per 8 oz (240 ml). You’ll notice it contains a lot less caffeine than coffee.
So unless you drink a lot of mate you shouldn’t notice the same side effects you might notice from having a few coffees. At the same time, there is enough caffeine in there for you to feel the benefits.
That’s a win-win situation!
That said, I’d still recommend not drinking TOO much. But having a few might just be that sweet spot of getting the benefits without the side effects! And it doesn’t end there…
Yerba mate contains a lot more benefits than just its caffeine benefits. I’ll tell you all about it below, and how it can help you on your weight loss journey.
If you drink this tasty herbal tea you won’t just get your daily dose of caffeine. It’s more than that.
Below I’ll run you through 5 of the best-known benefits the Ilex paraguariensis has to offer.
Later on, I’ll dedicate an entire section about the most important benefit: the connection between yerba mate and weight loss.
1 – Caffeine Benefits
I know I mentioned some caffeine benefits already, but those were just the short term benefits of caffeine. Aside from a boost in energy and mood, caffeine can improve your health in the long run as well.
There are loads of studies on coffee and its health benefits. Some of the benefits are:
- May help prevent type 2 diabetes
- Protects the skin
- According to several studies it can lower risk of heart disease
- May assist in prevention of Parkinson’s disease
- Protects the liver
- And many more associated benefits…
The caffeine content of yerba mate is definitely one of the top benefits overall! But there’s more.
2 – Improve Cardiovascular Health
As mentioned, yerba mate contains lots of different antioxidant compounds.
Some of these, including the polyphenols I mentioned, potentially protect your body against heart disease. More specifically, a study found that yerba mate consumption provides an LDL-cholesterol reduction in individuals.
In less technical terms: yerba mate can reduce cholesterol levels.
3 – Boost Physical Performance
Many of the physical performance benefits of yerba mate are in some way related to the caffeine content, but there’s more to yerba mate than that.
In one study, people were given 1000mg of ground yerba mate leaves just before exercising. The results were amazing!
People burned 24% more fat while performing moderate-intensity exercises. By burning more fat for fuel the body would spare carb reserves for higher intensity moments (like cycling up a hill). This resulted in better physical performance.
This fat burn is, of course, related to yerba mate’s most interesting benefit: helping your weight loss journey. I’ll get to that one in a bit, but first, on to benefit number 4 in this list.
4 – Support the Immune System
There are multiple ways in which yerba mate supports your immune system.
First, it contains saponins that have an anti-inflammatory effect (according to studies like this one).
Second, it contains many more antioxidants – like vitamin C and Zinc – that have been linked to boosting your immune system as well.
Third, some studies even suggest that yerba mate may actively protect against infections!
5 – Lower Blood Sugar
Several animal studies have proven the link between yerba mate and lower blood sugar levels. If just as effective on humans this could help people with diabetes.
Since it is currently only tested on animals more research is needed still. Nevertheless, it does look promising as these animal studies show that yerba mate may improve insulin signaling and control of blood sugar levels.
With these 5 benefits alone yerba mate tea already makes for a super healthy drink. But it doesn’t end there as I’ve saved the best for last: how yerba mate and weight loss are connected.
The best thing about it is that it’s fully backed by science, as several studies have proven the link between the two! Let’s find out more in the next section…
Yerba Mate for Weight Loss
I already showed you a few ways how yerba mate affects weight loss. As it boosts your physical performance you can burn more fat and effectively lose weight, but there’s more to it than that.
A 12-week study looking at the effects of yerba mate on overweight people found some striking results:
People were given 3 grams of yerba mate powder on a daily basis and on average they lost an impressive 1.5 pounds (or 0.7 kilograms). At the same time, their waist-to-hip ratio reduced by 2%.
Participants who were given a placebo, on the other hand, gained 6.2 pounds (or 2.8 kilograms) while their waist-to-hip ratio increased with 1%.
In other words, the people who took yerba mate saw a significant loss in weight and waist-to-hip ratio, proving yerba mate tea to be an effective aid for weight loss!
Aside from this, several other studies (like this study, this study, and this study) have connected yerba mate to reduced appetite, increased metabolism, and a decreased number of fat cells.
All research seems to point in the same direction: yerba mate can help you during your weight loss journey!
But before you start sipping that tea all day long I want to run you through some possible side effects first. They don’t outweigh the benefits, but it’s important to be aware of them.
Before you start to worry, I can let you know you don’t have to worry about any possible side effects if you drink the occasional yerba mate tea. However, if you drink it on a regular basis there are some possible side effects to bear in mind.
Caffeine Side Effects
Since yerba mate contains caffeine you can experience the same side effects as you would from a few too many coffees.
As I mentioned above the yerba mate caffeine content is lower than normal coffee, but drinking too much can still give you some side effects. Again, you would need to drink many yerba mates per day, but think of side effects like headaches and high blood pressure.
If you’re pregnant you shouldn’t drink too much caffeine as it may affect your little one.
If you take monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications – e.g. for depression or Parkinson’s – you should be careful with taking yerba mate tea, as it may affect the working of your medication.
Potential Increased Risk of Cancer
Studies revealed that drinking a lot of yerba mate for many years may increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
For example, this study connected excessive yerba mate consumption to mainly oesophagus, larynx and oral cavity cancer. However, the study concluded that this increased risk may be more due to the high temperature at which a lot of people drink mate rather than the actual tea itself.
More research is needed on the exact connection between the two, but it does seem safe to conclude that these possible effects only appear after years of very high consumption of yerba mate.
Conclusion: Yerba Mate for Weight loss, Yes or No?
Weighing the pros versus the cons I think it’s safe to say that yerba mate shows a lot of potential for weight loss.
Not only are there loads of health benefits to drinking this herbal tea, but it has also effectively been proven to help people lose weight!
Yes, there are a few side effects to be taken into consideration, but you would need to drink a lot of yerba mate every day for many years to be at any risk.
As long as you take it with moderation (as with most things in life!) you shouldn’t experience any side effects. In fact, yerba mate tea might just be your new best friend on your weight loss journey.