If you’re looking for a morning beverage that provides energy without the side effects of coffee, you might consider trying yerba mate, the mostly widely consumed beverage in South America or green tea, enjoyed for centuries in its native China before being marketed in the western world. Both yerba mate, taken from the leaves of a holly plant, and green tea contain antioxidants associated with health benefits such as weight loss and heart disease prevention.
Green Tea Health Benefits
Green tea may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, according to C. Cabrera and colleagues at the Universidad de Granada, who reviewed numerous studies about green teas and published their findings in June 2006 in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.” Cabreras said studies also showed promise for green tea’s contribution to oral health, bone density and weight control. He said all of the studies showed positive health benefits from drinking green tea, but that more research was needed to fully understand green tea’s potential.
Green Tea and Yerba Mate May Lower Cholesterol
High levels of low density lipoprotein -- LDL -- cholesterol put people at higher risk for heart disease and at least one study demonstrates the cholesterol-lowering properties of yerba mate. Drinking 3 cups of yerba mate daily helped lower LDL cholesterol by more than 8 percent in a Brazilian study led by E.C. Demorais and published in October 2009 in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.” In the United States, S.I. Koo and colleagues at the University of Connecticut found that green tea was a safe and effective agent in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, according to research published in 2007 in the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.”
Different Types of Antioxidants in Green Tea and Yerba Mate
Yerba mate contains nearly all vitamins needed to sustain life, according to the Pasteur Institute. It contains more antioxidants than green tea, 15 amino acids and numerous vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, potassium and manganese. The primary antioxidant in yerba mate is chlorogenic acid and the primary antioxidant in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate compounds, more commonly referred to as catechins. Both chlorogenic acid and catechins contain properties known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, but consumption of antioxidants doesn’t necessarily translate into a health benefit, according to K. Simon Yeung, clinical coordinator and research pharmacist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Green Tea and Weight Loss
Obesity researchers have studied green tea catechins for their ability to boost metabolism and lower blood sugar. Several clinical trials positively link consumption of green tea catechins to weight loss. Among them is one by Kevin Maki that compared the effects of adding green tea and black to the diets of persons who were following moderately calorie-restricted diets. People who drank green tea containing 660 mg of catechins lost 5.3 lb. in the study, compared to weight loss averages of 2.8 lbs. for the black tea containing 22 mg of catechins. According to the study published in 2009 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” the men who drank green tea also lost significantly more abdominal fat.
Both green tea and yerba mate contain caffeine. The amount in each varies considerably by manufacturer and processing type. Most green teas and some yerba mate drinks contain less caffeine than coffee, but anyone sensitive to caffeine -- people with nervous disorders and pregnant and nursing women, for instance -- should carefully check labels and consult their physicians before consuming caffeinated drinks. High consumption of yerba mate may increase your risk of lung, esophageal and oral cancers, according to Yeung. Some of the risk may be associated with the traditional way of drinking yerba mate at high temperatures through a metal straw.