The freshness of that first pour.
The rich aroma signaling a new day.
But if you are like thousands of Americans, you’ve come to the realization that your coffee habit has gone too far.
It started with just a trip here and there to Starbucks, but now it’s your morning routine.
But now your stomach feels unsettled.
You have trouble winding down at night.
Not only is coffee a morning ritual, it’s now a mid-morning and mid-afternoon ritual as well.
Your doctor tells you that you need cut out the coffee and cut down on the caffeine.
Now it's time to find a suitable coffee substitute.
Finding a Coffee Substitute
Decaf coffee just doesn’t seem to have the same rich flavor that you’ve come to enjoy.
So, what if I told you that there was an herbal coffee substitute that’s been around for thousands of years.
It contains 3/4ths the caffeine of a cup of coffee, but antioxidant content similar to green tea.
It’s called Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and is sometimes referred to as South American Green Tea.
Although it’s been used for centuries in places like Brazil and Argentina, yerba mate is becoming an increasingly popular substitute for coffee in the United States.
Yerba Mate as a Coffee Substitute
Switching away from coffee is no easy task.
Caffeine is naturally addictive.
So addictive, that if caffeine were to be first discovered today, it would be a controlled substance.
But beyond it’s addictive qualities, caffeine intake has been linked to weight loss, and reduced risk for developing metabolic syndrome (1).
But chronic caffeine consumption has its drawbacks, especially on your ability to manage energy and stress.
Reducing caffeine intake can help improve energy, work performance, sleep and digestive health, but doing so is easier said than done!
Yerba mate is a great option because it contains up to 3/4ths the caffeine content of coffee, making it an easier transition if you are scared of those dreaded caffeine withdrawal headaches.
If the caffeine content is still too much for what your doctor is recommending, I recommend drinking green tea. Green tea has roughly 1/3rd of the caffeine content of coffee and contains relaxing compounds like L-theanine that counteract the stimulatory effect of the caffeine.
Benefits of Mate
- Yerba mate contains polyphenols and saponins that block pancreatic lipase activity which may help manage obesity (4).
- Additionally yerba mate tea has been associated with improved sugar control and lipid profile in individuals with type 2 diabetes - possibly reducing risk of coronary disease (5).
- Generally speaking, early evidence has shown anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, vasodilating, lipid reducing, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and weight-reducing health benefits of drinking mate tea, as well as a possible synergistic lowering of inflammation and LDL’s when used with statin drugs (6; 7)
An Important Note to Consider
Risk of oral and oro-pharyngeal cancers may actually increase with mate drinking, but that risk may be due drinking the tea at high temperature (cancer risk would increase with any drink that’s consumed frequently at high temperatures).
Additionally, some researchers think that the increased risk may occur because of yerba mate’s stimulatory effect on the metabolism of carcinogens such as those in tobacco and alcohol. A number of studies were not controlled for tobacco and alcohol use, and so we are still waiting on more definitive research (8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13)
While no specific mechanisms have been agreed upon for the heightened risks of oral/oro-pharyngeal considers, yerba mate also contains anti-cancer phenols like chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid (which are also found in coffee) which may also improve glycemic control and provide anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties (14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19).
Based on what we know now, you can drastically reduce the risk of oral cancers by taking caution to not drink the tea while it is still hot, and opt for green tea if you smoke cigarettes or frequently consume alcoholic beverages.
Yerba mate can be a healthy alternative to coffee at 1-2 cups per day to support mental concentration, and give you a comparable amount of caffeine without being an energy drain like coffee.