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Is yerba mate healthy for kids?

2023-10-16
Is yerba mate healthy for kids?

No one needs to be convinced of the many beneficial properties of yerba mate. However, the question is: can children drink mate tea like adults? From how old can you drink yerba mate?

Summary:

  1. A healthy boost. Caffeine content of yerba mate
  2. How does caffeine affect the human body?
  3. Culture of drinking yerba mate in South America
  4. Can yerba mate be drunk by children?

A healthy boost. Caffeine content of yerba mate

Originating from South America, yerba mate has many valuable properties for the human body. It contains vitamins and minerals that improve immunity. Yerba mate is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C and others. Its chemical composition also contains minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc and potassium. An infusion of yerba mate reduces cholesterol levels, improves concentration and has antioxidant properties. The most important property that contributes to the popularity of mate tea is its stimulating effect, which is made possible by the drink's natural caffeine content. It is not easy to give the exact caffeine content of yerba mate, as it all depends on the way and time of brewing, the type and amount of dried product used and how many times mate has been poured. It can be determined that the amount of caffeine contained in yerba mate varies between 70-360 milligrams per litre. In comparison, a litre of espresso contains about 1700-2250mg of caffeine, a litre of brewed coffee contains 380-650mg, energy drinks contain about 320mg, tea contains 280mg and carbonated drinks such as cola contain about 96-185mg of caffeine. In summary, yerba mate falls more or less in the middle of this list. It does not contain as much caffeine as coffee, but it is also stronger than tea or fizzy drinks. Above all, it is much healthier than all the drinks mentioned. But is yerba mate healthy for children? Can children drink mate tea and will it not harm them?

How does caffeine affect the human body?

Before answering the title question – is yerba mate healthy for kids – let us consider how caffeine contained in mate, coffee, tea, energy drinks and other beverages affects the human body. Caffeine is categorised as a psychoactive or, more specifically, a stimulant. It has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, accelerates the heart rate and dilates blood vessels. When taken in the right dose, it removes fatigue and drowsiness, improves concentration and mood, and increases physical performance. Caffeine has a physiological effect while having no nutritional properties. Excessive consumption can cause side effects such as hyperactivity, insomnia, stomach ache or headache. Most adults can consume up to 400mg of caffeine per day without worrying about side effects. This amount is equivalent to about four cups of coffee. We usually drink a cup of coffee or yerba mate in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, to give us energy for work–- strenuous physical and mental exertion. This amount of coffee does us no harm. As far as children are concerned, the general opinion is that caffeine is one of the substances that are harmful to the youngest. Children under 12 should not consume more than 2.5mg of caffeine per 1kg of weight. Excessive amounts of caffeine can cause sudden mood changes, irritability and insomnia in toddlers. However, caffeine cannot be completely avoided in their diet – it is, after all, present in tea, but also in chocolate or cocoa. It may not be an essential ingredient in their diet, but if consumed from time to time, it is certainly not considered harmful, even though it contains caffeine.

Is yerba mate healthy for kids?

Culture of drinking yerba mate in South America

For us Europeans, yerba mate is something relatively new. Drinking the brew made from the Ilex paraguariensis leaves is a trend, a kind of fashion. In South American countries, where yerba mate originates, it is actually part of the culture and tradition. It is not only a stimulating, healthy drink, but also has social significance. In Argentina, for example, it is consumed in more than 90% of households. It is drunk by old and young. It is inevitable that toddlers seeing their parents drinking mate every day from an interesting-looking vessel, through a tube with an unusual shape, want to try it. In South American countries, where yerba mate originated, children drink yerba mate from a very young age. However, mate given to toddlers is usually very weak, heavily diluted, and it is usually the umpteenth pour with little or even no caffeine left in it. Older children, teenagers associate drinking yerba mate with adulthood. It gives them a sense of a certain “prestige”. It's a bit like drinking coffee with us – a teenager who starts drinking coffee already feels a bit more grown up.

Can yerba mate be drunk by children?

Let's finally try to settle the question – is yerba mate healthy for children, can the little ones drink it and from what age can yerba mate be given to children? The answer to these questions is not as simple as it may seem. Yerba mate on its own, served in small amounts, shouldn't do any harm, but young children are usually volcanoes of energy anyway, so they don't need the extra boost. Also, let's be honest – the bitter taste of mate tea is unlikely to suit a young child. If a kid insists on trying a drink sipped through a bombilla by their parents, it's fine to give them a heavily diluted mate once in a while – there won't be much caffeine in it. Children in their teens often already turn to drinks that contain caffeine – from Pepsi or Coca-Cola, which contain a lot of sugar, to unhealthy energy drinks, which contain a number of synthetic substances. It is well known that such drinks tempt with their taste and colourful packaging, but their consumption can have a negative impact on the child's health. In this case, an excellent alternative would be healthy, natural yerba mate, which additionally provides your teenager with vitamins and minerals. Of course, just as cola or energy drinks should be limited, the amount of yerba mate drunk by a teenager should be controlled also. It is difficult to set one specific age limit from when a child or teenager can start drinking yerba mate – a lot depends here on the child's predisposition and on the sense of their parents. And to make it even easier to decide whether your children should drink yerba mate, consider that if you don't mind your little one drinking coffee or energy drinks, then you should be even less against slurping yerba mate. The important thing is to keep it reasonable and in moderation.


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Mate, Kofeina.
  2. C.I. Heck, E.G. De Mejia, Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations, Journal of Food Science, 2007.

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