Have you ever heard of brewed cacao? It is different than cocoa or hot chocolate and not as well known…but it deserves some recognition and today, we’ll do just that!
So let’s explore cacao. Cacao is the raw, unprocessed version of cocoa powder… and it’s arguably one of the best alternatives to coffee!
There are many health benefits to coffee as well, but today we’ll be focusing on cacao and some of the differences and benefits of cacao.
Drinking a caffeinated beverage is extremely common. In fact, 80% of US adults take some form of caffeine every single day! While caffeine can have positive effects on metabolism and alertness, daily consumption of caffeine actually hinders energy, alertness, and cognitive function because we develop a tolerance to it: it interferes with 2 important brain chemicals adenosine and orexin. Learn more about that here. Essentially, you need to consume more caffeine in order to achieve the same result.
Additionally, caffeinated coffee stimulates your central nervous system, heart, and muscles. It increases your heartbeat and blood pressure, and, if you consume too much, you may experience muscle twitching.
Alternatively, brewed cacao can provide you a similar energy boost without caffeine and caffeine’s side effects.
The Origins of Brewed Cacao
Brewing cacao had its roots in Mexico. Ancient fermenting pots and tools had traces of cacao as well as its active ingredient theobromine dating back to 1900 BC! Then in 1500 BC, the Olmecs started roasting, grinding, and brewing cacao beans. There’s even evidence that cacao may have been fermented and used as an alcoholic drink. It seems that the Olmecs were the first group to discover that cacao improves mood, boosts energy, and provides sustenance. However, it’s the Mayan and Aztec Empires that were the biggest cacao lovers and innovators.
As cacao became famous, people began to consider it as a sacred drink and offered it to deities and became part of celebrations.
Brewed Cacao Better vs. (Caffeinated) Coffee
They’re both delicious, however, we’ve already talked about how caffeine makes your blood vessels narrow and speeds up your heart rate so that blood flow increases. Brewed cacao doesn’t contain caffeine. The secret of brewed cacao lies in the substance called theobromine, which, if translated to Greek, means “food of the gods.”
Theobromine is a natural stimulant that widens blood vessels to increase blood flow. So it does give you a boost of energy just like coffee does, but the difference is that the effect of theobromine lasts longer without negative side effects.
What’s more, brewed cacao (or cacao nibs for that matter) is extremely rich in polyphenols and flavonoids. In fact, brewed cacao is one of the foods with the highest concentrations of these antioxidants (higher than coffee which is also quite high). It’s also high in magnesium and mood enhancers that improve concentration, lessen stress, and help you get a restful sleep.
Here are more benefits of brewed cacao:
- Support the immune system
- Cure chronic cough
- May prevent strokes
- Lower blood pressure
- Promote heart health
- Helps digestion
- Contributes to strong bones
The “Love Drug” in Brewed Cacao
As if all those benefits are not yet enough, cacao contains phenylethylamine, the very same chemical our bodies produce when we fall in love. So it naturally boosts mood, focus, and alertness.
Moreover, cacao has these three feel-good chemicals:
- Anandamide – known as the “bliss molecule”; a neurotransmitter that helps stimulate a sense of happiness and mental wellness
- Serotonin – the “happy hormone,” and “calming chemical,” is a natural mood stabilizer that affects mood, emotions, appetite, and digestion
- Tryptophan – is used by the body to make melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. The liver also uses tryptophan to produce niacin (vitamin B3).
Brewed Cacao Can Help in Weight Loss
Not only is cacao low in carbs and calories, but it also suppresses appetite (raises serotonin and decreases ghrelin). Just one more reason to love cacao!
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