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Does Chocolate Have Caffeine?

Does Chocolate Have Caffeine?

The short answer is yes. But, if you're in need of a jump-start to your morning or a pick me up from that mid-afternoon slump, then you shouldn’t be looking to a bar of chocolate for the answer.

The more in-depth answer requires a bit of a breakdown. Essentially, the answer remains the same: there is caffeine in chocolate. However, all chocolate is not created equally and, depending on the cacao content, the amount of caffeine varies.

According to the USDA, there is up to 230mg of caffeine in every 100g of dry, unsweetened cacao powder. The same source lists 100g of brewed coffee as having just 94mg of caffeine.

Do keep in mind, however, that 100g of raw cacao powder is not the same as 100g of chocolate.

Though most chocolate comes from cacao, the process of making chocolate modifies the nutrient content, so that the final outcome can be considered a different product entirely.

The higher the cacao content in chocolate, the more nutrients it retains, namely caffeine. For instance, dark chocolate has a higher caffeine content than milk chocolate.

How Much Caffeine is in Chocolate?

The following chart shows the level of caffeine in each type of chocolate treat (per 100g).

Cacao Powder

230mg

Dark Chocolate

43mg

Milk Chocolate

20mg

Chocolate Ice Cream

3mg

Chocolate Milk

< 2mg

White Chocolate

0mg

There's a significant difference in the amount of caffeine in cacao powder and in dark chocolate (with 45% to 59% of cacao solids).

Milk chocolate has half the caffeine content of dark chocolate and white chocolate has none. 

If you are worried about ingesting too much caffeine from chocolate, know that the largest dose is in raw cacao powder at 230mg for every 100g. To exceed the recommended daily dosage of caffeine, you would have to ingest about 200 grams of raw cacao powder in a day.

To put that in perspective, most bags of raw cacao powder come in packaging of 500g and many recipes call for only 1-6 teaspoons of raw cacao powder.

Theobromine

In your search for the relationship between caffeine and chocolate, you may have come across mentions of theobromine. It’s a naturally occurring compound in chocolate that is comparable to caffeine for its stimulant-like properties.

Theobromine is the main alkaloid compound of the cacao plant and is responsible for its bitter taste. The theobromine content of cacao beans is measured by weight and cacao beans typically contain around 1-2% of theobromine. This may not seem like much, but for every 100g of raw cacao, there is approximately 1000mg-2000mg (1 or 2 grams) of theobromine.

Considering the similarities between theobromine and caffeine, these numbers are notable.

How Much Theobromine is in Chocolate

Cacao Powder

2057mg

Dark Chocolate

493mg

Milk Chocolate

205mg

Chocolate Ice Cream

62mg

Chocolate Milk

23mg

White Chocolate

0mg

In some instances, the theobromine content of these chocolate products is tenfold the amount of caffeine. Those numbers may seem staggering if you're not aware of the effects of theobromine and caffeine and how they compare to each other.

Caffeine vs Theobromine

Both caffeine and theobromine act as diuretics and stimulants. Caffeine's effect, however, is on the central nervous system, while theobromine mostly targets muscles and the heart.

Studies show that caffeine's activity in the nervous system is much stronger than theobromine’s. Much like cocaine and amphetamines, caffeine is a psycho-stimulant with fast-acting influences on the brain which produces noticeable effects like alertness and increased motor activity. Due to its rapid response in the central nervous system, over time it is possible to develop a sort of addiction to or dependence on caffeine. 

Caffeine dependence, though not as strong as illicit drug addiction, still comes with its own set of withdrawal symptoms (like headaches, irritability, and nausea).

Healthcare professionals suggest a maximum of 400mg of caffeine per day. In the event of exceeding this limit, some adverse effects can be jitters, headaches, dependence, heartburn and dehydration.

400mg may seem like a lot, but it's easy to outdo when you consider that an 8 oz cup of coffee has roughly 95 mg of caffeine. It would take less than 5 cups a day to surpass this daily limit.

However, even with dark chocolate having the highest caffeine content (43 mg per 100g), it would take almost 10 (100g) dark chocolate bars to reach the recommended daily caffeine limit.

Although theobromine and caffeine have similar effects on the body, the effectiveness of theobromine is about 10 times weaker than caffeine. Like coffee, theobromine has stimulant effects on the heart. It also has relaxing influences on muscles.

Where caffeine constricts blood vessels and can cause dramatic spikes in blood pressure, theobromine dilates blood vessels, leading to lower levels of blood pressure, improved blood flow and better circulation.

Since theobromine does not act directly on the central nervous system, it’s not addictive and comes without side effects like jitters and crashes.

Caffeine has a quick release onset with instant results. Theobromine's stimulating properties are released much slower. Instead of sudden alertness, the effects are akin to waking from a decent night's sleep.

Due to theobromine's slow release of stimulating qualities, the effects are longer-lasting and milder than caffeine.

To better show the comparison of benefits vs. symptoms and long term effects of both theobromine and caffeine, we've made a list of key health points and how each alkaloid affects the other.

Blood pressure

Theobromine – dilates the blood vessels and can be a therapeutic way to lower blood pressure. Especially since it has a half-life of 7.2 hours.

Caffeine – instantly constricts the blood vessels for a short period, causing a jump in blood pressure that can last for up to 4 hours. With repetitive ingestion, the effects are diminished.

Digestion

Theobromine - by dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow, it allows the blood to filter out toxins through increased urination.  Be careful, large doses (<800mg) may lead to nausea.

Caffeine - can suppress appetite which may lead to weight loss. Long-term use of high amounts of caffeine can develop or worsen bladder instability and cause increased urination. It also has stimulating effects on the GI tract and can cause more frequent bowel movements.

Airflow

Theobromine - can relax bronchial muscles in the lungs and can even be used as cough medicine. It may be beneficial to people with asthma by helping relax the airways and allowing more air to enter the lungs.

Caffeine - also has similar lung relaxing qualities by opening airways to allow for better airflow. However, too much caffeine can lead to increased heart rate which would have the opposite effect.

Cardiovascular

Theobromine - acts as a mild heart stimulant and improves focus. However, reports show that ingesting large amounts of theobromine can induce tachycardia (rapid heartbeat while resting).

Caffeine - can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and can increase stamina during exercise but, for those who do not ingest caffeine often, it can lead to a rise in your systolic blood pressure (the number on top). It can also be a cause of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

Which One is Better?

It's not hard to see that theobromine wins out over caffeine when it comes to health benefits and lack of withdrawal symptoms or side effects.

Despite the large amounts of theobromine found in chocolate and cacao products, you would have to be a mega glutton to even reach close to the lethal dose of theobromine. According to the LD50 values, you would need to ingest 1000mg for every kilogram of your bodyweight for it to be considered fatal.

For an average-sized adult weighing in at 60 kg, that's about 292 (100g) bars of chocolate in one sitting!

Theobromine Poisoning

If you think you or someone else may have eaten too much chocolate or cacao products, look for signs of theobromine overdose. Such signs can include seizures, kidney damage, dehydration, and heart failure.

For those of us with furry companions, the fatal dosage of theobromine in pets is considerably lower. This is because animals metabolize theobromine much slower than humans and it can take as little as 50g of milk chocolate to be considered fatal to a small dog.

And since dark chocolate contains more than twice the amount theobromine, it can take half as much to render the same result.

With cats, the risk is less likely since most cats have no sweet taste receptors and are less likely to ingest sweet foods. However, there is still a possibility, and theobromine is just as toxic to cats as it is in dogs.

Theobromine High

Like caffeine, theobromine is a stimulant and may have euphoria-inducing capabilities. However, similar to the effort it would take to get theobromine poisoning, it would take nearly the same to receive any kind of euphoric 'high'.

Some sources report using the pure extract of theobromine in the form of a white powder that can be dissolved with water or snorted like cocaine to achieve euphoric effects.

Takeaway

Cacao and chocolate products with trace amounts of cacao do indeed contain caffeine. The levels of caffeine in chocolate are nothing significant compared to coffee. However, chocolate and cacao products have high amounts of theobromine (which has similar qualities to caffeine).

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Coffee Alternatives: Quitting Caffeine for Healthy Substitutes

Coffee Alternatives: Quitting Caffeine for Healthy Substitutes

If you've clicked on this post, chances are that you have either developed a dependency on coffee or you're simply interested in healthier ways to stay awake without the caffeine. Either way, you've come to the right place. We're going to answer all your coffee and caffeine-related questions and give you great alternatives and substitutes to keep you healthy.

Why Do We Drink Coffee?

To learn why you should quit drinking coffee, we must first understand why people drink it in the first place. The prime reason is the amount of caffeine promised in each cup of coffee. Rising before the sun to tackle the day ahead is a feat most people can’t imagine doing without their morning cup of Joe. Caffeine is a stimulant that energizes us and keeps us alert when we need it most. With 94.8 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of black coffee, it’s no wonder it’s the first thing many of us reach for in the morning to help kick start our day.

Another reason could be the social aspect of coffee and going to cafes. It’s so common to meet a friend or a colleague at a cafe to discuss and catch up over a cup of coffee that, even if you didn’t like coffee at first, you might have developed a taste for it by now.

The third and probably top reason for coffee drinking is addiction. The word ‘addiction’ may be laying it on a little strong, but caffeine’s addictive properties have many of us falling victim to drinking two, three and even four cups a day.

While this dependence is only considered mild, there are still withdrawal symptoms that may follow in the days after quitting coffee, like headaches, anxiety, and irritability. We don’t know about you, but, for us, that’s enough of a reason to look for healthier alternatives that bring all of the advantages without any of the setbacks.

So, Why Should You Quit Drinking Coffee?

Let’s look at the effects of too much caffeine on your body. The recommended limit for daily consumption of caffeine in adults is no more than 400 milligrams. It may seem like a lot, but that’s the amount of caffeine in 4 cups of coffee. It’s even easier to reach and surpass your recommended intake of caffeine if you incorporate foods and drinks like chocolate, energy drinks, tea, and even soft drinks into your daily diet. For many of us, a day doesn’t go by without ingesting at least one of these food items.

Even if this isn’t the case, you may be surprised to learn that there is caffeine in over-the-counter painkillers like Midol Menstrual Maximum Strength Caplets with 60 milligrams and Excedrin Migraine tablets with 65 milligrams.

What’s all this caffeine doing to your brain and body? Let’s see.

Bladder Problems

For one, excessive caffeine intake (anything more than 400 milligrams a day) may develop the risk of an oversensitive bladder in women. Even a mild caffeine intake can cause an increased likelihood for women with prior symptoms.

Doses of more than 250 milligrams of caffeine have been shown to cause jumps in blood pressure in persons regardless of their age, previous blood pressure status or prior caffeine habits.

Blood Sugar

When coffee becomes a staple in your diet, it can cause your body’s sensitivity to insulin to drop. Your cells become less capable of responding to your blood sugar levels, which can lead to higher levels of blood sugar.

Digestive Issues

Coffee is an acidic beverage which is bad news if you suffer from acid reflux and heartburn. Its acidic properties have also been shown to double the speed at which the GI tract moves, affecting the rate at which food is digested. A side effect of this can be abdominal pain or discomfort and increased bowel movements.

Increased Stress Levels

Caffeine intensifies your stress response by heightening your adrenaline levels, which in turn raises your blood pressure, induces sweating and brings about those dreaded jitters. Caffeine acts as a block for an important regulatory chemical, called adenosine, that makes sure our heart and lungs function the way they’re supposed to.

Now that we’ve established some of the ways over-caffeination affects our mental and physical health, let’s tackle ways to cut back or even break the habit.

Ways to Curb Coffee Addiction and Break the Habit

Breaking any habit is an uphill battle. The more dependent you are on a substance, the harder it is to let go of it. When it comes to coffee dependency, experts say to take it slow.

Weaning

Much like the way a mother weans her baby off of breastfeeding, it is suggested to follow a similar approach to weaning off of coffee. We suggest reducing your caffeine intake by an average of 20 mg daily until you zero out. This includes coffee and other caffeinated beverages like tea, energy drinks and soda.

The benefit of this method is that you gradually reduce your intake until you’re caffeine-free, so it comes without the withdrawal symptoms people often face when they decide to quit all at once.

Cold Turkey

While we don’t recommend this method, it is the fastest way to cut caffeine out of your system. However, as you would expect, it comes with the shock of suddenly denying your body its dependency. The consequence of quitting abruptly can be devastating, especially if your dependency was severe. Some people have even reported visiting the doctor with complaints of symptoms equivalent to illness.

If you choose this method, here are some of tips to help you through the withdrawal phase:

  1. Stock up on soups, broths and other easily digestible foods;
  2. Keep some painkillers nearby to prepare for the onset of headaches; and
  3. Try to plan your detox around the weekend so the worst of it will be over by the time the work-week begins.

Water

Hydration is a key component to any healthy lifestyle, but when you’re trying to rid yourself of a caffeine habit it’s best to pay close attention to your water drinking habits. We recommend 6-8 glasses of water a day. For a refreshing boost in the morning, add a squirt of lemon juice or a couple slices of lemon to a glass of warm water.

Best Healthy Alternatives to Coffee

If most of your caffeine intake comes from coffee, then it’s worth looking into healthy substitutes.

Luckily for you, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the best coffee substitutes, along with their health benefits and what makes them great.

Read on, coffee lovers! You just may find your newest fixation. But, this time, without the negative effects of too much caffeine.

1. Teeccino Herbal Coffee

Of all the herbal coffees, perhaps the most popular is Teeccino herbal coffee. Interestingly, Teeccino is neither a coffee nor a tea. It is advertised as a natural blend of caffeine-free ingredients like herbs, fruits, nuts, and roots, all ground down and brewed to taste like coffee. Since there is no caffeine, the energy boost you get from this drink is said to come from all of the nutrients it offers.

Also, this coffee replacement comes in 10 different flavors, like vanilla nut, mocha, and orange, to name a few.

Need we say more?

2. Postum Drink

    This one is a perfect replacement if you just can't let go of that distinct coffee taste. It's a great contender as a caffeine-free option with ingredients like wheat, molasses, and wheat bran.

    This instant powder mix was created and marketed as a healthy alternative to coffee back in 1895 and became quite popular for living up to its reputation. However, don't despair if you've never heard of this drink before. It was discontinued in 2007 due to low sales, but it's currently making a comeback.

    Much like you would make instant coffee, just add the instant mix into hot water or hot milk as desired. 

    3. Cacao Husk Tea

    This loose-leaf tea is a 100% natural option made from the dried outer shells of the cacao bean. It's brewed just like coffee and gives you mouth-watering flavors and aromas of chocolate and caramel. It's also full of excellent nutrients like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, calcium, and theobromine (which boasts benefits like better focus, better sleep, and low blood pressure).

    Drinking cacao tea provides a delicate boost in energy and increased mental focus without the harsh effects of caffeine. Studies have shown that cacao husks have a high concentration of a theobromine, which is a valuable bioactive compound that helps keep the brain and heart active and stimulated.

    Theobromine is a natural stimulant which is distinct from caffeine and has a gentle slow-release effect. Studies have found that patients consuming cacao rich in theobromine enjoyed increased brain stimulation, concentration and interest in study activities. Patients also experienced improved performance with mental tasks and reduced mental fatigue.

    Best yet, cacao husk tea is calorie free!

    4. Yerba Mate

    Yerba mate is a caffeinated drink with less caffeine than coffee, but more than a cup of tea. Just like coffee, it can be a bit of an acquired taste. This herbal tea has earthy notes and is quite bitter, but carries none of the acidic tastes of coffee.

    It's worth noting that its list of health benefits is long. It's full of antioxidants and nutrients, it may boost your immune system and protect against infections, and it's also said to aid in weight loss and can play a role in lowering your blood sugar levels.

    5. Chicory Root

    This is said to be a tea that tastes like coffee with some wood and nut undertones. This beverage is made from roasted ground chicory root and is brewed just like coffee. This tea is a great source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that has been linked to improving digestive health and weight loss. It is also naturally caffeine-free, so it's a great coffee alternative.

    However, this beverage may not be for everyone as studies have shown chicory root may cause complications for pregnant women.

    Also worth noting is that inulin is a fiber that is digested quite quickly in the gut and, depending on your sensitivity, can lead to bloating and belly pain.

    6. Dandelion Root

    Dandelion root is similar to chicory root in that both have been used as coffee alternatives and can be grown and harvested in your own backyard.

    Extra points for convenience!

    This root is usually ground, roasted, and brewed in a similar fashion to chicory to get that coffee taste. However, it is less bitter and acidic.

    It also has anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reduces cholesterol, boosts weight loss and carries liver cleansing properties which have been shown to lead to a better quality of sleep.

    Takeaway

    One great thing about these coffee alternatives, herbal coffees, and cacao husk tea is that they are concocted in a similar fashion to coffee and often come close in taste. They are (mostly) naturally caffeine-free, but their robust nutrient profiles promise a cocktail of amazing health benefits, including energy-boosting qualities.

    All of that without the side effects and health concerns of caffeine. There's no shame or health consequences in going back for a second, third, or even fourth cup!

    When it comes to taste, there is no end to the limitless combinations of flavors you can create. Add spices like cinnamon, turmeric, fennel seed, vanilla, etc.

    Use creamers, dairy or nut milk. Even add honey. We're sure you have your secret fixes and special spices to add to the mix.

    We hope that the thought of quitting caffeine for these healthy substitutes is now nowhere near as daunting as it may have been before you read this article!

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    Craving Chocolate: The Reason Why and Healthy Alternatives

    Craving Chocolate: The Reason Why and Healthy Alternatives

    Why do we crave chocolate? Studies show that it's chalked up to our emotions! While this may be the case, there is some interesting science behind it. Keep reading and we will answer all of your questions about chocolate cravings, including the following:

    • Why Do We Crave Chocolate?
      • Nutritional Deficiency
      • Sugar
      • Hunger or Cravings
      • Habit
    • Craving Chocolate During or Before Your Period?
    • How to Fight Chocolate Cravings
    • Substitutes For Chocolate

    Nutritional Deficiency

    You may have heard that when you are craving something it is usually your body's way of telling you that you are deficient in a specific nutrient, and it's true.

    When it comes to chocolate, it is common knowledge that the craving signifies a deficiency in magnesium. Since cacao is considered the food with the highest amount of magnesium per gram, it comes as no surprise that chocolate is the first thing we reach for when we encounter such a deficiency.

    Yet, based on this science, you should be reaching for a bar of dark chocolate, considering that the higher the cacao content of chocolate the more magnesium it has. Your standard bar of Hershey's milk chocolate contains only 59 milligrams of magnesium for every 100 grams. However, a Lindt chocolate bar with 85% cacao has almost quadruple the magnesium content. White chocolate boasts a measly 12 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams.

    Interestingly enough, cashew nuts rank second on the list for the food with the highest magnesium content, but when was the last time you had an intense craving for a handful of cashew nuts?

    As we discuss further below, the reason for your chocolate craving is, in all likelihood, due to factors other than a magnesium deficiency. That said, we’re not saying that you’re not magnesium deficient, because you just might be. Especially since magnesium deficiency is one of the most common types of deficiencies, it's worth looking into.

    If you’re a woman, studies show that you’re more susceptible than men to magnesium deficiency. Even moreso in postmenopausal women, with more than 80% showing signs of magnesium deficiency. With numbers that high, it’s no wonder that women are typically more inclined than men to crave chocolate. 

    A good way to decipher if your chocolate craving is deficiency-related is to consider taking the recommended daily dose of magnesium in supplement form. If your chocolate cravings are relieved then it's safe to say that a magnesium deficiency was probably the reason behind your cravings.

    If not, we recommend taking your daily dosage anyway as magnesium is a key mineral in over 300 body processes. Don't want to deny yourself that!

    So, if you’ve fulfilled your mineral needs, why are you still craving chocolate?

    Sugar

    Oh, the sugar! When that craving hits you and you go in search of a bar of chocolate, it’s more than likely a response to a reaction in your brain. The brain craves sugar for more than one reason.

    Let's look at the most straightforward cause first: your body needs sugar. The body requires glucose (sugar) for a myriad of functions. While your body breaks down all carbs into the simple sugars it needs, chances are you have been satisfying these cravings by reaching for the first sugary-sweet, readily available and most advertised snack there is. Chocolate.

    Hunger or Cravings?

    This leads us to another reason for those chocolate cravings. Somewhere along the line, you had your first bite of chocolate and it was nothing short of confectionery heaven. The part of your brain (nucleus accumbens) that is responsible for feelings of reward has clocked chocolate as a treat that instantly spikes those feel-good dopamine levels. And that reward-seeking behavior fuels you to go back for more every time.

    It’s in human nature to seek the triggers that release dopamine into our brains. It’s ingrained in us as part of our survival instinct, but processed sugars are a sort of super stimuli for the part of the brain responsible for dopamine transmissions.

    And what do we do when we love something? We crave more and more and this is how addictions are developed.

    Actually, for this reason, sugar addiction has been considered to have similar effects on the brain as illicit drug addictions. So, there’s a bit of an explanation as to why we often find ourselves overindulging in foods laden with sugar.

    Now, let’s be clear. Craving does not equal hunger. The two are quite different. Huger is a physiological need for energy to perform all the body’s functions. Usually, hunger comes in the form of a growling stomach, headaches or a general hollow feeling that gets worse the longer you wait it out.

    Cravings are a psychological need and usually develop from habit or emotional urgency. Essentially, it’s the brain’s way of telling you it wants a release of serotonin/dopamine.

    Hunger dissipates once you’ve eaten to satisfaction (not fullness - it’s important to learn the difference), but cravings can persist even after you’ve had a nourishing meal.

    The nutrient content of your meal can be a clear indicator as to why you crave chocolate and other sugary foods after eating. Foods that are high in simple carbs digest quickly and cause a surge in sugar levels that do not last. The body will have trouble adjusting to the sudden fluctuation and crave foods that produce instant sugar.

    Also worth noting is that digestion is a process that requires energy and for this reason alone, the body will covet sugars that offer a quick energy increase to carry out the course of digestion.

    The saltiness of your meals may also make your brain demand a kind of ‘equilibrium’. Accordingly, after salty meals the body will naturally desire sugary foods to create this balance. Once we continually give in to this ‘need’ for a balance it could develop into a habit.

    Habit

    In many cultures, it is expected to end off a meal with a round of desserts. Because of this, many of us have developed a habit of anticipating sugar even after eating a hearty meal regardless of reaching a state of fullness.

    If you are accustomed to consuming foods high in sugars and fats after a meal it causes a neurochemical rewiring of your brain to automatically demand these types of food after eating.

    You may have convinced yourself that this is just a constant craving, but cravings are occasional. Habit is steady.

    Now, a habit of eating chocolate every day doesn't have to be a bad thing. We're not suggesting you quit eating chocolate cold turkey. We're not monsters!

    There's nothing wrong with having a couple of squares of dark chocolate to treat yourself throughout the day. With all the health benefits of raw cacao, you may even be doing yourself a favor by implementing it into your daily diet by way of chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. Moderation is key.

    It may help to understand where your habit stems from. Typically, it is cultural. In many cultures, meals are served in three stages: the appetizer, the main course, and, lastly, dessert. This is commonly considered a well-rounded meal, but following this pattern can form a socially-created habit.

    Another cause we're all familiar with is a habit formed from stress relief or emotional fulfillment.

    Chocolate is considered comfort food. Like other processed and refined sugars, it instantly releases feelings of happiness.

    Emotional hunger is entirely different from physical hunger. As discussed above, physical hunger manifests itself in signs such as a growling stomach and hunger pangs. When you are physically hungry, any food sounds good and, after eating, the signs of hunger dissipate.

    Emotional hunger targets specific foods and, unless you satisfy your feelings with those foods, it doesn't go away. It's all you can think about because emotional hunger is all in the mind.

    Since this hunger isn't physical, but physiological, calculating the point of fulfillment is more of a test.

    As with eating for stress relief, or reasons of boredom, we eat to feel better, and when this is the goal, it's easy to fall into the clutches of mindless eating.

    This is when the habit turns into a problem. The habit is merely a symptom of a problem that goes much deeper. The best way to fix this is to target the reason for your emotional cravings and work on that.

    Craving Chocolate During or Before Your Period?

    During the days before your period, your body experiences a hormonal imbalance. The concentration of chemicals that are responsible for feeling good, like serotonin, plummet, while cortisol, the one responsible for your stress levels, rise.

    This leads to changes in behavior and mood swings. When you're feeling down your brain urges you to seek the foods that can offset these feelings.

    Your levels of estrogen and progesterone can also experience a drop around the days of your period and this drop can cause an increased appetite.

     

    Because PMS refers to physical, mental and emotional symptoms in the days leading up to a woman's period, chocolate cravings can be chalked up to just another PMS symptom.

    However, studies have shown that chocolate cravings during your period may be culturally influenced as opposed to being a direct link to an imbalance in hormones.

    The study asked Spanish and American women open-ended and direct questions about the usual times they experienced chocolate cravings. When asked directly, 60% of American women were more likely to crave chocolate peri-menstrually, while only 24% of Spanish women reported experiencing the same.

    When the question was extended to both men and women, the most frequent times for chocolate cravings were after a meal, while studying, and in the evening.

    Also, the way chocolate is advertised in American culture has a strong influence on the way in which we associate with it. Multiple brands have a knack for showcasing almost exclusively women indulging in chocolate as a way to relieve stress or to reach emotional nirvana. 

    Across the board, chocolate is commercialized as being synonymous with love, comfort and happiness and, more often than not, these feelings are targeted towards the fairer sex. 

    So, it seems fair to say that women have been culturally conditioned to crave chocolate more so than men, especially in American-centric cultures.

    How to Fight Chocolate Cravings

    Now that we have covered the various reasons for chocolate cravings, it's easier to answer the question of how to fight these cravings.

    Since one reason could be a deficiency in magnesium, you can start taking magnesium supplements. For the recommended daily dose, look here.

    Aside from supplements, you can also increase your recommended levels by implementing magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet. Spinach, almonds, cashews, and avocados are all a great source of magnesium. So, if you're trying to stay away from chocolate altogether, why not give these foods a try?

    If you're hungry, filling up on other foods should do the trick.

    If it's a habit you're trying to kill, focus on eating mindfully. Ask yourself why you want chocolate and get to the root of the problem. Is it stress? Feeling down? Or just trying to satisfy your palate with something sweet after dinner?

    To avoid mindless overeating, try not to eat while you are engaged in other activities like working, studying or watching TV.

    If you insist on indulging in chocolate and giving in to those cravings, there are healthy ways to do it without sacrificing health.

    If you must, find chocolate with a high cacao percentage like a bar of dark chocolate. For one, the sugar content is considerably lower than that of milk chocolate and the health benefits to be found in natural cacao is a win-win.

    In addition, you could consider drinking away those chocolate cravings without worrying about all the sugar and calories. How? With cacao husk tea!

    Cacao husk tea is a loose-leaf chocolate tea made from the outer shells of the cacao bean. This 100% natural alternative is it a fantastic guilt-free way to enjoy the essence of chocolate without any negative health impacts.

    It has a subtle taste with chocolate and caramel essences and offers excellent health benefits. It's a mood booster, packed with magnesium and antioxidants. And best of all, it’s the perfect alternative to satisfying your chocolate cravings.

    Substitutes For Chocolate

    Now, if you're trying to cut chocolate out of your diet completely and you’re looking for healthy substitutes and alternatives, here are a few options.

    Sometimes we just want something sweet without any of the guilt. Fresh fruits like grapes, bananas, berries, and oranges can be an excellent substitute. They are rich in vitamins and low in fat and calories.

    High protein yogurt can also do the trick. With so many flavors to choose from, you can satisfy that sweet tooth without sacrificing taste. Make sure to look for yogurt with at least 20 grams of protein per serving.

    Peanut butter, anyone? Any nut butter like cashew, walnut or hazelnut can be a delicious substitute which helps fulfill those chocolate cravings. The high protein content will leave you feeling fuller for longer. Indulging in a couple of spoonfuls of one of these nut-butters can be exactly what you need to satisfy your craving for something sweet, rich and creamy.

    Protein bars can also be a good alternative. Some of them even mimic the look and taste of a chocolate bar. But watch out for those with high sugar content, as indulging in these could be just as counterproductive as eating a whole candy bar.

    For many of us chocolate lovers, the bottom line is this: chocolate is in a league all of its own and trying to replace or completely remove it from our diet seems like an insurmountable challenge.

    Just know there are always healthier options and ways to enjoy chocolate.

    Our tip: Always choose chocolate treats that are high in cacao. Dark chocolate doesn't always have to be bitter. With such a huge variety of dark chocolate to choose from, it's only a matter of finding the best one for you.

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    The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa

    The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa

    If you are like most people you probably didn't know there’s even a difference between cocoa and cacao. 

    Or maybe you're aware they’re somehow different, but you’re not sure how. We assure you, it’s not just a recurring typo all across the internet.

    After reading this article, not only will you know the difference, but you'll be able to make near expert decisions between cocoa and cacao when it comes to comparisons of taste, quality, and overall nutritional value. 

    What is Cacao?

    Kuh-cow. Imagine the call of an exotic bird. Cacao refers to both the fruit from the tree and its raw and ‘unprocessed’ product. By ‘unprocessed’ we mean that from harvesting to consumption you can expect that a cacao product has not been cooked or heated up beyond certain temperatures. It may be shelled, cold-pressed and even ground until it becomes cacao powder, but the absence of roasting or cooking methods means cacao retains its original bitter flavor and none of its phytonutrients are leached.

    What is Cocoa?

    Ko-ko. Like coconut. Cocoa products are inherently sweeter and are closer in taste to chocolate that we’re all familiar with. While a cocoa product may have been through similar processes as cacao it has also been roasted at some point during production which alters its nutritional value and taste. 

    Where Do They Come From?

    The Theobroma Tree. Which literally translates into 'Food of the Gods' and can be found in the tropical Americas. While this evergreen does flower, it's really the fruit that’s the genesis of our beloved chocolate. 

    If you've never seen a cocoa pod you might be surprised by its oval shape, surprisingly hard shell and greenish, orange-ish or reddish coloring depending on its stage of ripeness and origin.

    Source: Perfect Daily Grind

    Once you've managed to crack open its hard outer shell you will find anywhere between 20 to 60 cacao seeds coated in a moist, almost cotton-like substance. If ever you get your hands on one of these pods, don't be afraid to try the pulp of this fruit. Its sweet, soft texture is quite scrumptious. Its use in jellies, jams, and juices are just another way that this fruit of the Gods is a gift that keeps on giving.

    How Cocoa and Cacao Are Made

    Once the pods are harvested, they are then fermented, dried, and bagged for processing.

    The fermentation process varies by region, but essentially, it is the same everywhere. The pods are cracked open, usually with a hard central strike that will split the pod right down the middle. 

    Hey, nothing good comes easy!

    Although the fibrous pulp can be extracted and eaten as a sweet treat, it must be left intact, as it plays a key role in the fermentation process. During fermentation, this pulp liquefies and turns into alcohol by reacting with the yeasts in the air and ‘sweats’ the seed. During which, the beans swell by absorbing moisture from the pulp, which develops the original sharp taste into a more sweet flavor, giving it that hint of chocolate flavor. 

    The fluid is allowed to drain, leaving behind the fermented seeds. The entire process takes between 6 to 8 days. As most fermentation goes, the longer the beans are left to cure, the stronger the essence will be. However, it is recommended not to exceed the 8th day.

    Throughout this process, the beans are turned a couple of times to allow for even distribution of oxygen, during which time the beans may change color. This change usually indicates the stage of fermentation. 

    Once fermentation is complete, the beans are then sun-dried. (Oven-drying typically creates smoke which interferes with the sweet flavoring of the seeds, rendering them unfit for consumption.) By the time the seeds have dried, they have usually shrunken to half of their size. 

    At this time they are shipped to factories around the world where they then undergo different processes to become the products we know such as cacao/cocoa butter, cacao/cocoa powder, cacao/cocoa nibs, and of course, chocolate.

    How Do Cocoa and Cacao Differ?

    Roasting. It's all in the heat. Once the beans are roasted, they turn from cacao into cocoa. 

    How? The high temperatures work to break down the enzymes in the cacao seed, pretty much sterilizing it. The roasting also purges the seed of some of its nutrients while further developing its palatability. 

    So, while cacao and cocoa products both share a series of similar processes, it is assuredly the application of heat that differentiates one set of products from the other.

    Curious as to how cocoa butter is made? Once the cacao bean is separated into shells and nibs, through a method called winnowing, the nibs (which contain more than 50% of cocoa butter) are then ground down to form what is called 'cocoa mass’ when melted. This pasty substance is then diffused to separate the cocoa butter from any remaining cocoa solids. Incidentally, the cacao shells generated through the winnowing process can be used to make cacao tea.

    You may notice some products advertise cacao butter versus cocoa butter. Keeping in line with what we said about the use of heat, cacao butter undergoes the same process, however, it never exceeds temperatures above 115 degrees F. 

    Cacao powder? The solids extracted from the cocoa butter are placed in a hydraulic press for further grinding and then mixed with additives like baking soda and sweeteners. 

    Can you guess how cocoa powder is different from cacao powder? Yup! Those finely ground beans have definitely been roasted. 

    While the production of cocoa powder and cocoa butter consists of separating the elements of the cocoa mass, making chocolate is all about adding more cocoa butter to the cocoa mass. The means involve more grinding, churning, and even an extra channel called 'conching' that all works to smooth out any grittiness and leave us with that delicious, creamy treat that melts in your mouth. 

    Cocoa vs. Cacao: Which is Healthier? 

    Needless to say, while cocoa products retain some of their nutrient value it is cacao in the raw and un-roasted state that yields healthier gains. 

    So while cacao might have more of a bitter flavor, you'll be reaping the benefits of all the nutrients it has to offer.

    Let's look at just what cacao brings to the table. When it comes to the advantages of this super-food, the list is long. 

    Anti-Aging 

    For one, it is packed with antioxidants that have been known to have anti-aging benefits. In fact, it has been proven that daily consumption of raw cacao can improve the elasticity of the skin and reduce the appearance of sun damage. It has been shown that ingesting cacao can even allow you to spend twice as long in the sun while preventing the effects of sunburn.

    Weight Loss

    You might be pleased to know that cacao may actually play a role in aiding weight loss. Studies have shown that the properties found in raw cacao have a positive effect on lipid metabolism and lower the blending of fatty acids.

    Cardiovascular Health 

    Cacao is so abundant in nutrients such as magnesium, iron, vitamin C and flavonoids that it has been linked to helping prevent anemia, lower blood pressure, and counter diabetes.

    Nutritional Value 

    Raw cacao and cocoa powder essentially have the same amount of calories, but if you take a look at their nutritional value you will soon realize that not all calories are created equally. 

    For instance, for every 100 grams of cacao powder, you can expect to find 11 grams of fat. However, for every 100 grams of cocoa powder, the fat content is almost doubled at over 20 grams. 

    Bottom line?  Raw cacao is gram for gram far healthier than cocoa.  

    Side Effects

    As with anything, even good things in abundance can be detrimental. Take for instance the high levels of caffeine in cacao. While a cup of cacao husk tea might be a great substitute for coffee in that it offers a much more mellow stimulative effect compared to caffeine, the effects of too much theobromine can hamper your quality of sleep if you ingest too much before bedtime.

    In addition, while it can be integral in your weight loss plans, be careful just how much you eat, as cocoa products may contain high amounts of sugar, fats and other additives. 

    Even with its anti-aging properties, cacao products have been shown to cause skin issues such as acne, allergies, and inflammation. What works for others may not work for you, so be cautious about any negative reactions you might develop towards these products. 

    Ways to Enjoy Cacao

    Source: mygerbs.com

    From our nutrition and health benefit breakdown, we can now be certain that cacao is the superior option when it comes to keeping in line with healthy decisions.

    You may have picked up on the few mentions of its bitterness and might be wondering just how this super-food can be enjoyable. But, worry not. We’ve found ways for you to relish all the benefits of cacao without sacrificing taste. 

    Breakfast Smoothie

    Just plop a spoonful of raw cacao powder into a banana shake and you’ve got yourself a tasty treat without any of the guilt. With 4g of protein for every 15 grams, you can have yourself an organic protein shake to keep you feeling fuller, longer. 

    Cacao Powder Tea 

    On those cold autumn and winter nights, you can curl up with a hot cup of cacao powder tea. Substitute dairy with nut milk like almond or macadamia, which are naturally sweet and voila; a creamy hot chocolate without the need for sugar. 

    Cacao Nibs 

    These can be eaten as a standalone snack when you’re feeling peckish and you’re tempted to reach for that mid-afternoon bite. Make sure to have a bag of these lying around. With 175 calories in every ounce, you can’t go wrong. Or maybe, try sprinkling some over a scoop of ice cream for an indulgent topping. 

    Ways to Enjoy Cocoa

    Source: Samara Natura

    Hot Cocoa

    Well, this one is a no brainer. No one is a stranger to a steaming mug of hot cocoa to get you through the Christmas season. A spoonful of cocoa powder, a splash of milk and hot water is the simplest way to warm anyone up on a wintry night. 

    Baked Goods

    Brownies anyone? Chocolate cookies? Chocolate cake? Really, the possibilities are endless. A few spoonfuls of cocoa powder is the main ingredient in all of these indulgent desserts and we’ve found some delectable recipes for you here.

    Substituting Cacao Powder and Cocoa Powder

    With so many ways to use cocoa and cacao products, you may be wondering if it is possible to substitute cacao powder with cocoa powder (especially when baking), without sacrificing taste. 

    Generally, cocoa powder is cheaper than cacao powder, and this is as good a reason as any to substitute recipes that call for cacao with cocoa. 

    Or maybe, you want to satisfy your sweet tooth while watching your health, so the question stands, will it taste the same?

    While it may not be the perfect solution for all, in most recipes one can be used in place of the other with a few tweaks and tricks.

    Typically, cacao powder has a much stronger taste. You may want to keep this in mind for a recipe that lists cocoa powder as an ingredient. We suggest using less for the same effect. 

    Baking a cake? Cacao powder tends to absorb more moisture than cocoa powder, so keep an eye on how much liquid you use in your recipe if you want to substitute one for the other. 

    Also, when it comes to baking, it is important to note that cocoa powder is usually mixed with additives like baking soda during production. The lack of baking soda in cacao powder may mean you need to compensate for the absence of its leavening qualities by adding more baking soda or baking powder to the recipe. 

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    The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Tea

    The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Tea

    Winter is coming, and, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be looking for delicious ways to keep cozy and warm in the upcoming months. You’re in luck because we have the perfect solution for avoiding those pesky winter blues.

    Chocolate Tea. Hot Cocoa. Cacao Tea? All these terms are synonymous and essentially refer to the same thing, right?

    Maybe not.

    In this article we’ll explore:

    • The difference between cacao and cocoa
    • History of the cacao drink
    • Different types of chocolate tea, such as:
      • cacao nib tea
      • cacao/cocoa powder tea
      • cacao shell tea
    • The health benefits of chocolate tea
    • How to make chocolate tea

    What's The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?

    At a quick glance, the words cacao and cocoa may look the same, but more than just the tiny deviation in letter placement sets them apart. The main difference is that cacao refers to the plant itself or the fruit from the Theobroma tree, native to South America, and cocoa refers to the chocolate product of the roasted cacao seeds.

    Cacao, in its unprocessed raw state, is rich in nutrition and the purest form of chocolate.

    While its roasted counterpart loses some of its nutrients during the heat of processing, it is still high in antioxidants and nutrients.

    Whether it's cocoa or cacao, we can all agree that chocolate tea is the food equivalent of a warm hug from your favorite person. A steaming mug of this beverage is sure to heat you right up from the inside out and the aromatic blend is the perfect kick you need to start your mornings or soothe your senses.

    Where Did It All Start?

    Thanks to the Mayans and Aztecs who have been cultivating chocolate (known as the food of the gods) and drinking chocolate tea for more than 2000 years, we are blessed with what we know today as chocolate tea.

    Although we’ve come a long way from the original drink of the Aztecs, we still indulge in the savory sweetness of this famous beverage. In addition to maize, chili, and vanilla, we have found extra flavorings to add and various ways of making our own versions of chocolate tea.

    Satisfy your sweet tooth and indulge in your love of chocolate without the usual health concerns. With so many styles and recipes one can use to make cacao tea, there’s really no shortage of ways to mix it up and create a different concoction of perfection every time. Usually prepared by mixing some elements of cacao with black tea, finding the right recipe simply comes down to personal taste.

    Read on to learn about different kinds of chocolate tea and how to make them.

    Cacao Nib Tea

    Are you a coffee lover? Perhaps you'd prefer a richer flavor with more subtle hints of cacao?

    Cacao nibs have a texture, not unlike coffee beans, with the added health benefits of being abundant in antioxidants but with less of the side effects that come with a cup of joe.

    The key to getting the full flavor of the cacao nibs is in how long they are roasted. We'd say 10-15 minutes is ideal. Spread the nibs evenly in a thin layer on a sheet of baking parchment and bake in the oven on medium or high heat. The roasted nibs can then be ground down to a texture similar to coffee grounds before being placed into a French press, but please let them cool down first!

    For a simpler approach, place the roasted nibs in boiling water and allow them to steep. Add more nibs or boil longer to increase the intensity of the flavor. Don’t forget to strain the nibs before pouring yourself a cup. Add some cinnamon or nutmeg and a spoonful of sweetener.

    At less than 50 kcals a cup, you can have the pleasure without the guilt.

    No need to toss the nibs out once your tea is brewed. You can save them for later by sprinkling them over a scoop of ice cream for a delicious dessert.

    Cocoa Powder Tea (Hot Chocolate)

    Looking for that rich, creamy chocolate taste? Cocoa powder tea may be the solution for you. This is more commonly known as the famous hot chocolate that’s popular during the winter season.

    The powder is made by heating raw cacao to high temperatures which removes bitter enzymes, leaving behind that indulgent sweetness that we all know and love. This treat is quite simply made by dissolving the cocoa powder into hot water or steamed milk for a creamier taste.

    Be mindful that this powder is not easily soluble and the best way to get that smooth and creamy texture is to add the powder to an already hot liquid.

    Cacao Powder Tea

    What’s the difference between cocoa powder tea and cacao powder tea?

    Keep in mind that the distinction between cocoa and cacao remains in the way in which they are processed. Where cocoa powder tea is made sweet by employing heat, cacao powder is made by the method of cold pressing the raw beans. While this powder is less sweet than its counterpart, it packs a nutrient-dense punch.

    So, if you’re leaning more towards a healthier option you might want to set your sights here.

    Adding a bit of stevia can help combat the slightly bitter taste of cacao. While you’re at it, why not grate some nutmeg or sprinkle some cinnamon on top to sate your sweet tooth without the added calories of sugar?

    Cacao Shell Tea

    This particular variation is a unique experience from start to finish. For one, this loose leaf chocolate tea is made from the outer husk of the cacao bean. The beans are passed through a device that separates the husk from the nibs. Whereas cacao nibs boast a bit of a stronger chocolate flavor, the husks carry a more delicate note of sweetness.

    You will need a tea infuser/strainer for this one. Simply place the loose shells into the strainer and brew. Much like other loose leaf teas, the flavor intensifies the longer it is brewed. Check out our Complete Guide to Brewing Cacao Tea.

    Feel free to add milk and sweetener as desired.

    Health Benefits

    This treat sounds too good to be true, but really, it isn’t!

    Cacao is such a super-food that you’ll be doing yourself a favor by drinking chocolate tea. It’s so full of antioxidants that it ranks near the top of the world list. That means with each sip you are helping to clean up those free radicals in your body before they can cause any damage, lowering your blood pressure and even improving your mood.

    It’s high in nutrients and even has more calcium than cow’s milk so you could skip the added dairy altogether and still come out winning. In addition:

    • Antioxidants support anti-aging by repairing your skin and preventing the appearance of blemishes by improving the skin’s complexion.
    • Magnesium can be responsible for a healthy heart, brain, and bones. This nutrient aids in preventing diabetes and is even known to reduce levels of anxiety. So, next time you need a little something to calm you down, look no further than chocolate tea!
    • Iron is vital to the immune system and is even linked to sleep restoration. And, with cacao having the highest level of plant-based iron, there’s really no excuse as to why you shouldn’t be drinking it. Bottoms up!

    Caribbean Style Cacao Tea

    We might be biased, but would you like to know how to make the best cacao tea? Let's take a leaf from the book of the Caribbean's style of making cocoa tea.

    Or rather, a bay leaf!

    You may be surprised to learn that the secret ingredient to the best tasting cup of chocolate tea you'll ever have is the famous bay leaf.

    The first thing to know is that the most popular form of this style of tea uses cacao powder, so bypass the nibs and loose-leaf shells and husks and go straight to the powdered form of cacao. It sometimes comes in pre-measured ball form or loose powder. Either is perfect for this version of tea.

    Make sure to dissolve the powder in a hot pot of water. Be careful to keep it at a simmer, just under a boil.

    Drop a dried bay leaf into the milk or water as you brew and let it do its magic.

    The almost floral essence will bleed into your tea to give you something extra; an almost savory blend of spices to further enrich each sip.

    Usually, this beverage is sweetened with a generous dollop of condensed milk or evaporated milk. This syrupy sweet recipe is not for those of you on a diet or trying to curb your sugar intake.

    But don’t despair, there are variations that will do the trick.

    Not sure which alternative milk gives the best flavor? Try a type of nut milk, which is sweet by nature if you prefer to avoid dairy.

    Macadamia milk will do the trick, but others, like almond and coconut, work just as well.

    This drink is quite popular during the Christmas season. If you speak to a Trinbagonian native, we’re sure they’ll be able to tell you about memories of waking on Christmas morning to the sweet aroma of a hot pot of chocolate tea wafting through their home.

    Want a taste of Grenada? The aptly named ‘Isle of Spice’ will have you coming back for more. In addition to the bay leaf, further spices like ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and even ginger are added to make a blend that will awaken your senses and liven your palate.

    Interested in taking it up a notch? The Caribbean is the land of rum and many islanders are not afraid to pour a shot into this already delectable drink. Be careful though, one too many of these tasty drinks can leave you feeling less than superb the next day.

    Though this tea is perfect for the winter months, don’t be afraid to switch it up in the summer for some refreshing iced versions of the same recipe!

    Bottom Line

    As you can see, the world of chocolate tea is varied and diverse. You can enjoy a light and sugar-free chocolate tea made from cacao husks, a more dense and indulgent tea made in the Caribbean style, or anything in between. In each case, you will enjoy a blissful experience and the many health benefits of cacao. Enjoy!

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