The health benefits of chocolate are widely celebrated, but there’s always that pesky asterisk attached. Although chocolate contains flavonoids and other antioxidants that may benefit your heart and buoy your mood, it also can be loaded with sugar and calories. That’s why we’re usually told to limit our consumption to one small square of dark chocolate a day.
Enter brewed cacao: a trendy new beverage that delivers all the benefits and decadent flavor of dark chocolate, without any of the sugar and fat, and virtually no calories. It also is low in caffeine, so you can enjoy it any time of day. Brewed cacao is, however, rich in theobromine, another mild central nervous system stimulant. Some users believe that theobromine boosts their mental energy and focus but without the nerve-jangling effects of caffeine. Controlled trials have so far failed to support these impressions.
Cacao beans intended for brewing are processed a bit differently than those destined to become chocolate or cocoa powder. Instead of the slow “baking” required to bring out the optimal flavor for chocolate, the beans are handled more like coffee beans and roasted quickly at high temperatures. Less processing means more of the beneficial compounds are preserved. As a result, a cup of brewed cacao contains roughly twice the amount of the flavonoids catechin and epicatechin as a square of dark chocolate or cup of hot cocoa.
With its rich, chocolatey aroma and full-bodied mouthfeel, brewed cacao is somehow more than just a beverage. Although an afternoon cup of tea or coffee often feels incomplete without a little something to go with it, a cup of brewed cacao, with or without a splash of milk, feels completely satisfying. As an after-dinner offering, it easily replaces both coffee and dessert.
To brew the perfect cup, place 2 tablespoons of ground cacao beans in a French press, add 1 cup of boiling water, stir briefly, and steep for 5 to 7 minutes before pressing. Brewed cacao can be enjoyed black or with milk or nondairy creamer and a touch of sweetener, if desired. The spent grounds make great compost, and your compost heap will smell wonderful.
The ground beans also are edible — and quite tasty! Try blending a spoonful into a smoothie, stirring into hot cereal or sprinkling over ice cream.
Although newly trendy, brewed cacao actually is nothing new. It was enjoyed by native Central Americans as early as 1,500 BC. So, the next time you get a craving for chocolate, instead of heading for the candy counter, why not make like the ancient Mayans and brew up a cup of cacao?
There are a number of different health benefits, but here are a few
- Theobromine – A healthy stimulant that is gentle on your system. Theobromine is a vasodilator, which means that it stimulates the vascular system to open up and allow for healthier blood flow. What does that do for you? It gives you more energy, but not the messy energy that you get from caffeine. You get a nice clean boost of energy that last longer than caffeine, but is healthy for you
- Antioxidants – Did you know that in just 8 oz of Choffy – Brewed Chocolate you get more antioxidants than what you would get in a serving and a half of blueberries? Yep, and the they are some of the harder working antioxidants, which means that they buffer lactic acid out of the muscles and vital organs, and then fight free radicals!
- Phenylethylamine (PEA) – Cocoa beans have this chemical, and when it is in your body it helps to produce serotonin. More serotonin means that you are happier, manage stress better, you have more energy and generally have a better outlook on life. Now who could use more of that!
- Weight Loss – Cacao also helps with weight loss! Yep, you read that correctly. Portions of the Cacao bean has been proven to stop your body from digesting certain fats.
- Promote Lean Muscle Mass Growth – There is a compound in the cocoa bean called Epicatechin and when ingested help to increase follistatin levels in your body. What does that mean? It means that with higher follistatin levels your body can produce muscle. Muscle burns calories, which in turn helps you to maintain body balance.
The statements regarding the health benefits are based on actual studies and chemical evaluation however, they not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.