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Caffeine is almost a necessity for many of us. But with so much information about the different effects of caffeine intake, it can be difficult to choose the best way to get your daily caffeine fix. When considering the caffeine in cacao vs coffee, while cacao has less caffeine than coffee it has more of the mood and energy-boosting chemical theobromine.
Cacao vs Coffee: Food Profile
Cacao beans are grown on cacao trees, found in tropical climates. The beans are seeds from the pods of these trees and is the main ingredient in chocolate. They contain a natural stimulant called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine. A dark chocolate bar contains about 20 milligrams of theobromine and about one-milligram caffeine.
Theobromid stimulates brain activity and creates a state of euphoria and increased mental and physical endurance. Theobromine also increases the levels of endorphins, which are hormones that make us feel happy, and phenylethylamine, which is known to make some people feel in love.
The difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder is that cacao is raw and cocoa beans are processed at a high temperature to make cocoa. This can remove some of the health benefits of cocoa solids. Milk chocolate only contains about 5-10 milligrams of cacao per serving due to the high amount of sugar. Dark chocolate bars contain more than 80% cacao and upwards of 160 milligrams per serving.
Cacao powder is packed with more nutrients than just caffeine and theobromine. It has a high ORAC value which measures the antioxidant levels of food and cacao powder is one of the highest. Cacao powder is great for making hot drinks like cacao tea or cacao milk. It can also be used in baked goods instead of cocoa powder.
Coffee beans are not actually a bean, but the seeds found inside the berries of coffee trees. The caffeine it contains is created as a defense mechanism against being eaten. The beans contain an average of about 1 percent caffeine by weight but can range from 0.7 to 2 percent.
Coffee beans are roasted at high temperatures to darken the color and intensify the flavor. This process can strip coffee of its antioxidant value, but coffee still contains vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, manganese, and potassium. Coffee is a diuretic which means it increases urination. It can cause dehydration, which is why it’s recommended to drink water alongside coffee.
French press coffee is one of the highest caffeine options. It’s made by steeping coarsely ground coffee in boiling water for eight minutes before pressing down the plunger. Dark roast coffee has higher caffeine content than lighter roasts. Instant coffee is the lowest but might contain dangerous chemicals like propylene glycol and sodium silico aluminate.
Cacao vs Coffee: Caffine Content
- A cup of brewed cacao contains about 20 milligrams of caffeine
- A cup of coffee contains an average 75 to 150 mg of caffeine
- A cup of green tea contains about 30 to 40 mg of caffeine
- A cup of black tea contains about 50 to 90 mg of caffeine
- A cup of yerba mate contains about 65 to 115 mg of caffeine
The exact amount of caffeine varies depending on how each drink is made. Coffee has a variety of roasts and ways to make it like drip, french press, and espresso. Each method extracts different amounts of caffeine and oils from the coffee beans.
While cacao has less caffeine, the additional theobromine acts as a stimulant that can help with alertness. Theobromine is not as intense as caffeine, but the body only needs to process 1 percent of theobromine as compared to 50-80 percent of caffeine.
After a workout, a study on rats found that giving them the cacao drink as a post-workout beverage increased muscle strength and body weight more than those receiving just water. Cacao has an antioxidant content that can help to fight against free radicals and slow down muscle fatigue. Coffee does not have the same antioxidant levels.
The Effect of Caffeine on The Human Body
While a caffeine boost can be helpful every now and then it’s important to be aware of what different levels of caffeine does to the human body. While small amounts of caffeine can improve mood, concentration, and energy too much can also cause anxiety, insomnia, increased blood pressure, acid reflux, and heart palpitations.
Blood Flow and Circulation
With caffeine blood vessels constrict, which can worsen cardiovascular disease symptoms. Your blood pressure increases and your heart has to work harder to pump blood. The heart muscle could also thicken from caffeine intake, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. Your heart rate also increases, which can result in palpitations, elevated blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.
While a boost in energy is the main reason to enjoy a cup of joe, the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system can cause sleep problems and insomnia. It can also cause jitters and feelings of anxiety after drinking too much coffee. The varying caffeine levels in a coffee drink can also lead to coffee addiction.
Cacao vs Coffee: Health Benefits
Cacao Health Benefits
The antioxidants in cacao have been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Cacao also has a flavonoid called epicatechin which helps dilate blood vessels and prevent damage from free radicals. Epicatechin is also shown to improve memory, lower stress and combat inflammation. Cacao is also an excellent source of fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc.
Coffee Health Benefits
The caffeine in coffee helps increase alertness and can also aid in mental focus, concentration, and memory retention. Coffee is a great source of antioxidants known as caffeoylquinic acid. This antioxidant can help to fight against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Coffee also helps the body eliminate toxins that build up from lack of sleep.
Benefits of The Caffeine In Both
The caffeine in cacao vs coffee offers similar effects in terms of health benefits. Caffeine offers weight loss, energy boosts, better focus, and concentration. Cacao is rich in minerals that are good for heart health while coffee helps fight against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In the end, cacao is the healthier choice since it’s lower in caffeine, but coffee has many health benefits as well. What you choose to drink depends on your personal preference and health goals. If you are interested in trying cacao as a coffee alternative here are some of our favorite brands to try!