Singing the Praises of the Worlds Healthiest BeansBy Roy HalpinWhile we have talked about the health benefits of dark chocolate andbrewed cacao products in a previous article, we did not get in to muchdetail. This article may be considered as too scientific by some, but it isvery important to know what is healthy and unhealthy for our bodies.Typically, when our medical doctor prescribes a pill, we take it withoutreservation. Is that wise? When we buy prepared food and drinks at thegrocery store, we assume that our government only allows healthyproducts to be sold in our stores. Is that true? The answer to bothquestions is sadly no.Note: This article serves to inform you of the healthful benefits found inboth caffeine and cacao beans so that you can make informed decisionsregarding your diet and habits. We are not suggesting you change yourdiet drastically or stop taking prescribed medication without discussing itwith your doctor.What are phytochemicals?Most people are familiar with the basic nutrients: carbohydrates,proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Less often discussed arephytochemicals, which are classified as "nonessential nutrients" Thereare thousands of phytochemicals that we are aware of and thousandsmore to be discovered, each with their own healing propertiesBoth the coffee and cacao beans are rich sources of phytochemicals.Caffeine and theobromine, provided by these beans, are photochemicalalkaloids with numerous health benefits. Caffeine is widely known and isfound in coffee, some teas, and over the counter medications.Theobromine, which is not as commonly known as caffeine, is found indark chocolate and cacao brews. The photochemical alkaloids caffeineand theobromine are beneficial to the human body.Health Benefits of Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, which increasesrespiration and blood circulation by dilating your blood vessels. Caffeinealso acts as a diuretic. Caffeine increases the bodys circulation whilestimulating the oxidation of fatty acids, contributing to weight reductionand better athletic performance. Caffeine is often combined with aspirinto treat headaches. Remember, moderation is the key to healthy caffeineconsumption.Caffeine FactsPlants containing caffeine have been used by different cultures overcenturies. Caffeinated teas were used to treat headaches, coughs, andeven the plague. Interestingly enough, only in recent history is caffeineused to avoid slumber and relieve fatigue. Caffeine is now one of themost widely used phytochemicals. Contrary to popular beliefs, caffeine isnot addictive, but it can be habit-forming. Normal levels of caffeineconsumption are not toxic to humans but are very toxic to dogs, cats andhorses.Health Benefits of TheobromineTheobromine has similar effects as caffeine but to a lesser degree,making it a healthy alternative to those with caffeine sensitivities.. Likecaffeine, theobromine is a diuretic and a stimulant. Theobromine dilatesyour blood vessels, helping lower blood pressure. Unlike caffeine,theobromine does not affect the central nervous system yet remains astimulant. Theobromine can also relax bronchia muscles in the lungs,making it beneficial for people with asthma and patients with chronicobstructive pulmonary disease. Theobromine is also used as coughmedicine. Studies show that theobromine acts positively on the vagusnerve, which runs from the lungs to the brain. Physicians in the MiddleEast recommend the consumption of 4 cups of coffee daily. They believethis limits heart disease and colorectal cancer, while reducing the risk ofAlzheimers and Parkinsons disease. There are also claims that coffeeconsumption reduces the risk of developing Type 2diabetes, depression, and prostate cancer. Studies have also shown thathigh coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver
cirrhosis and liver cancer. Researchers cannot determine what it is incoffee that produces these healthful benefits. We can only assume thatcoffees positive effects are due to the high amount of phytochemicalsfound in every cup.Facts about TheobromineTheobromine is found in the cacao beans of the Theobroma cocoa tree.The tree produces the pods that cacao beans used to make roasted andbrewed cacao beans, cocoa, and chocolate. Although theobromine is notharmful to humans, it is highly toxic to some domestic animals includingdogs and horses. Theobromine has a bitter flavor, and is what gives darkchocolate its bitter taste. While theobromine levels are highest in darkchocolates, it is also present in teas and cola nuts. Caffeine andtheobromine are both stimulants, but theobromine does not affect thecentral nervous system as caffeine does. Therefore, brewed cacaomakes a wonderful drink for those that are sensitive to caffeine.Health Benefits of Brewed CacaoConsumption of theobromine via brewed cacao or dark chocolate hasbeen shown to help decrease blood pressure, improve cholesterol ratio,and increase insulin sensitivity. Consuming cacao has also been shownto reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots, whiledilating the arteries to improve blood flow. Cacao exerts strong anti-inflammatory effects on the body, helping to prevent osteoporosis. It alsoboosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours afterconsumption, suggesting that consuming cacao helps increaseperformance in tasks that requires an alert mind. It also triggers theproduction of endorphins in the body, which create a feeling ofhappiness. Just one cup of cacao brew per day has been shown to lowerC-reactive protein levels, a strong marker of cardiovascular disease risk.ConclusionIn this article we targeted the numerous health benefits of caffeine andtheobromine, which are only two phytochemicals out of thousands.There is clearly many more health benefits to the coffee and cacao
beans than previously thought. As discussed above, consumption ofboth caffeine and cacao can have numerous benefits. However, pleasekeep in mind that moderation is key, and abuse of either of these plantalkaloids can be devastating.Side-bar:Some are curious as to why preserving the rain forest andprairies is important to human-kind. One reason is the abundance ofphytochemicals found in these climates. Plants produce these chemicalsto protect themselves, and recent research demonstrates that thesephytochemicals can also protect humans against diseases. Thousandsof phytochemicals lay undiscovered in plants that dont even have acommon name yet, proving there is much to be learned from the rainforest and prairies!