What is Theobromine and Can It Save Me From Caffeine?

 

chocolate-coconut

A better energy source without the spike and crash of caffeine? We’ll break it down for you.

Article at a Glance

  • Theobromine, naturally found in cacao and select teas, is becoming a popular alternative to caffeine.

  • Theobromine can be a longer-lasting, milder, and more pleasant energy source over caffeine and has a whole host of other health benefits.

  • Suggestions on how to get more theobromine into your day. 

What is Theobromine and What’s the “Better Energy” Fuss All About?

Theobromine is a naturally occurring compound found in cacao and select tea plants.  You’ll often hear theobromine mentioned in the same breath as cacao and even chocolate.  This is because cacao is often the primary source of this naturally occurring stimulant. Cacao has long been known for its energizing effect and was even served to ancient Mayan chiefs because it was viewed as a gift from the gods. As such, when scientists decided to name the new genus of plant, they called it Theobroma Cacao which means “food of the gods.” 

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Theobromine is in the same class of stimulants as caffeine, but theobromine is quite different from caffeine because it offers a longer lasting, more relaxed energy without the spike and crash.

Unlike caffeine, theobromine is not a central nervous system stimulant and therefore doesn’t typically make you feel as on edge or jittery.  For that same reason, theobromine is non-addictive.  The energy from theobromine feels more akin to a good night’s sleep and also gives you a “holistic high” by making you feel more focused.

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Theobromine and caffeine are similarly constructed types of pharmacologically active chemicals but with noticeably different effects. Theobromine is gentle, mild, has a slow onset, is long lasting and non-addictive whereas caffeine is intense, strong, fast acting, short lived and can be addictive.

The Top 5 Reasons You Should Drink Theobromine

Aside from the longer-lasting, milder, and more pleasant energy source over caffeine, theobromine also helps improve circulation. Theobromine acts to dilate and widen your blood vessels which improves blood flow. This alone results in a whole host of additional benefits.  Including: 

#1 Better Focus

Theobromine can help with brain function and helps to improve focus.[i] In one study, after consuming cacao beverages, participants that were assigned certain tasks showed more interested and demonstrated greater calmness.[ii]

[i] Scholey, A. B., French, S. J., Morris, P. J., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., & Haskell, C. F.  (2010).

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21839757

#2 Better Sleep

Interestingly, despite being a stimulant, theobromine can also help you to sleep at night as it helps to balance brain chemistry.

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#3 Better Breathing

Theobromine helps to relax your lungs so you can breathe deeper, especially helpful if you have asthma.

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#4 Lowers Blood Pressure

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Theobromine helps to lower blood pressure due to the easier blood flow and also acts as a diuretic and smooth muscle relaxer.[i][ii]

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3672386/

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2125532/

#5 Improves Overall Cardiovascular Health

Increased flood flow from theobromine also means a greater amount of toxins that are cleaned out of your body. Studies have shown this could also potentially decrease risk of kidney stones, decrease onset effects of dementia, decrease risk of stroke, and help with similar brain diseases or blood vessel related dysfunction.[i]

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[i] Sorond FA, Lipsitz LA, Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND.

Should I Be Swapping Theobromine Over Caffeine?

Yes! The host of theobromine benefits speak for themselves.

When it comes to swapping out caffeine for theobromine, your body may thank you. Studies suggest consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine (4 cups of coffee worth) per day can be harmful, and theobromine offers a great alternative.

How can I get theobromine?

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When it comes to natural sources of theobromine, cacao rules the roost. Brewed cacao and multiple servings of cacao powder are a great option to get more theobromine into your day.

 

Serving size for beverages= 1 cup or 8 oz. For Cacao Powder serving size = 1 tablespoon. For dark chocolate= 1.5 oz


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Brewed Cacao

Roasted, ground, and brewed just like coffee, brewed cacao has the flavor and aroma of pure dark chocolate plus high levels of theobromine. While it brews like coffee, you get the benefits of cacao with 350mg of theobromine and just 15mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup. Brewed cacao also is becoming a popular alternative for coffee for its significantly lower levels of acidity vs. coffee. Crio Bru is your best bet for great taste and high levels of theobromine. Learn more about the brewed cacao craze here.

Cacao Powder

Similar to brewed cacao, cacao powder is an excellent source of theobromine with 131 mg per tablespoon.  Add two or three tablespoons of cacao powder into your favorite smoothie and you’re close to the same level of theobromine in brewed cacao. The less processed, the better when it comes to cacao powder. Navitas Organics is a good option.

Dark Chocolate

While a bit more more processed than brewed cacao and cacao powder, dark chocolate still retains high levels of theobromine.  A 85% dark chocolate bar has 115 mg per 1.5 oz serving.

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Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Milk

Though often accompanied by processed cocoa and sugar to boot, these longtime sweet treat favorites still retain reasonable amounts of theobromine (58-65 mg) and trace amounts of caffeine (5 mg).

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Guayusa Tea

Guayusa is a type of holly tree native to the Amazon rainforest that when brewed as a tea has both caffeine (70 mg) and Theobromine (40 mg). Runa Guayusa is one popular source.

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Yerba Mate Tea

The leaf from the Yerba Mate tea also is relatively high in theobromine (33 mg) combined with higher levels of 80 mg) caffeine that gives a more balanced “natural energy cocktail.” Guayaki is the most popular brand.

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Black Tea

Black tea has only trace amounts of theobromine (4 mg per 8 oz serving) and your body will likely not even pick up that it’s there.

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That’s all there is to it!  Try these food and beverage options to get more theobromine into your day and enjoy the “better energy” from a more natural, more honest energy source over caffeine.


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