August 26, 2008
The following comments on Coffee and Chocolate are based solely on what the two have in common in terms of cooling properties and the fact that they play such important roles in both natural foods and processed foods diets.
Let us look at this issue of coffee and chocolate being cooling foods from two different perspectives, a physiological perspective followed by an energetic perspective. Before doing so, we must understand that the degree with which a cooling food cools the body is dependent on both the level of physical activity that body engages in and how much of two warming macronutrients (fat and protein) are consumed by that body.
Fat and protein are the most highly thermogenic foods we can eat. To put that simply, good quality fats and proteins increase metabolism and an important effect of increased metabolism is warmth on a muscle, tissue, organ, and cellular level. Therefore, healthy proportions of protein and fat in ones diet act as buffers to the cooling effects of low thermogenic foods, or less nutrient dense foods (many vegetables, fruits…) and play an important role in balancing any healthy diet. A balanced healthy diet is guaranteed to provide both sensory and nutritional satisfaction. Beyond those basics, there are many additional benefits you can expect from eating a balanced diet and you can learn more by attending classes, reading books, choosing and preparing healthy foods and sharing your knowledge with others.
Physiological Perspective (Cooling Natures of Coffee and Chocolate)
Coffee and chocolate both contain stimulants, coffee in the form of caffeine and strong alkaloids, and chocolate in the forms of theobromine, phenethylamine and other chemicals, more of which are being discovered on a regular basis. These chemicals have been shown to have the same effects and addictive qualities as amphetamines.
These naturally occurring chemicals stimulate the sympathetic branch of the autonomous nervous system. The sympathetic branch acts on blood distribution by increasing its flow from its regulated cycle of circulation in the body to the periphery of the body – hands, feet, and surface of the body in general. This process of moving blood to the periphery of the body also occurs when one is physically active, running, aerobic activity, or any kind of active movement. When active exercise triggers the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, there is an increase in respiration, heartbeat, body temperature, and perspiration… These reactions result in, among other things, dehydration, caloric output, and ultimately the need to replenish the body with food and water.
After exercising, the body begins to cool down and it is through the replenishing of food and water that the body regains its warmth and hydration. If the body is not recharged after physical exertion and refueled through food and water, it would eventually cool down to the point of depletion.
Exercise offers an obvious example of how the body regulates its functions from warm to cool and back again but the effect of coffee and chocolate are not as obvious. Both contain stimulants that trigger the sympathetic branch of the nervous system causing blood to flow outward from the center of the body. One then experiences an initial output of warmth as the result of a host of increased physiological functions through increased circulation.
Coffee and chocolate can stimulate heartbeat, increase respiratory function, and increase blood circulation along with other effects that also occur during exercise. However, these stimulants have other effects beyond those shared with exercise. It begins with the pituitary gland thinking there is an emergency causing it to release hormones that cause the adrenals to produce adrenalin. This leads to rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and a slowing of blood to the digestive system. The stimulation of adrenals, kidneys, and bladder functions increase urination. Unlike exercise where perspiration is increased through exertion, the chemicals in coffee and chocolate do not increase perspiration as much as they increase urination because they are diuretics. With the increase of urination from these diuretic stimulants, the body begins a process of dehydration and draining of moisture from tissue and cells.
Interestingly, the neurological messages of thirst and hunger are indistinguishable from each other by the human nervous system and often one has to make a conscious effort to understand which is calling. An interesting point when you think about it because for most people hunger is the prevailing message and the one acted on when a glass of pure water is often what is needed first.
Dehydration resulting from increased urination cools the body temperature and a lack of regulated blood flow to the intestines reduces the warmth (digestive fire) needed for proper digestion. If dehydration becomes chronic, a common occurrence among most people, physiological symptoms of dry skin, dark urine, cold hands and feet, decreased circulation in general, reduction in cellular function and cellular flexibility, and reduced function of kidneys and adrenals…all of which contribute to physical coldness.
After consuming coffee or chocolate, most people will recharge their cells and tissue with nutrition in some form. Yet for those who choose less thermogenic foods or diets low in fat and protein – they are going to have a more difficult time maintaining bodily warmth than those who consume moderate amounts of fats and proteins when consuming coffee and chocolate on a regular basis.
Additionally, the cooling effects of coffee and chocolate can be understood by the way they affect the liver. The stored glycogen (sugar) molecules in the liver are rapidly released when coffee and chocolate are consumed, again due to their stimulating natures. Glycogen molecules are initially stored in the liver to supply a steady source of fuel, energy and warmth to the body and when released in abundance as a reaction to stimulating chemicals, creates an initial feeling of warmth through sheer caloric out put but is short lived as the liver now must rebuild its storage base of glycogen. This too results in a cooling effect on the body and it can further result in strong cravings for sugar due to the now depleted reserves of glycogen in the liver.
Today many people consume their chocolate and coffee with sugar and milk unlike traditional peoples. While milk does buffer some of the cooling and drying effects of these foods and the sugar may help to restore glycogen to the liver – many researchers believe these combinations to be unhealthy for various reasons.
Physiologically speaking then, both coffee and chocolate through their chemical constituents tend to cool the body by over stimulating various physiological functions that result in an initial warmth with an after effect of cooling and decreased circulation due to loss of water, loss of caloric fuel (glycogen), and the diminishing effects they have on proteins and fats.
Energetic Perspective (Cooling Natures of Coffee and Chocolate)
Coffee and chocolate are the two foods most directly connected to sexual problems and low energy among those following natural food diets. For some people the consumption of these two foods often comprise equal quantity to, or more than, the healthy staple foods of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and naturally raised animal products. Let us keep in mind that this is but an observation and not a criticism or judgment against those who choose to consume these foods nor the foods themselves. Each of us is free to design our food choices to fit his/her needs but balancing excesses and extremes in our diets are essential for good health.
The regular and sometimes excessive consumption of coffee and chocolate among many proponents of natural and health food diets however, is telling in that they are also some of the most widely consumed foods among those consuming processed food diets, and for the same reasons. These include the drug inducing effects of physical and mental stimulation, increased energy, and altered mental states.
Because of their wide appeal and ability to influence so many diets, chocolate and coffee deserve to be understood in terms of their unique energetic properties. Much can be said as to their powerful influence on eating disorders, the emotions, and related issues but that is for another discussion.
These two foods/stimulants, while having some positive qualities also contain a host of chemicals with strong negative qualities that can have adverse effects on ones energy and more specifically, on ones sexual energy. The negative influences of these foods are especially noticeable among those whose diets are lacking in reasonable amounts of protein and fat with which to buffer the drying and cooling effects of these foods. While both coffee and chocolate are extremely cooling foods, fats and proteins are warming therefore the more there are of the latter in one’s diet the less cooling and depleting the effect will be on the individual who consumes coffee and chocolate. (Coffee and chocolate both contain fat and protein however, the existent amounts in each is in small quantities which is why coco butter from chocolate is so highly prized and priced)
Potential Effects On Sexual Energy
When consuming coffee and chocolate in disproportionate amounts in your daily diet, it is important to consider the proportion and quality of fats and proteins, you have in your diet. If you have been on a diet low in protein and fat (raw foods vegan diet, vegan diet, standard macrobiotic diet, low fat diets) for 6 months or longer then you likely have discharged much of the original excess of your past accumulations of poor quality fats and proteins. If at this time, you have not replenished your diet with reasonable amounts of quality proteins and fats you are likely to experience any number of the following symptoms.
a. A gradual diminishing of muscle tone and tissue flexibility.
b. Reduction of viscosity in semen with diminished quantity and lack of sexual endurance in men.
c. Decreased flow and production of vaginal fluids and an onset of an overall cold temperament in women.
d. Biological and psychological dependency on the natural chemicals (caffeine, anadamide…) inherent in coffee and chocolate.
e. Bone weakness, joint stiffness, and dehydration.
f. A deep seated craving for fats and proteins of which you will usually be compelled to compulsively satisfy those cravings with poor quality sources that are familiar from your past eating habits of processed foods rather than giving thought to better choices that could be obtained from traditional healthy foods.
Part of this reason for not choosing better quality sources to replace those fats and proteins when in the reaction mode of craving is often due to your individual beliefs about what foods are good and what foods are bad, in other words; a limited or biased understanding of healthy traditional foods. The simple fact is that coffee and chocolate have far more extreme effects on the body than some of the taboo foods discouraged among healthy diet proponents.
Consider the energetic properties of the coffee bean. A tropically grown shrub bearing a double seeded fruit corresponding with paired organs of the body i.e. Lungs, kidneys, ovaries, testicles… A drug/food with the stimulating power to release reserved and stored energy in an explosive manner while expanding the mind with a rush of ideas and thoughts, dehydrating body tissue and cells, and forcing the kidneys to work overtime all for that brief excursion into hyper time. All this followed by a crash of low energy and the need for more stimulation.
Then consider the fussy, temperamental, high maintenance and decadent nature of the cacao tree that has to have everything in its environment maintain a very specific order or it refuses to bear fruit. Like the cacao tree, its fruit, the prima donna of plant foods, convinces you that you need no one when you have it for your companion. Sensuous, satisfying, comforting…in the privacy of your space, only you with your compulsion and your chocolate. You feel protected and safe like it when nestled beneath the canopy of the rainforest shielded from the harsh rays of sunlight.
Both coffee and chocolate are derived from plants that are highly sensitive to cold temperatures. Both are small seeds with an intense bitter taste. Coffee beans (fruits, berries) are from a bush/small tree while cacao beans are the seeds of the cacao pod that grows on trees. Both are roasted before being consumed which increases their already bitter taste.
Coffee beans are roasted and dried. Cacao seeds are left to ferment for four or more days in the sun then sun dried and roasted at a low temperature. After roasting, both coffee and cacao seeds/beans are ground and consumed in several ways.
The bitter taste has the effect on the body of drying and purging and it resonates or enters the heart and small intestine. This includes all bitter foods and does not mean that the bitter taste is good for these organs. It simply means that bitter enters these organs. For example, dandelion and burdock roots have long been traditional remedies for numerous ills. Both have bitter tastes and therefore enter the heart and small intestine via the meridian channels of the human body. Coffee and chocolate too, have a bitter taste and will enter the same organs but will have a stimulating effect on those organs. The non-stimulating bitter taste of dandelion or burdock, neither of which are of tropical origin nor sensitive to cold temperatures, have a tonifying effect on the heart and small intestine.
Being energetically sensitive to cold temperatures (coffee and cacao cannot be grown where there is frost) coffee and chocolate impart in the consumer similar qualities and when consumed in excess demand a balance to their cooling effects in the form of warming nutrient dense foods. The bitter taste with its dehydrating and purging properties not only contributes to drying of body cells and tissue: the purging effect of these bitter stimulants can deplete the stored bodily warmth derived from warming fats and proteins and when depleted will compel strong cravings for both.
It is interesting to note that traditional cultures had a variety of bitter foods in their diets, unlike modern industrialized cultures. Various herbs for cooking, bitter tasting green vegetables, roasted foods, grilled foods, toasted foods (seeds, nuts, crackers, toast…) and smoked foods all contributed to the bitter taste in traditional diets.
Aside from the stimulating effects that make coffee and chocolate so widely popular perhaps the lack of a variety of traditionally consumed bitter tasting foods in our modern diets also plays an important role in the high consumption of these two most interesting foods.