kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Many men, particularly as they age, are concerned about their levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone that builds muscle, sex drive and vigor. Testosterone supports muscle mass, while helping protect overall health, from bones to brain to heart.

The best way of checking testosterone status is with simple blood tests. In men, the optimal ranges for free and total testosterone in the blood are:

  • Free testosterone: 15-25 pg/mL.
  • Total testosterone: 600-900 ng/dL.

Testosterone levels typically start to drop after early adulthood, getting lower every year. In men, low testosterone is associated with:

  • Loss of muscle mass and strength
  • Cognitive decline
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunction

In one meta-analysis, men with low testosterone were on average 48% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with normal levels.

Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in the testes in men. A small amount is also made in the adrenal glands. Testosterone is important for the normal development of male bodily structures, including the reproductive system and genitals. The impact of testosterone continues throughout male adult life, affecting the healthy function of most organ systems.

Testosterone circulates in the blood bound to plasma proteins, most importantly sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and albumin. Only about 2% of the circulating testosterone is non-protein bound, or free. Free testosterone is the most biologically active form.

Beginning around age 30, testosterone drops by an average of about 1% each year. As testosterone levels drop, men begin suffering from well-known low testosterone symptoms, including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and loss of muscle mass and strength. Depressed mood, diminished brain function, and risk for cardiovascular disease and other illnesses also increase with lower testosterone levels.

Low testosterone is associated with increased rates of all-cause mortality!

Testosterone is known as the male “sex hormone.” Unsurprisingly, low levels significantly diminish sexual function. There are two reasons for this. Low testosterone:

  • Contributes to erectile dysfunction, and
  • Affects the brain, which leads to loss of libido.

This is one of the major reasons for the diminished quality of life reported in those with low levels of the hormone.

Rates of mild cognitive impairment and dementia rise as we get older. But men with lower testosterone have an even higher risk of developing cognitive dysfunction. In one study that pooled data from several previous trials, men with low testosterone were on average 48% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with normal levels.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 27 studies with over 18,000 participants found an increased risk of all-cause dementia with decreasing total testosterone levels. Researchers also point to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease with lower levels of free and total testosterone.

A number of studies have reported a link between low testosterone and depression. In depressed older men with low testosterone, raising testosterone levels can have an antidepressant effect, helping to improve mood and better control depressive symptoms.

Testosterone has a significant impact on metabolism. It increases lean muscle mass and reduces fat mass. As a result, having low testosterone increases the risk of developing conditions tied to excess weight and metabolic dysfunction, including metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

Several studies show a correlation between low testosterone and the components of metabolic syndrome or diabetes:

  • Men with lower testosterone are more likely to have insulin resistance, higher fat mass, and less lean muscle mass.
  • Low testosterone predicts the development of abdominal obesity and the accumulation of fat tissue in the abdomen.
  • Diabetic men are more likely to have low testosterone levels than non-diabetic men.

Lower levels of testosterone are associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease. In some studies, low testosterone has been able to predict future risk of death from cardiovascular disease in men, even when controlling for different risk factors that included age, obesity, diabetes, abnormal blood lipids, and lifestyle choices like smoking.

In men with existing cardiovascular disease, there is a higher rate of death in those with lower testosterone. Men with low testosterone and cardiovascular disease were found to have a 75% higher chance of dying from any cause during follow-up, compared to men with normal testosterone.

Bones are affected by low testosterone. Studies show that testosterone levels are associated with bone mineral density and are predictive of fractures in older men. At higher testosterone levels, bones tend to have higher density and remain strong. Low testosterone is correlated with thinning of the bones, which can eventually lead to the bone disease osteoporosis.

The combination of weak, thinned bones and poor muscle strength often culminates in falls and bone fractures. Severe injuries such as pelvic fractures or head injury can be fatal in the elderly.

If you are overweight, altering your diet to lose weight may help, since carrying excess pounds is a common cause of low testosterone.

Testosterone levels may also be shaped by how much a person sleeps and if they are eating most of their calories at night or in small meals throughout the day.

Drinking alcohol might effect testosterone levels. Cells can be damaged in the testes, which makes testosterone, and the liver, which alters testosterone metabolism.

In observational studies, it was discovered that pomegranate and cacao (the beans used to make chocolate) improve various aspects of health, including athletic performance and erectile function. Scientists believed these benefits might be tied to higher testosterone levels. To test this possibility, researchers gave healthy adults pomegranate for two weeks. Testosterone levels rose by 23%-27%, while improving mood and sense of well-being.

In mouse studies, scientists confirmed that both pomegranate and cacao seed extract boost testosterone production by the cells of the testes. These extracts have an even greater effect when combined. In a rat study, the combination elevated testosterone levels by over 72% in just six weeks.

In a human study, men aged 36 to 55 were given 400 mg of a pomegranate and cacao blend daily. After eight weeks, levels of bioactive free testosterone were 48% higher. Markers of stress, well-being, hand grip strength, and low testosterone symptoms all improved significantly.

Even in younger men aged 21 to 35, free testosterone was boosted by about 25%. Hand grip strength and upper arm circumference increased as well.

Luteolin has shown, in preclinical research, that it could favorably modulate testosterone in humans. Luteolin is a flavonoid found in many herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Add celery, chili peppers, sweet pepper, lettuce and spinach to your diet along with:

  • Zinc. Zinc is important for testosterone production. Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cocoa beans, wild rice.
  • Vitamin D3. Correcting a Vitamin D deficiency can boost testosterone. The sun and mushrooms.
  • Asian Red Ginseng Extract. This ancient herb can improve your libido.
  • Magnesium. Studies have shown that magnesium can decrease metabolic syndrome and lower inflammation. Sunflower seeds, flax seeds, buckwheat, peanut butter.
  • Omega 3.One is that Omega-3’s can lower sex hormone binding globulin SHBG, and SHBG binds to free testosterone and inhibits its proliferation. Seaweed, chia seeds, edamame, lentils.

Cacao

Raw cacao (pronounced ka-KOW and sometimes called cocoa) is chocolate in a nearly pure and natural form. Cacao is raw, unprocessed chocolate.

When the unroasted cacao beans are cold-pressed, the enzymes are not altered as they are in other types of chocolate. At the same time, the pressing removes the fat from the beans to create cacao butter. Cacao nibs have some great benefits. In fact, they have all the benefits of dark chocolate, but without the added sugar.

You may have heard how dark chocolate is good for you, however, most dark chocolate has been so processed, that the healthy benefits are flushed out of it. Cacao is a healthier option, containing four times the amount of antioxidants of dark chocolate.

Cacao nibs are made once the cacao beans have been harvested by being removed from their pods, fermented and dried. The cacao beans are then crushed, which form the cacao nibs. Some manufacturers sell their cacao nibs raw, while others roast them before packaging and selling them.

Cacao nibs are also used to make cacao paste, cacao butter, cacao powder and other chocolate products such as chocolate bars, chocolate sauces, and chocolate beverages.

Added to the superfood category, cacao beans have significant nutritional value. There are significant amounts of the minerals calcium, zinc, iron, sulfur, manganese, copper, and potassium, vitamin E, and B-vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9. Cacao beans are also a great source of protein and fiber while providing the heart-healthy fat, oleic acid.

40 Times the Antioxidants of Blueberries

Raw organic cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. It has an amazing ORAC score of 98,000 per 100g, vs blueberries at a mere 2,400.  ORAC scores measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals (that come from pollution and toxins in our environment), which cause cell and tissue damage and can lead to diseases such as cancer.

These antioxidants repair damaged cells, prevent the onset of disease, and stave off premature aging. When antioxidants enter your body, they scavenge roaming free radicals, which do damage to your cells and body.

Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron

Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron in plant-based food – 7.3mg per 100g.  This compares to beef and lamb at 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg.  Note the iron in cacao is non-heme (as is all plant-based iron), so to get the maximum benefits you’ll want to combine it with some vitamin C. – oranges, kiwifruit, superfoods like gubinge (a kind of plum) or camu camu (which have 40x more vitamin C than oranges).

Full of Magnesium for a Healthy Heart & Brain

Raw Organic Cacao is also one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium.  Magnesium is important for a healthy heart, and helps turn glucose into energy enabling your brain to work with clarity and focus.  The magnesium can help heart-health by lowering blood pressure, improving the flexibility and strength of your blood vessels, removing plaque build up in the arteries, and decreasing LDL cholesterol.

Cacao beans contain compounds that help regulate blood pressure. In each bean, has theobromine and flavanols that encourage the health of your blood vessels strengthening and enhancing their ability to dilate. By improving the health of the blood vessels and increasing circulation, cacao beans help to lower blood pressure, and therefore reduce the probability that you will experience strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease.

More Calcium Than Cow’s Milk

Raw Organic Cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk  at 160mg per 100g vs only 125mg per 100ml of milk.

A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant

Cacao is a great source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine.  These neurotransmitters are associated with the feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and can even alleviate depression. Cacao beans contain a  molecule called anandamide, which facilitates the release of such feel good hormones as serotonin and dopamine. These hormones help alleviate feelings of depression while actively boosting your mood. Women with PMS have found that cacao beans help to stabilize their mood and hormones by restoring serotonin levels.

 

How to Buy

Normal cocoa powder and chocolate have been chemically processed and roasted, which destroys a large amount of the antioxidants and flavanols.  A recent study suggested that between 60% and 90% of the original antioxidants in cacao are lost through common “Dutch processing”.  Dutch processing was originally developed in the early 19th Century to reduce the bitterness, darken the colour, and create a more mellow flavour to chocolate, but unfortunately also eliminated a bunch of the goodness.

Non-organic cocoa (and non-organic chocolate) has also been treated heavily with toxic pesticides and fumigation chemicals, and may contain genetically modified (GMO) products.

Oxfam estimates that over 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown by indigenous communities who are paid such a low wage that poverty is widespread. In some instances, child slaves are used, forced to engage in dangerous work such as using machetes and applying toxic pesticides.  Please buy fairly traded chocolate.

Cacao beans – These are the actual beans which are extracted from the pod. Cacao beans are in their original, whole and unprocessed form.

Cacao paste – Cacao paste is made by grinding the whole cacao beans into a liquid, and is also known as cacao liquor. This cacao liquid is then partially dried, which results in a paste.

Cacao butter – Cacao butter is the fat that is extracted from the cacao bean and is used often in cooking and baking.

Cacao powder – Cacao powder is what remains of the cacao paste after the fat has been extracted.

 

How to Store

 

When storing cacao nibs, make sure that they are in an airtight container, which allows them to stay as fresh as possible before being used, and you can even freeze them if you aren’t going to use them soon

Cacao nibs can last for several years if kept in the right condition and stored properly.

  • The container with the cacao nibs should be kept in a dark, cool and dry location.
  • Make sure to press out all of the air from the packaging before sealing and resealing it, or transfer the cacao nibs to a glass jar that seals tightly to maintain their freshness for an extended period.

If you see any signs of rot or mold, or if the cacao nibs have a strange aroma, you should discard them.

If you have bought a large batch of cacao nibs and do not plan to use them all in the near future, you can freeze the extra cacao nibs in order to make them last longer.

  • Lay the cacao nibs flat on a baking sheet, spread out as much as possible, and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Once they have been in the freezer for 30 minutes and have hardened and separated, you can transfer them to a resealable freezer bag, or to an airtight freezer container.
  • If you are freezing them in a freezer bag, try and push out as much air as possible, as the moisture in the air might ruin the quality of the cacao nibs.

 

How to Cook

Cacao nibs can be used in a variety of ways, and many people choose to toast or roast their cacao beans first. Raw cacao nibs do not melt. You can roast nibs to enhance the flavor.

They can be used in both sweet and savory dishes to add a bit of richness to the dish. People use cacao beans as an added ingredient in their morning oats for chocolate flavor without all the sugar. They can also be used in smoothies to give them more richness.

Cacao nibs also make a great addition when used for granola or homemade trail mix, and really help to fulfill the chocolate craving in the healthiest of ways.

To add texture to different dishes, cacao nibs can be used in muffins, in ice-cream or as a topping on a dessert.

Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Be Good Organics

12 Servings

Ingredients

Base

  • 1 1/2 cup almonds*
  • 1 cup dates
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbsp cacao butter melted

Filing

  • 1 1/2 cup cashews soaked 2hrs, rinsed & drained
  • 1 1/2 cup raspberries fresh, or defrosted from frozen
  • 1/4 cup coconut nectar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1/4 cup cacao butter melted
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder

Chocolate Drizzle To Top (Optional)

  • 1/4 c cacao powder
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 2 tsp coconut nectar
  • Extra raspberries

Instructions

  1. Blend all the base ingredients in a food processor or blender until chunky like a breadcrumb, so that it sticks together between your fingers but still has some nice texture to it.
  2. Pour into your tart tin (a French fluted one with a removable base) that’s lined with parchment paper. Press the base in and up the edges, moving around the sides with your palm, thumb and fingers to get a nice even thickness on all sides. Place the base in the freezer while you prep your filling.
  3. Blend all your filling ingredients except the cacao butter and cacao powder in a blender until super creamy and smooth. Then add in the cacao butter and blend again, and finally add in the cacao powder and blend until combined. Remove the tart shell from the freezer and pour in the filling, smoothing out the top with a spatula. Place in the fridge overnight to set.
  4. This tart will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze in a sealed container (whole or sliced) for up to two months.

*Make it nut free: replace the almonds in the base with sunflower seeds and replace the cashews in the filling with watermelon seeds.

If you have time, try soaking and dehydrating the nuts, for optimal nutrient absorption and digestion. Otherwise you can just use raw. Brazil nuts also taste amazing in the base, or sunflower seeds for a more affordable option.

Resources

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