Guarana is a naturally energising superfood and the star ingredient of our Rheal Energy snack bars. Here's what all the fuss is about.
What is Guarana?
Guarana is a climbing plant native to the Amazon whose flowers contain seeds similar in size to coffee beans.
When you hear about guarana in the world of food and nutrition, this is almost always referring to these small seeds - which harness the benefits of guarana.
Guarana fruit can vary in colour from brown to vivid red. It contains black seeds which are partially covered by white arils (seed coverings). This makes the guarana fruit look spookily like a human eye!
As it isn't found naturally in other foods, guarana is often added to food and drinks for it's energising properties - or taken as a guarana seed extract supplement.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Guarana
Amazonian tribes have used guarana for thousands of years. It was a staple food for tribal hunters, who needed a boost of energy on long hikes!
In the modern world guarana is mainly utilised for its energising benefits, but it also packs in a number of other nutrients which are good for immune health and overall wellness.
Let's take a look at what makes guarana such an incredible superfood.
- Naturally energising
Guarana is an excellent source of caffeine, containing around four times the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans.
Coffee beans tend to contain 1-2.5% caffeine, whereas guarana seeds contain between 4-8%.
Guarana also contains other naturally energising compounds such as theophylline, theobromine, catechins and tannins.
Studies have shown that these energising compounds of guarana can help to fight fatigue and provide a sustainable and long-lasting source of energy.
- Mental stimulation
Guarana also provides a boost for the mind, as well as the body.
It contains three "methylxanthines": caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. These are also found in cacao and have been shown to have psychoactive properties (1).
This means that they work with the nervous system to boost cognitive ability and help to fight mental fatigue.
Guarana can help to improve concentration and focus, boost alertness and even enhance learning capacity.
- Source of antioxidants
Like most plant-based superfoods, guarana is loaded with nutrients which have powerful antioxidant properties.
This includes compounds such as caffeine, catechins, tannins and saponins (2).
In fact guarana has been praised for having a high antioxidant capacity similar to green tea - one of the best antioxidant foods out there.
Antioxidants help to fight off damaging free radicals in the body, which are often the root cause of many diseases.
So, enjoying guarana as part of your daily routine is a great way to boost your antioxidant intake and protect your overall health and wellness.
- Better athletic performance
Guarana is perhaps most commonly known for being added to sports and energy drinks. In fact, 70% of cultivated guarana is added to soft drinks and sports drinks - with just 30% being made into supplements.
Studies have shown that caffeine and other stimulant compounds found in guarana can help to improve stamina and athletic performance, linked of course to their energising properties.
As well as giving you an extra boost during a workout, guarana can also help to delay the onset of fatigue post-exercise.
It is a great addition to natural sport and electrolyte drinks, just watch out for other hidden ingredients which aren't so good for you.
- Overall health & wellness
Foods containing guarana and guarana supplements can also be used for their wider nutritional and health benefits.
Consuming guarana daily can help to meet nutritional requirements for essential vitamins and antioxidants, to help promote overall wellness.
Guarana has potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity in the body and research has found that guarana extract can have a positive effect on immune function too (3).
- Metabolism & weight loss
Interestingly, guarana has several properties which could make it a useful food for those looking to lose weight.
The high caffeine content of guarana means that it has the same metabolism boosting impact as coffee, which can help to increase resting energy expenditure i.e. burn more calories.
There is also scientific evidence to suggest that guarana acts as a natural appetite suppressant, which is useful for people who find that cravings contribute to weight gain.
However, it should be noted that guarana found in energy drinks usually comes alongside a lot of added sugars, chemicals and artificial ingredients - which aren't good for us and can lead to weight gain.
Benefits of Guarana Over Coffee
If guarana and coffee beans both contain a natural source of caffeine, why should you choose guarana over coffee?
Well, studies have shown that guarana provides additional stimulation over caffeine alone. That isn't just down to a higher caffeine content either.
In addition to caffeine, guarana seeds are known to contain a number of other stimulants such as catechins, tannins and alkaloids which are all naturally energising too (4).
Their potent effect on fighting fatigue in both the body and mind makes them an effective solution for banishing both physical and mental fatigue.
If you're over reliant on multiple cups of coffee to get you through the mid-afternoon slump, guarana could be a great swap for you!
Side Effects and Risks of Guarana
Guarana is a natural, plant-based food with many incredible health benefits.
It is generally considered to be both safe and effective for most people, when consumed in the doses recommended by manufacturers.
As with all food and drinks containing caffeine, guarana may be unsuitable for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children - as well as those who are sensitive to caffeine.
Overall, guarana is a safe and natural food which can provide a number of health benefits.
Guarana is amazing, but that doesn't mean energy drinks are healthy!
Guarana can be consumed as a powder or supplements, but is most commonly added to soft drinks - such as energy drinks.
Most energy drinks should be completely avoided - not because of guarana, but due to heaps of added sugar, artificial ingredients, flavourings, colourings and extra caffeine.
Energy drinks typically contain far more caffeine than you'd find naturally in a cup of coffee or serving of guarana.
This is so much so that high energy drink consumption has been associated with increased blood pressure and even acute heart problems (5).
Throw in their huge added sugar content and you have a completely unnatural drink that may pick you up in the short-term, but will have a lasting negative impact on your health in the long-term.
Rheal Energy Bars with Brazilian Guarana 🌱
Rheal superfood energy bars contain natural Guarana from Brazil. They provide 68mg caffeine per bar, that's as much as a single espresso - but purely from guarana.
Our energy bars provide the energy your body loves as well as the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre it needs - from 100% natural superfoods and nothing else.
You can learn more about Rheal Energy Snack Bars in our blog post below.
Available in four flavours: Hazelnut Cacao, Banana Bread, Blueberry Muffin and Peanut Butter, our energy bars are the perfect replacement for sugary snacks or energy drinks for whenever you need an extra boost.
They're also soft and gooey, not dry and crumbly - with an added crunch and vibrant, fresh flavour that you'll absolutely crave!