Chocolate Beyond Chocolates
Chocolate is a superfood!
By now you’ve likely heard that chocolate is good for you. A truer statement would be cacao is excellent for you. There’s a big difference between a chocolate bar and an earthy, bittersweet cacao tonic. Maybe you’ve heard the darker the better when it comes to the health benefits, but that’s still only half of the truth.
The truth is, the chocolate we think about when mentioned is usually filled with refined sugar and has been processed with hydrogenated oils with most of the benefits cooked away in the process.
When we talk cacao, we’re talking raw, unprocessed, ‘chocolate’. Chocolate starts as a tree that produces pods which contain seeds (or beans) that offer a range of health benefits. Full of (good!) fat and antioxidants, cacao beans can be used in a host of different ways. Below we list common forms:
- Cacao Beans – Can be eaten as is. The flesh that holds the seeds together comes partially intact and gives a sweet burst of flavor before biting in to the dark, bitter, inner seed. 1 or 2 is all you need.
- Cacao Nibs – Chopped up cacao beans. Use these like you would chocolate chips.
- Cacao Paste – Partially heated cacao nibs melted into chunks for baking.
- Cacao Butter – The outer later of each individual bean where the fat lives. This part of the seed is white. It is separated from the rest of the seed and is commonly utilized as skin moisturizer because of the high fat content.
- Cacao Powder – Finely ground cacao beans. Use this form to add to smoothies, tonics, or for baking.
- Antioxidants. More than blueberries
- High levels of plant-based iron. More than green, leafy vegetables!
- High levels of magnesium.
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E
- Calcium, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, potassium, manganese, selenium and sulfur.
What does all of that goodness do for our bodies?
- Increases brain health and functioning
- Acts as a mood enhancer
- Lowers cholesterol (which can prevent heart disease)
- Increases energy levels
- Gives us stronger bones
- Makes our skin and hair healthy
- Relaxes muscles
With all of this goodness, there has to be some side effects, right? Partially.
Cacao contains caffeine at a fraction of what a normal cup of coffee yields. This can still be problematic for sensitive individuals. Cacao also contains a compound called theobromine which stimulates our nervous system and can cause feelings of restlessness. It is important to keep in mind that although the levels of good compounds in cacao are off the charts, balance is key to maintaining our equilibrium. Where as you could comfortably eat 100 grams of blueberries (about 1 cup), eating 100 grams of cacao would be detrimental to your health, specifically your nervous system.
That being said, try replacing your morning cup of jo with a cup of hot cocoa. Add a tablespoon of cacao powder to your smoothie. Mix some cacao nibs into your trail mix. Eat an organic, low sugar, dark chocolate bar. Keep your consumption sensible and shortly you will notice the benefits of adding this powerful superfood to your diet.