Why Raw Cacao is Good for You
Antioxidants: Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Health benefits of these antioxidants include:
- Promote cardiovascular health- Help dilate bloods vessels, reduce blood clotting, improve circulation, help regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
- Protect from environmental and metabolic toxins - Help repair and resist damage caused by free radicals, and may reduce risk of certain cancers.
Serotonin- Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS systems, and promotes a sense of well-being.
Endorphins- Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” a jogger feels after running several miles.
Phenylethylamine- Found in chocolate, phenylethylamine is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. Acts as mild mood elevator and anti-depressant, and helps increase focus and alertness.
Anandamide - Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released by the brain when we are feeling great. Cacao contains both N-acylethanolamines, believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain, and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. Promotes relaxation, and helps us feel good longer.
Essential Minerals:Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
Magnesium- Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency, present in 80% of Americans, is linked with PMT, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and joint problems.
Sulfur - Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning.
Essential fats: There is a misperception that chocolate is fattening. In truth, the fats in cocoa butter are healthy fats. Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, also found in olive oil, that may raise good cholesterol. Also, substances found in cacao are known to help reduce appetite.Important note- To fully benefit from chocolate’s wide array of nutrients, eat chocolate that is as close to its natural state as possible. Whole cacao beans and nibs are best. You lose many of the health benefits when you eat commercially produced chocolate.
Using Cacao Beans and Nibs at Home
If you are using whole beans, simply crunch them between your fingers to loosen and remove the peel. You can use the beans whole or grind them in a spice mill/coffee grinder or food processor. Then add them to smoothies, teas, desserts, raw food bars or any dish that calls for the delicious flavor of chocolate. They are especially good when used in recipes with our vanilla beans. Here are some more detailed suggestions for enjoying the exquisite flavor of cacao:
1. Try eating them straight, a tablespoon at a time. Chew thoroughly and experience the taste extravaganza of raw (or roasted) chocolate.
2. Sprinkle on yogurt, granola, desserts, etc.
3. Make a delicious chocolate shake with dairy or nut milk, coconut oil, a frozen banana, agave nectar, and cacao beans.
4. Add agave nectar, yacon sweetener, or honey to the raw cacao nibs and chew!
5. Freeze cacao nibs with sweeteners (agave nectar or honey is fantastic). Eat cold.
6. Blend powdered cacao into herbal teas with the Peruvian superfood maca.
7. Add cacao nibs to ice creams for the healthiest chocolate chip ice cream in the world.
8. Create a raw chocolate bar! Blend the following raw ingredients together: cacao, agave nectar, carob powder, maca, coconut oil, and cashews. Pour into a mold and freeze. Eat cold and experience the truth about the food of the gods!
9. Grind whole beans or nibs into a powder and combine with coconut oil to make a chocolate sauce. Use in cookies, brownies or other raw or baked desserts.
10. If you have a Champion juicer, you can make unsweetened baker’s chocolate by running the nibs or unpeeled whole beans through it. To make a “liquor” run the powder through the Champion several more times until it separates into powder and liquid.
11. Make a scrumptious chocolate nut fudge. In a food processor or blender, start with your favorite nut (cashews or almonds are particularly good) and add coconut oil, agave nectar or honey, coconut flakes, cacao beans, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
Cacao beans and nibs keep well in cool, dry conditions. Refrigeration of the cacao nibs is not required but is recommended.