Superfood of the Week: Raw Cacao
Many books can be written about the amazing cacao bean, because it is one of nature’s most fantastic super foods due to its impressively wide array of unique properties. It has been called “Food of the Gods” by Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. The cacao bean has been described as Nature’s number one weight loss and high-energy food and probably the best-kept secret in the entire history of food. Since many of the special properties of cacao are destroyed by cooking, refining, and processing, planet Earth’s favorite food is still unknown to most of us. Now we get to reconnect with the power of REAL chocolate.
We all know there is something about chocolate that is beyond touch, taste and sensation. The essence of it is truly indescribable. All chocolate is made from cacao beans. All the antioxidant value, mineral benefits, neurotransmitter rejuvenating properties and overall health-giving qualities of chocolate are found in original cacao. Chocolate consists of just one ingredient-no sugar, no dairy, no chemicals required. With cacao there is fantastic hope for chocoholics everywhere! You can turn cravings for cooked, processed chocolate into super nutrition with raw chocolate (raw cacao beans, nibs, butter, powder and bars).
There are 3 major species variations of cacao around the world: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario( a cross of the other two). Criollo is the most highly prized.
The benefits are lengthy so here is a summarized version of the greatest health advantages of eating this super food:
• Highest food source of anti-oxidants (more than wine, blue berries, goji berries, acai, and pomegranates combined)
• Highest source of magnesium in raw foods: Supports heart, increases brain power, increases bowel movements, relaxes cramping, increases flexibility, builds strong bones, increases alkalinity, eliminates magnesium deficiencies.
• High source of iron – keeps blood healthy and fights anemia.
• Improves the functions of immune system, liver, pancreas, sexual fluids, and skin.
• Fights Diabetes – Prevents the onset of type-2 Diabetes meillitus.
• Increases focus and alertness.
• Improves mental performance.
• Stress and Anxiety Buster: produces extra “feel” good chemistry in the body with its PEA compounds, Serotonin, and Anadamide.
• Increases bowel movements and cleanses intestines.
• Improves asthma conditions.
• Kills cavity-causing organisms.
• Dilates cardiovascular system, making the heart’s job easier.
• Assists in weightloss with minerals and PEA molecules that shut off appetite.
This raises the possibility that certain food components like cocoa flavonols may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function among older adults or for others in situations where they may be cognitively impaired, such as fatigue or sleep deprivation. –Ian A. Macdonald, University of Nottingham Medical School
Cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. More than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates and goji berries combined. This protects us from age-related conditions and illnesses.
Over 80% of North Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium. And in raw foods, raw cacao seems to be the highest source of magnesium. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brainpower, increases bowel movements, relaxes cramping, increases flexibility, builds strong bones, and increases alkalinity. Cacao has enough magnesium to help reverse deficiencies of this mineral.
Cacao contains 314% of the recommended daily amount of iron per serving. Iron is a critical mineral in nutrition. It keeps our blood healthy and fights back anemia.
Important trace mineral that balances blood sugar. 80% of Americans are deficient in this trace mineral. Cacao contains enough chromium to help deficiencies of this mineral.
Cacao is a rich source of manganese, an essential trace mineral. Manganese helps assist iron in the oxygenation of the blood and formation of hemoglobin.
Excellent source of Zinc, another trace mineral that plays a critical role in the immune system, liver, pancreas, sexual fluids, and skin. Additionally, zinc is involved in thousands of enzymatic reactions throughout the human body.
Helps to build healthy blood and strong immunity.
A one ounce (28 grams) serving of cacao nibs supplies 21 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin C. This is an extraordinarily high value for a dried nut or seed. Cacao must be raw to contain vitamin C.
•Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Cacao contains essential omega-6 fatty acids. All cooked and processed chocolate contains rancid omega-6 fatty acids (trans fat) that can cause an inflammatory reaction when one eats cooked chocolate.
• Phenylethylamine (PEA)
Cacao is abundant in this class of compounds. These heat sensitive compounds are not found in cooked chocolate. PEAs are a major class of chemicals that we produce in our bodies when we fall in love. PEAs also play a role in increasing focus and alertness.
This is an endorphin that the human body naturally produces after exercise. Anadamine has only been found in one plant—cacao. Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released while we are feeling great.
Cacao contains significant quantities of this essential amino acid, a powerful mood-enhancing nutrient. Tryptophan is critical for the production of serotonin, our primary neurotransmitter. Enhanced serotonin function typically diminishes anxiety and literally improves our neurological and physiological stress-defense shield.
Cacao is rich in serotonin. Serotonin is similar in chemistry to tryptophan, melatonin and DMT. If serotonin levels are high, the world could be collapsing and we would still feel good. If serotonin levels are low, all could be well, but we would still feel like hell.
Cacao contains an extraordinary type of soluble-fiber. The fiber is so perfect for the human digestive system that cacao can be blended, crushed and micronized and will still help cleanse the intestines and bulk up bowel movements.
• Methylxanthines: Caffeine and Theobromine
Contrary to popular belief, cacao is a poor source of caffeine. A typical sample of cacao nibs or beans will yield anywhere from zero caffeine to 1,000 parts per million, which is less than 1/20th of the caffeine present in conventional coffee. Cacao is also a rich source of theobromine which improves asthma, kills the organism that causes cavities and dilates the cardiovascular system, making the heart’s job easier.
• Cardiovascular Cleansing Compounds
These compounds reduce inflammation in blood vessel walls and reduces cardiovascular clots.
• Weight loss
Cacao is actually one of the great weight-loss foods because within its extraordinary nutrition profile it contains the minerals and PEA molecules that shut off appetite.
• Diabetes Prevention
Dietary supplementation with cacao reduced blood glucose levels in obese diabetic mice, and may offer human diabetics significant benefits, says a new study from Japan. “Dietary supplementation with cacao can dose-dependently prevent the development of hyperglycemia in diabetic obese mice,” wrote lead author Makoto Tomaru in the journal Nutrition. “The dietary intake of food or drinks produced from cacao beans might be beneficial in preventing the onset of type-2 diabetes mellitus”.
Where to Buy
My favorite place to shop for cacao is SunFood Superfoods. I have spoken with them personally to find out all the information about the quality of their Cacao and found that they offer high quality, ‘Criollo’ Cacao products. Click on the image to go to their website:
Recommended ways to consume cacao:
1. Purchase raw cacao products (beans, nibs, powder, butter) and blend them into your favorite beverage. One tablespoon of cacao powder per quart works great with any beverage. Blend cacao into coconut water, teas, or smoothies.
2. Sprinkle raw cacao nibs on your favorite dessert or treat instead of chocolate chips or make them an ingredient in one of your raw desserts!
3. Mix them in with your trail mix. The other day I mixed them with pecans, goji berries, hemp seed, and raisins. It was delicious!
Raw brownie recipe made with cacao coming soon– stay tuned!
Scientific Journal References
-Bayard, V., F. Chamorro, J. Motta, N.K. Hollenberg. “Does flavonol intake influence mortality from nitric oxide dependent processes? Ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and cancer in Panama.” International Journal of Medical Sciences. Volume 4 (2007), pp.53-58
– Reuters, November 14 2006
– “Cocoa ‘Vitamin’ Health Benefits Could Outshine Penicilin” Science Daily
– Warner, Jennifer. “Dark Chocolate, Other Cocoa-Rich Foods May Lower Blood Pressure Better Than Tea” WebMD Medical News (April 9, 2007) Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD.
– McCook, Alison. “When it Comes to Chocolate, Order Dark, Not White. “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, as reported by Reuters Health (March 21, 2005)
– David Wolfe. Superfoods
– Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate
– Foster, Nelson, Cordell, Linda S. Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World.
– Lopez, Ruth. Chocolate: The Nature of Indulgence
– McFadden, Christine, France, Christine. Chocolate: Cooking with the World’s Best Ingredient.
– Pendell, Dale. Pharmakodynamis: Stimulating Plants, Potions & Herbcraft.
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