The Power of Chocolate
I have some great news!!! Chocolate is good for you!!!! – OK – stop right there…….not your traditional chocolate that you buy at your local sweety shop…they have too much sugar in … but the cocoa bean and its derivatives are extremely good for you. And I have lots of different recipes using the ‘good’ stuff that makes ‘amazing’ chocolate stuff, so will never need to buy sugar filled not good for you chocolate again!
Before I headed down the healthy chef route I worked in Australia for 7 years as a chocolatier. I loved chocolate, I made chocolate, I ate chocolate, I lived chocolate! Yet I haven’t bought or used commercially made chocolate in my recipes for over a year. Once you understand how raw cacoa works it is relatively easy to incorporate into your recipes and to make chocolate featured dishes without the bad stuff (the processed sugar)
Chocolate originates from South America and grows as a fruit on the cocoa tree. The cocoa tree name is Theobroma cacao which I love, because it literally means cacoa drink of the gods (theo = God, broma = drink) The cocoa beans from the cocoa tree were traded and used as currency. 140 cacoa beans were worth 1 spanish real in 1555. An early explorer visiting Central America found that four cocoa beans could buy a pumpkin; 10 could buy a rabbit.
It’s amazing that it actually ever took off – anyone who has tasted a cacoa bean or the nib will find it very bitter. The Mayans ground the beans up, dried and roasted it into a paste and served it with spices in cold water – doesn’t sound that great to me – I’d have been backing the tea growers in India! However, it was a scarce commodity and became very valuable to the Mayans and Aztecs. Although Columbus was the first person to bring back cacoa beans to Europe they were pretty much ignored until Cortes brought some back to Spain with some chocolate making equipment. Monks in monasteries, known for their pharmaceutical skills, were then chosen to process the beans and adjust the drink to Spanish tastes. Chili pepper was left out from the paste and cinnamon, nutmeg and plenty more sugar were added. They also started to serve this exclusive drink hot and discovered that the chocolate tasted even better. Apparantly on some Spanish ship that were taken over by the Dutch and the British, the cacoa beans were not recognised for what they were, and were actually thrown overboard in disgust, thinking they were sheep droppings!
The cacao bean is the fruit of the cacoa tree and the bean peeled and chopped up are the cacoa nibs. Both, on their own are pretty bitter tasting. Cacoa powder is made from grinding down the raw nibs and can be bought raw or roasted. In its raw state, chocolate has more than 300 nutritional compounds and is one of the richest sources of antioxidants of any food on the planet! What a treat to have such a fabulous ingredient be so nutrient dense.( I’m now keeping my fingers crossed that someone is going to find bacon sandwiches to be the cure all for modern illnesses!)
Some of the benefits to Cacoa
Get skinny with the chocolate!- MOA inhibitor – this stops you overeating and shrinks your appetite! This may sound unlikely to you – as who has started a bar of chocolate only to say half way through – ‘ummm I’ve had enough of this’ not me for sure! But the MOA’s are in the raw or fermented cacoa – another reason to ensure you use the cacoa powder and not the choccy bars for your 300 nutritional compounds
Thins blood and prevents clots. According to the University of California Nutritional department cacoa actually thins your blood and prevents blood clots. So much tastier than taking an asprin a day!
Heart Happy. Raw cacoa is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that could protect against cadiovascular disease, help improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of a stroke. It can also reduce your ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries
Brain Happy. Cacoa also increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which not only makes you feel happier but also boost the brain levels of calming hormones. In addition cacoa also contains something called anandamide, which can also help create feelings of happiness and joy within yourself! (you can understand why you reach for that bar of chocolate to cheer yourself up now!)
Now Concentrate and Get Sexy. Chocolate has for a long time been known for its aphrodisiacal qualities. This is the PEA, Phenylethylamine , found in cacoa which apparantly triggers the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, two very powerful brain chemicals involved in attention, alertness. and also romantic love!
Cacoa is one of the richest antioxidant providing ingredients on the planet. Better than green and black tea – but what exactly are antioxidants and what do these antioxidants do for us ?
Antioxidants, as the name suggests is a substance that inhibits oxidtion. Oxidation damages cells by breaking atoms which leave ‘unpaired elecrons’ also knows as ‘free radicals’ lose around the body. The free radicals go in search of electrons that they can pair themselves to , essentially stealing them from another cell, which in turn creates another unpaired electron (free radical) which goes in search of another electron…..and so on and so on….. . Antioxidants are the first line of defence to stop this domino effect by giving the free radical an electron to pair up with. The can also help repair a cell that a free radical has already compromised. Antioxidants are found naturally in food and are also man made. There are thousands of antioxidant compounds out there.
Looking Good: One of the antioxidants found in cacoa is a great collagen booster, making your skin firmer and you looking younger!
Fighting Cancer. Free radicals, caused by stress and toxins can damage cells and create cancer causing chemicals that can be found in your cells and tissues. These do not have to be left to roam free in the body. Antioxidants stabilise and can destroy free radicals.
Fighting Inflammation: As well as fighting cancer and boosting collagen, these antioxidants that are so plentiful in Cacoa also help decrease inflammation
Reduce insulin resistance: Antioxicants can help reduce insulin resistance and sensitivity in people with imparied glucose tolerance.
Reduce your stress: The antioxidants found in cacoa can reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Lie back, relax and try a chocolate chip cookie made with cacoa nibs!
So, a true superfood in its raw state! (not in the candy bar!). But what can you make with it?
Here are a few recipes that can help you on the way
The following is the nutritional facts for raw organic cacao powder (1 ounce) taken from www.thesuperfoods.net
Calories – 120
Calories from fat – 23
Total fat – 2.5g (4% DV)
Saturated fat – 1.5g (7% DV)
Sodium – 20mg (1% DV)
Total Carbohydrates – 19.0g (6% DV)
Dietary fiber – 7.0g (28% DV)
Protein – 5g
Calcium – 4% DV
Iron – 16% DV
For anyone who wants to be healthy or/and to lose weight, but has always thought that that would mean deprivation, lettuce leaves and no chocolate can now think again! Yipppeeeee. Check out some of my other recipes that can help you lose weight but do remember that chocolate does not need to be a treat that you will never eat again by going on a diet or following a healthy lifestyle. Get some raw cacao into your life and enjoy!