(Raw) Cacao: Food of the Gods

It's common knowledge that dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate. What's often misunderstood however, is that many of these proclaimed health benefits are lost in the processing. Its through an understanding of this that you begin to recognize the difference between cacao & coco, raw chocolate & processed. 

*this image is not mine

*this image is not mine

Raw food is unheated. It's processed at 117 degrees F or less. It's through this that nutritional integrity is maintained. While some foods need to be cooked for proper ingestion & absorption, cacao is not one of these. "Cacao (ka-cow) is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. These untreated seeds, referred to as cacao beans, can be considered a superfood, offering a wealth of antioxidants & essential vitamins & minerals." (Built Lean). It's chocolate before chocolate happens.  

The perfect Theobroma cacao tree (photo from: http://www.zchocolat.com/)

The perfect Theobroma cacao tree (photo from: http://www.zchocolat.com/)

Cacao grows on the Theobroma cacao tree, in elongated pods, that hold anywhere from 40-60 seeds. Once harvested & shelled, they undergo a natural fermenting process before drying over a one - two weeks. This results in raw cacao beans. It's here however, that we tend to make a mess by further processing the beans by roasting them. They are heated to such an extent that the nutrients & minerals composing it as a superfood are destroyed. Furthermore, dairy products, which is added to our beloved milk chocolate, is said to block its antioxidant properties.

What is about cacao that makes it a superfood?

  • It lowers blood pressure & improves circulation
  • It promotes cardiovascular function & health due to its heart-healthy mono-saturated fats
  • It neutralizes free-radicals due to its antioxidant flavanoids (four times the amount in raw chocolate than processed dark)
  • Enhances physical & mental well-being
  • Contains anandamide, a known mood improver, the 'bliss' molecule
  • It's an aphrodisiac due to its phenethylamine which releases endorphins (Daily Superfood Love)
  • It boosts seretonin levels - which women are depleted of during their pre-menstrual part of their cycle - it's not just folklore that chocolate improves the moods of women, it's science!
  • Combats fatigue & increases energy 
*this image is not mine

*this image is not mine

Essential Vitamins & Minerals:

Magnesium helps regulate a diverse range of biochemical reactions in the body including: energy production, structural development of the bones, it’s an antioxidant, transports calcium & potassium. It also aids in the regulation nerve impulses, muscle contraction, & the maintenance of normal heart rhythms. It is an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body.

Calcium is an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body. It is needed to build & maintain strong bones, as well as heart, muscle, & nerve health.

Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in your body after calcium & phosphorus. Mostly found in muscles, skin, & bones, it benefits many additional bodily systems. It's required for proteins to maintain their shape & the biological activity of the proteins. It's also essential for the bonding & structure of the biologic activity of enzymes. (Dr. Mercola)

Zinc is an essential mineral involved in cellular metabolism. "It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes & it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, & cell division." (National Institutes of Health).  It supports growth & is necessary for proper sense of taste & smell. The body is unable to store zinc, so it needs to be consumed daily.

Iron is a key ingredient in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is in your red blood cells & carries oxygen through your body.

Copper is a trace element aiding in the proper function of organs & metabolic processes. It aids in the absorption of iron.

Potassium can be found in most food, particularly leafy greens. Like magnesium, calcium, & chloride, it's an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body, as well as an essential mineral in the maintenance of proper blood levels & the maintenance of healthy heart & nerve function. 

Manganese assists in bone production & the maintenance of skin integrity & health. It also fights against free radicals & blood sugar control. 

Proteins repair & build tissues, make enzymes, hormones, & other body chemicals. It is an important building block of hair, nails, muscles, skin, cartilage, & blood.

Dietary Fibre normalizes bowel movements & helps maintain bowel health. It lowers cholesterol, maintains weight, & aids in glucose regulation.

Thiamine, vitamin B1 is essential for glucose metabolism. We need it so that we can use carbohydrates as energy. It is also necessary for proper nerve, muscle, & heart function.

Riboflavin, part of the B-vitamin group (B2), is required for many enzyme reactions including the activation of other vitamins.

Niacin or B3 lowers cardiac risk & improves (HDL) cholesterol levels (lowering triglicerides).

Pantothenic Acid has historically been known as B5. It is a water-soluble vitamin that allows us to use fats, carbohydrates,  & proteins as energy sources. Additionally, our immune system would collapse without it & we'd be unable to make hormones.

Folic Acid, B9 (folate) is richest in green vegetables. An insufficient intake has shown to result in birth defect, cancer, & heart disease. It is considered a disease reducing vitamin.

Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant component protecting cells from cancer & heart-disease causing free-radicals.

*this image is not mine

*this image is not mine

Recognizing Raw Chocolate

In its raw, unprocessed state, chocolate has minimal ingredients. There's little more than cacao butter, sugar, & cacao powder. Additional ingredients may be added for flavour such as mint, coconut, fruit & nuts, etc. There are NO milk products. The label will also contain the word 'raw' somewhere though this is not a guarantee of integrity. 

My personal favourite is Zimt Chocolate. Produced in Vancouver, founder & creatress Emma, is truly in love with chocolate & works tirelessly to make the world better through it.

Kupala Organics is also offering a limited edition Valentine's Day Chocolate. Orders open until February