With New Years celebrations a few weeks behind us, it's time to revisit any intentions you made and see what still stands strong, and what needs some tweaks.
Are there certain foods you want to upgrade from mediocre to great? For many of us, this means upgrading our chocolate. Most chocolate has rightly gotten a bad name. Because of the poorly grown and harvested cacao beans and also the white sugars and milk powders and other ugly ingredients normally added to it.
Remember, fear not! Cacao itself might be one of the most beneficial foods you love. Let go of the guilt by upgrading in the following ways:
1. Upgrade from mediocre chocolate to cacao! And be sure you switch to high-grade cacao.
2. Eat only organically grown, fair-trade cacao.
3. Find cacao that only uses healthy sweeteners,
4. Enjoy the synergistic benefits of combining cacao with complementary Superfoods such as SuperFruits like Acerola Cherries, Camu Berries, Rose Hips, Pomegranate and good old Blueberries.
5. Adaptogens! For most people, the most mysterious and exciting way to upgrade your cacao is by eating it with synergistic Adaptogens! Remember, Adaptogens are those plants and herbs that help your body adapt to increased stress, change or stimulation!
If you follow a few of the above suggestions you can make the quantum leap from mediocre dessert chocolate into the realms of Superfood and even into "food as medicine".
By now you already know that all chocolate is based on cacao "beans". But did you know that the correct term is cacao seeds? Yes the almond-sized seeds inside of cacao pods are actual seeds surrounded by the beautiful cacao fruit. But that's a whole different story for some other time.
The reason many believe chocolate to be "junk food" is because the chocolate we're all familiar with, has been over-processed with heat, milling, and refining. Cacao in its raw, unprocessed form is not a junk food at all, but rather a true Superfood that is known to be extremely beneficial to the body. We can probably all agree that there is something about chocolate that is special -- its whole essence goes beyond our taste buds. Today, chocolate remains one of the most popular and well-loved foods in our culture.
"Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” John Q. Tullius
Food of the Gods
Unlike refined chocolate, raw cacao doesn't contain any added sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, or dairy that can be detrimental to your health. Cacao actually contains one of the highest concentration of anti-oxidants in the world! Best known for improving cardiovascular health, cacao is now being sought out more and more as a healthy alternative to chocolate. Dark chocolate anyone? Native to South and Central America, cacao was revered so much by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations that they even used cacao as a form of currency. It is believed that the first cacao tree was cultivated sometime around 1000 B.C. Traditionally these cultures drank cacao mixed with water. It was taken as a type of tonic to provide strength, energy, and nourishment. Its bitter taste didn't initially appeal to the first European explorers, and it wasn't until the 1700's that some of them began to recognize the importance of the cacao seeds and began to export it back to Europe and North America. Swedish scientist, Carl Linnaeus, named cacao: Theobroma Cacao which translates to "Cacao, Food of the Gods." Since the discovery of the New World, cacao has been formulated and processed into what we now know as chocolate or cocoa.
“This drink was imbibed in a single draft for the miraculous refreshment and satisfaction of the bodily state, to which it gives strength, nourishment and energy to such a degree that those who are accustomed to drinking it can no longer remain stronger without it, even if they eat other nutritious substances."
Francesco Carletti, 16th century Italian Explorer
Organic, raw cacao beans remain one of the most powerful superfoods on the planet. When it hasn't been roasted or over-processed, cacao is able to retain a high level of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and even Vitamin C! The range of health benefits are impressive, as cacao is known to improve cardiovascular health, aid in weight loss, and enhance your mood. Like most superfoods, cacao borders along the lines of a food and a powerful plant medicine.
Antioxidants: Protection & Anti-aging
Cacao contains the highest amount of antioxidants, by weight, of any other food in the world. This includes foods such as red wine, blueberries, acai, goji berries, and pomegranate combined! Antioxidants are known to provide our bodies with many anti-aging and age-related health benefits. Many of the antioxidants present in cacao are flavonoids, which protect our bodies from free radical damage. Eating antioxidant rich foods like cacao are powerful allies in guarding the body from cancer and other degenerative diseases.
Great Source of Magnesium
A terrific amount of bio-available and easy-to-digest magnesium is also found in cacao which has been linked to heart health, increasing mental clarity, improving digestion, alkalizing the body, and creating strong bone development. Gradually it is being understood that magnesium is one of the most deficient minerals in the average Standard American Diet (SAD). When the body has sufficient amounts of magnesium, it greatly improves the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients through the veins and arteries. It was found that the Kuna Indians who live on Panama's San Blas islands have unusually low blood pressure due to consuming a traditional drink made from high quantities of raw cacao beans.
Micronutrients such as iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, and copper are all found in cacao. Micronutrients are important trace minerals that the body needs to function properly. For instance, iron and manganese keep the blood healthy and oxygenated while chromium helps to balance blood sugar. Zinc plays crucial roles in the immune system, pancreas, liver, and skin. It is also responsible for thousands of enzymatic reactions throughout the body. Copper promotes healthy blood flow and builds immunity.
Cacao is the only food on Earth that contains Anandamide, often known as the "bliss chemical." We're most familiar with this neurotransmitter after we exercise, when our body naturally releases endorphins in the brain that cause us to feel good. Cacao is unique in that it contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies' ability to breakdown anandamide, so that when we eat cacao this feeling can stick around longer.
Another mood boosting compound found in abundance in raw, unprocessed cacao are phenylethylamines (PEAs). A big word, but basically PEAs are a class of chemicals that our bodies produce when we fall in love. PEAs can help to heighten libido, boost energy, increase mental alertness and improve our level of concentration. The connection between love and chocolate is no surprise, as eating chocolate enhances our ability to love and feel loved. As chocolate is heated and processed however, this amazing chemical occurs in decreasing amounts.
Cacao contains significant quantities of the essential amino acid, Tryptophan, which is responsible for the production of Serotonin, a known neurotransmitter that builds the bodies defense against stress. Serotonin is known for diminishing levels of anxiety, promoting emotional well-being and combatting feelings of depression.
Loaded with dietary fiber, cacao is an excellent food for promoting weight loss. Eating cacao stimulates the body to produce digestive enzymes to aid digestion, thus promoting a feeling of fullness that can result in weight loss. As previously mentioned, cacao also contains high amounts of magnesium which is responsible for proper insulin function and can act as a natural laxative.
Theobromine & Caffeine
There are a lot of questions surrounding the relationship between cacao and caffeine. While its up for discussion, its believed that cacao is actually a poor source of caffeine. What cacao does contain, however, is a substance known as theobromine–a close chemical relative of caffeine. Cacao beans, on average, usually contains only 1% of theobromine. Theobromine and caffeine are similar in that they both belong to a group of xanthine alkaloids. Unlike caffeine, theobromine does not act as a nervous system stimulant nor is it as addictive. In contrast, theobromine acts to stimulate the heart and is one of the compounds attributed to chocolate's role as an aphrodisiac. Despite claims that cacao contains caffeine, it is still not enough proof to explain our strange magnetism and romanticism towards chocolate. Like most plant medicines, it is always good to consume cacao with a sense of caution and personal awareness of how much is enough for your body type.
For more information on the benefits of cacao, click here!
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.