For those who thought green chocolate meant a mint Aero or that they were destined for a life-long love/hate relationship with ‘junk’ food, get ready for a revolution: guilt free, incredibly healthy raw chocolate!

I have recently discovered the delights of raw chocolate (or cacao) thanks to Roar! Superfoods and the Green Bean Store in Perth. If you want to know more about this magnificent bean and how it can benefit your health in so many ways then read on!

Legendary cacao has a long history of medicinal use and recent scientific studies have shown that chocolate has many favourable qualities that support health and psychological well-being. This magical bean offers great benefits when the cacao is high-quality, raw and organic. 

Here are a few descriptions of this mighty bean:

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, surgeon in the Spanish army, 1796

“After water, cocoa is the single healthiest substance you can put in your mouth. It can easily replace a number of psychiatric drugs for mood, plus it produces the same chemistry in the brain that occurs when we fall in love.” – Chris Kilham, medicine hunter, author and educator.

In order to fully appreciate this divine substance, some history is necessary.  It has, after all, been aptly named, ‘Food of the Gods’, and with good reason.

There are many myths around the cacao bean and legend has it that when the balance between humanity and nature is lost, the cacao tree, its fruit and seeds are introduced to restore harmony with nature.  Indeed, some believe the current exploding desire for cacao globally is the myth playing itself out once more.

Cacao trees, where all types of chocolate are sourced from, are native to the tropical regions of the Americas. Cacao was used by ancient American cultures including the Aztecs and Mayans for various mixtures of culinary, ceremonial and medicinal uses.  So important was the Cacao bean, it was used as currency in South America for thousands of years, and was legal tender in Mexico until 1887.   

It is thought that the first European to come across the delicious food was Columbus in 1502, and for many years cacao was used for medicinal purposes (until the addition of milk powder, sugar and other additives which resulted in the confectionary item that we are familiar with today).  Indeed, preparations are well documented by the explorers who came in contact with cacao during their travels. Cacao medicinal properties were noted to alleviate fever, anaemia, poor appetite, metal fatigue and poor breast milk production, as well as tuberculosis, gout, kidney stones and low virility. This delicious bean was famous for healing the nervous system and improving digestion.

Raw chocolate is loaded with more than 300 chemically identifiable compounds, and is the most antioxidant rich food source known to man.  It also contains protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibre, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, calcium, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, sulphur ,vitamin C, chromium, omega 6 fatty acids and magnesium, which is essential for the correct functioning of the brain and helps builds strong bones.   Some benefits of raw chocolate include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular mortality;
  • relief of emotional stress and alleviating depression;
  • improved cognitive function;
  • increased sex drive ( due to the aphrodisiacal properties of arganin);
  • the release of dopamine and the endorphin phenylethylamine, both of which soothe the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, depression and stress;
  • balancing blood sugar levels;
  • uplifting mood, focusing, increasing energy levels, decreased appetite and pain perception  due to phenylethlamine and anandamide;
  • assists detoxification;
  • increases immunity;
  • lowers bad cholesterol;
  • longevity;
  • high source of antioxidants.

This stuff is truly good for you. According to David Wolfe, author of “Naked Chocolate: The Astounding Truth About the World’s Greatest Food,” chocolate in its natural state is the best form of magnesium, chromium and iron, which are the top three mineral deficiencies in the U.S.   Wolfe, one of raw chocolate’s biggest advocates, also credits cacao with being extraordinarily high in vitamin C. Cacao also contains omega-6 fatty acids and is one of the best sources of natural fiber.

So, why raw, dairy and sugar free chocolate?  Here are but a few reasons:

  • Many minerals, vitamins and all enzymes are heat sensitive; when cacao is roasted it loses its vitamin C and its fiber is disturbed
  • Cooking chocolate turns the fats into transfatty acids
  • Cooking changes the structure of theobromide into caffeine
  • Cooking cacao also destroys PEAs (phenylethylamines), the chemicals contained in chocolate that make us feel like we’re in love.
  • Roasting significantly reduces the antioxidants (raw chocolate has up to 350% more antioxidants than cooked chocolate).

Why do we need antioxidants? Antioxidants keep us healthy, and keep our immune system functioning properly.  Antioxidants fight free radicals: corrupt molecules that are responsible for aging and tissue damage.

In the ORAC chart (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) raw cocoa powder is at the top of the antioxidant list with almost four times the amount of antioxidants as Goji Berries, twenty times more than green tea and forty times more than blue berries!

So, there you have it.  Not only is chocolate a delicious treat, it is also good for us in so many ways (in its raw form!). 

If you would like to find out more about this magical bean and how to make divine raw chocolate (and live in Perth), then I would highly recommend a workshop with Willow and Catherine from Roar! Superfoods where they will share their special secret recipe!  Most health food and organic stores now stock raw cacao products, and the Green Bean Store in Perth will soon be stocking a range of Roar! Superfoods products.

In the meantime, here are a few great links for recipes:

http://www.chocchick.com/pages/Simple-Raw-Chocolate-Recipe.html 
http://www.naked-chocolate.com/recipes/

And here are a few yummy raw chocolate brownie recipes for you to enjoy!:

Raw Chocolate Brownies #1  (Makes 12-15)

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbs honey or agave
  • dash vanilla
  • dash mint or mint extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until it forms a ball or stops turning properly. Either roll into balls or place ‘dough’ in the bottom of a flat pan and pat it down with a spoon or fork. Then use a knife to cut it into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Brownies #2  (Makes 12-15)

  • 50g ground Cacao
  • 30g ground Brazil nuts
  • 40g chopped dates
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup,
  • 1tsp cinnamon, vanilla or coconut

Mix in a blender to the desired consistency then roll into balls and sore in the fridge for ten days to two weeks.

References

US department of Agriculture/Journal of American Chemical Society
www.empowered-living.com.au
http://www.naturalnews.com/022610_cacao_chocolate_raw.html
Teresa L. Dillinger, Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escarcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Salazar Lowe, Louis E. Grivetti, “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate”, The Journal of Nutrition. From http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/8/2057S.full.pdf+html?sid=dcf94339-2819-4f7c-ae7d-45741d6d5edc
Marisa Belger, “The raw, tasty truth about natural chocolate. Skip the average bar and reach for nutrient-packed cacao treats instead”. Today GreenDAY, August 2009, from http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32271092/
http://www.naturalnews.com/023939_food_chocolate_cacao.html
http://www.naturalnews.com/030603_cacao_medicine.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacao
http://www.therawfoodworld.com
http://www.naturalnews.com/025622_food_cacao_chocolate.html
http://www.medicinehunter.com/cocoa
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/mar/30/food.foodanddrink
http://www.rawfoodwitch.com