Cacao 101 (and my life without chocolate)
So the title’s a bit misleading, I’m definitely NOT planning to spend the rest of my life without cacao. I am planning, however, to go without for 21 days… 3 weeks… o.0575% of this year… Why on earth would anybody who is so obsessed with that gorgeous l’il bean wanna go without it, for 3 weeks?! The way I see it, chocolate is a vegetable: Chocolate comes from cacao, cacao comes from beans and beans are… vegetables? Clearly not – but the good news is that cacao is known as a superfood because of it’s almost infinite health properties. David Wolf, a raw food vegan who you may know as the cute curly-haired guy from the Food Matters movie (if you haven’t watched it yet, do so asap – the next sequel’s being released next month, eeee!), has dedicated entire books to the goodness of chocolate – this man knows his stuff! (Please read my HPC 101 disclaimer)
Raw cacao is one of the most, nutrient rich and complex foods known to man. All chocolate starts out as raw cacao “beans” or nuts – the seed of the cacao fruit which grows on a tropical tree. The usual roasting/processing of chocolate destroys a significant amount of its valuable health supporting properties. Much of the mood elevating, antidepressant and antioxidant qualities are eliminated with heating. Johnny’s hot, does that mean he eliminated all the goodness in the movie ‘Chocolat’? I hope not, I watch that movie once a month like clockwork! 😉
Potato/Patarto? Tamayto/Tomato? Cacao/Cocoa?! One of the main differences between raw ‘cacao’ (ka-KOW) and ‘cocoa’, is that raw cacao has all the original healthy cacao butter containing all the original essential fatty acids and amazing taste originally found in the bean. Cocoa, cocoa butter and mainstream chocolate products are cooked at high temperatures becoming processed and highly refined substances. Despite all chocolate starting out as raw cacao beans, the processing, cooking and roasting which turns cacao into cocoa, destroys sensitive nutrients, creates trans-fats, and corrupts the delicate, complex flavor of the cacao nib (bean without the skin). Here’s why I prefer my chocolate RAW:
- Raw/living foods (such as an apple or alfalfa sprouts) naturally contain enzymes. Heating above 43-48C destroys most enzymes in food, so roasting chocolate, which is extremely high in heat-sensitive antioxidants, or processing it at high temperatures destroys most of the beneficial antioxidants. Similarly when you cook an orange you lose most of the vitamin C.
- Enzymes are important because they are necessary for the digestion and absorption of food.
- Many foods have a higher nutritional value when eaten raw. High heat can detrimentally alter vitamins, protein and fats, and can create toxins in foods. Most fatty acids are very heat sensitive and are adversely affected by heat. Heating many fatty acids turns them into trans-fatty acids which have been linked to heart disease. By keeping chocolate in its raw, unheated form, we minimize the presence of trans fats.
- Chocolate in its raw form is an amazing Superfood and can be a healthy dietary staple eaten in moderation (moder-who-ha?)
Cacao is the best natural source of magnesium – which is 18 x more concentrated in the heart muscle than in the blood stream and is the primary mineral missing when heart problems occur. Magnesium decreases blood decoagulation, thus lowering blood pressure and helping the heart to pump more effectively. It’s also required for normal function of the central nervous system – with research now showing that magnesium deficiencies can be connected to ADD and ADHD. With an estimated 80% of western population shown to be deficient in magnesium coupled with the fact that this is well known to cause symptoms of PMS – you now know why you’re all reaching for (or buying for your female partner) blocks of chocolate at THAT time of the month! Theobroma Cacao is a type of cacao tree which produces beans which are known as true super foods and unrivaled in many areas of nutrition but especially antioxidants! Raw Cacao is the highest known source of anti-oxidants by a factor of almost 5! It has nearly 20 times the antioxidant levels of red wine and up to 30 times what is found in green tea!* A laboratory test known as ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) was developed to rate the antioxidant levels of foods. Check out the results for Raw Organic Cacao!
Raw cacao is one of the most nutrient rich and complex foods known to man. Raw chocolate contains more than 300 known chemicals:
- Caffeine is the most well known of these chemical ingredients, though there’s been shown to be 20 times less in a cacao bean than a coffee bean.
- Theobromine, a weak stimulant, is also present with the combination of these two chemicals being responsible for the “lift” that chocolate provides.
- Tryptophan is a chemical that the brain uses to make Serotonin – high levels of which can produce feelings of elation.
- Phenylethylamine has earned the nickname ‘chocolate amphetamine’. High levels of which stimulate the brain’s pleasure centres promoting feelings of attraction & excitement, giddiness and apprehension.
- Anandamide (naturally occurring in the brain) is another feel-good chocolate ingredient. It’s not unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana – activating the production of dopamine which then leads to that ‘chocolate-high’. Experts say it would take over 11kgs of chocolate to achieve a marijuana effect (and a VERY sore stomach!)
There’s so much more to this subject than 1 blog post can cover but when you can, sit back with a cuppa and some CHOCOLATE and please read about how raw cacao could help prevent colon cancer, lower blood pressure, is especially beneficial during pregnancy and can even help you lose weight!
Having said ALL that, why am I planning the next 3 weeks of life without this wonder bean? Clearly I’m obsessed with it! I simply wish to restore some balance… ‘even the playing field’ if you will? I am opening the window of opportunity potentially for another superfood to whisk away my taste buds and steal my heart. I’m not dependant or ‘addicted’ as I might’ve said when I was bingeing on raw cacao’s highly processed, refined and heated cousin, plan ‘ol chocolate – but I feel like this may bring about a balance in my palate and (already healthy) snacking habits – perhaps broaden the horizons.
While I doubt that anybody can take the place of my first-foodie-love, I am very much looking forward to (temporarily!) filling up on more leafy greens and fresh fruit rather than one of my Hot Pink Chilli faves such as Treen’s Skinny Jeans Brownies or my latest Raw Sexy Sesame Dip or my all-time BEST Choc Coco Nut Cookies!! I can’t afford my habit so I’ve been making my own raw organic chocolate using Quirky Jo’s Thermomix recipe which I sweeten with stevia, peppermint oil and sprinkle with sultanas and roasted almonds… I know! No Thermomix? I will post a conventional recipe soon, after my chocolate-fast, sorry. In the meantime, I am making a Loving Earth order this week and can happily supply you with, what I think, is the highest quality raw organic chocolate available in Australia – with flavours like: ‘Coconut Mylk’, ‘Mint & AFA’, ‘Orange & Gubinge’ and ‘Macqui’… (21 days, only 21, that’s all.. c’mon, you can DO this!)…