So there has been reports on the news recently about the health benefits of chocolate. To be precise, “eating chocolate can help reduce your chances of developing heart disease”. Now this statement is not entirely false, but in a world where the most well known form of chocolate is a sugar filled bar made by Cadburys, this can be very misleading. Pure raw chocolate is in fact a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, but unfortunately it undergoes a transformation to produce the “chocolate” that we are currently familiar with. Highly processed, sugar and dairy filled chocolate bars have very little of the original ingredient remaining, and will in no way help keep your heart healthy.
What is chocolate?
So you may now be wondering, what exactly is chocolate then? Well the fantastic tree that got it all started is the cacao tree. Native to Central and South America, this tree produces cacao beans which is the basis of chocolate. Cacao beans are used to make raw cacao powder (which I always use) and cocoa powder, which can then go on to produce gorgeous raw chocolate, as well as the high-sugar milk chocolate that you are all familiar with.
Cacao Vs Cocoa
Now let’s talk about the differences between cacao and cocoa. You may be more familiar with cocoa as is it sold in almost all food shops, but it is actually the cacao that should be the most popular and well known of the two. To start with, cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. By not heating the cacao bean, it keeps all the nutrients and living enzymes in tact. The fat (also known as cacao butter) is also removed from the cacao bean, leaving us with raw cacao powder that is full of magnesium, iron and antioxidants.
Moving on to cocoa. Cocoa powder comes from the same cacao bean as cacao powder, however to produce cocoa powder, the cacao bean must be roasted at high temperatures. Unfortunately, like with a lot of things, high temperatures can destroy a lot, if not all of the great nutrients that are found in the cacao bean.
The type of chocolate that you would find in all supermarkets; Cadburys, Snickers etc… Is made with cocoa powder, and on top of that, sugar, cow’s milk and multiple preservatives. However, there are many great companies out there that make great raw chocolate using cacao powder, and my favourite is The Raw Company. This chocolate is how chocolate should be, so full of nutrients that can help maintain a healthy heart, just as recent news reports have been stating. The higher percentage of cacao powder found in the chocolate, the better for you it is. Dark raw chocolate can take some getting used to, but research suggests that after only a few weeks of having a small piece of dark raw chocolate everyday, you would find it hard to go back to the milk sugar-filled chocolate you used to love. Perhaps it is worth giving a try?
So what is found in raw cacao that makes it so great? Well, cacao may be the richest source of magnesium, which is essential for muscle repair and building strong teeth and bones (it’s not just calcium that does that). Magnesium deficiency is quite common, and it appears as cramping in the legs that becomes more painful at night. A piece of raw chocolate in the evening can help to clear this up!
Cacao is also a good source of iron, an essential mineral that helps with the production of red blood cells, and also a good source of chromium. Chromium is a trace mineral that helps to balance your blood sugar levels, as well as contributing to detoxifying the liver.
Finally, cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any known food. This includes acai berries, pomegranates, goji berries, green tea and blueberries. These antioxidants are what will help fight off the free radicals in your body that have built up due to pollution, radiation, stress etc… Free radicals can lead to many horrible diseases, so it is important to fight them off as soon as you can.
Amongst all of these, cacao also contains zinc, manganese, tryptophan, serotonin, omega 6 and vitamin C. It’s nutritional profile is quite impressive, was there ever a better reason to eat chocolate now? Just remember to look out for the right brand.