Chocolate: most people are used to calling it cocoa, cocoa beans, cocoa powder. But when it comes to raw food, why do people use the word cacao (ka-COW), which looks like a misspelling of the more familiar cocoa and sounds like the squawk of a large, tropical bird? Whatever you call it, cocoa or cacao, both refer to the main ingredient of chocolate, which is the seed of the cacao tree.
Not all chocolate is created equal. Many of the forms of chocolate we’ve come to love have ingredients like refined (white) sugar, milk fats, and hydrogenated oils that make the cocoa devoid of any natural health benefits. Cocoa goes through a process called “dutching” where the acidic flavor of the cocoa is neutralized, removing chocolate’s natural polyphenols. And lastly, to top it all off, it’s heated to temperatures over 100 °F, killing all of its antioxidant properties. This type of chocolate is high in calories, trans fats and contributes to a strong acidic environment in your body.
But the good news is….. chocolate CAN be good! Some consider raw cacao a miracle superfood and if you look up all the nutritional information on raw cacao, you can see why. A 2 tbsp. serving offers 9g of fiber, 4g of protein, and 0g of sugar. Raw cacao contains high amounts of antioxidants, healthy fats and magnesium – an important mineral in which many people are chronically deficient. It works to support heart health by protecting the body from cellular degeneration and it contains polyphenols which helps to lower blood pressure. It stimulates endorphin production, giving you a feeling of pleasure and raw cacao also assists in the formation of serotonin, acting as an anti-depressant.
Chocolate, in most forms, is generally stimulating since it contains caffeine. Based on the serious buzz I get from consuming raw cacao, I think the concentration of caffeine must also be much higher in raw cacao than the processed variety, though perhaps I am particularly sensitive. If you aren’t used to it and then eat it in any significant quantity, it can be as if you’ve never had coffee and then had three double espressos. Though raw cacao is a superfood and very healthful to us, I don’t recommend consuming it on a daily basis.
If you’re in the market for some raw cacao, only purchase certified organic raw cacao to ensure that you are getting the most nutrition for your money. It can be found at your local health food store. Look for brands that are Fair Trade as well.
There are many ways you can begin moving away from the processed, nutrient deficient chocolate to incorporating wholesome, healthier chocolate alternatives. The recipe I’m sharing today is for a raw cacao shake. I hope you enjoy!
Raw Cacao Shake
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 heaping Tbsp. raw cacao powder
- sweetener to taste – agave, stevia, xylitol, etc. (optional)
- goji berries (optional)
- Simply add everything together in a blender and blend until smooth. Viola!