What you may not know is that most dark chocolate today is so highly processed that it loses most of its nutrient and antioxidant strength and really provides you with nothing more than excess sugar and fat. You may have also never learned the important difference between cacao and cocoa…but you will soon!
This quick guide is meant to restore the artery-clogging and fat-gaining reputation of chocolate. You will learn the most important facts about raw chocolate including its impressive health benefits1, where to buy it, and how to incorporate this superfood into your diet.
Is it true that chocolate grows on trees? If you thought “Yes”, you are certainly right.
The superstar of chocolate known as cacao beans are grown on small trees named Theobroma cacao, which literally translates to “cacao, the food of the gods” in the Greek language. These trees are native to Mexico, Central and South America. Each cacao pod that emerges from the tree typically houses between 40 and 60 cacao seeds. After careful harvesting, the pods are opened, the seeds are removed, and they undergo a natural fermentation and drying process. After the drying process is completed in 1-2 weeks, you are left you with raw cacao beans.
These nutrients found in raw chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits:
Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels
The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning5 by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.6
High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.
There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health. For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy; “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression.
Cacao beans can be found at most health food markets including Whole Foods, and online at Amazon, or Navitas Naturals.
Note: Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and crushed, while cacao powder is made from peeled and cold-pressed cacao beans.
Look out for labels that read “raw” chocolate or cacao. Raw beans are not roasted, and are only fermented and dried, conserving their superfood composition.
Avoid labels that read “roasted” chocolate or cacao. When the beans are roasted, they are stripped of their antioxidant properties.
**A 1-ounce (28 g) serving size is about 16 beans 10