Cacao – Natures decadent superfood
There is a plethora of research out there to validate that chocolate contains antioxidants; but chocolate is not just cocoa. What if you could get all these antioxidants and potentially more without all the sugar and additives? You can, it’s called raw cacao and it tastes just like dark chocolate.
Theobroma cacao tree is a small evergreen rainforest tree in the family Sterculiaceae, native to the deep tropical region of the Americas. Its seeds are used to make cocoa powder, cacao nibs and cacao powder.
Cocoa powder is processed to remove the cacao butter and heated, therefor incurs some losses; whereas cacao is not heated above 40 degrees Celsius and is therefore deemed raw and incurs less losses.
Raw cacao products are a source of beta-carotene, amino acids, Omega-3 EFA’s, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur, potassium, and one of the best food sources of muscle relaxing, stress relieving magnesium.
Another common question is why does eating chocolate makes us feel good? Researchers are trying to answer this question…
So far they know that chocolate contains more than 500 natural chemical compounds, some of which have been categorized as mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing. Two interesting compounds are theobromine and phenylethylamine.
Cacao is one of nature’s most concentrated sources of theobromine, a mild, natural stimulant and molecular “cousin” of caffeine. However, unlike caffeine, theobromine does not strongly stimulate the central nervous system, nor does it have the same excitatory power.
Theobromine has also been shown to reduce coughing and has been used in “natural” cough medicine preparations as a cough suppressant. The level of theobromine found to be effective in clinical trials is roughly 5 times higher than what is found in a typical bar of dark chocolate.
Phenylethylamine is the compound that may be responsible for some of the pleasurable feelings you get after eating chocolate because it releases natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain. Phenylethylamine is released by the brain when people are falling in love. Perhaps this explains why chocolate and Valentines Day are so closely linked.
The history of chocolate stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica such as the Olmec. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. The beverage was shared during betrothal and marriage ceremonies, providing one of the first links we know of between chocolate and romance.
The Maya were a very wise civilisation, one of the most advanced societies of their time. They would not have held chocolate, or xocoatl as it was known in Mesoamerica, in such high esteem over thousands of years if there wasn’t some reason for it
DELICIOUS CACAO RECIPES
Decadent Cacao and goji slice
1 cup Almonds
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup Flax Seeds
⅓ cups Agave
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ cups Cacao Nibs
½ cups Goji Berries
Soak almonds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds for at least 6 hours.
Place almonds and pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Process until ground but still a little chunky.
Add agave and cinnamon, pulse until well combined.
Remove from food processor and place in a large bowl. Add flax seeds, cacao nibs and goji berries; stir.
Press into a rectangle on a non-stick dehydrator sheet. You want these to be 1/2″ thick.
Dehydrate at 145 degrees for 45 minutes. Reduce heat and dehydrate for 3 more hours.
Peel off dehydrator sheet, dehydrate for 2 more hours. At this point, you will remove them from the dehydrator, cut into bars, and separate them so there is a little space in between each bar; return to the dehydrator for 2-3 more hours. You want them dry but not brittle. They should be a little soft.
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
2 cups oat/rice/almond milk
2 teaspoons maca powder
2 teaspoons lecithin
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-2 cups ice
Place above ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth consistency. Enjoy!