There is no doubt about it, cacao is a superfood. And the best thing about it? Not only does it do you a power of good, it also tastes AMAZING. Which is more, frankly, than can be said for spirulina. Check out my amazing recipe for Rose, Cardamom and Sea Salt Chocolate at the end of this post.
Top 10 reasons why you should be eating chocolate
- It is jam-packed with nutrients. Raw cacao contains 300 different health giving chemical compounds including protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, sulphur, flavonoids, antioxidants, polyphenols and essential fatty acids making it one of the most highly nutritious foods on the planet
- It improves your mood. Cacao contains anandine and PEA (phenethylane) which facilitate the release of endorphins, improve libido and boost serotonin levels. It also contains natural MOA (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors which act as an anti-depressant.
- It protects your heart. The unique combination of flavanols and antioxidants in cacao help to improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. In addition the polyphenols lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol to keep arteries clear and blood pressure down.
- It prevents premature ageing. Cacao contains the same polyphenols that can be found in green tea and red wine plus anthocyanins and catechins which are powerful anti-oxidants that protect cells from degeneration.
- It increases energy levels. Cacao contains essential minerals which manage the flow of nutrients in and out of all our cells, enabling them to release energy when we need it. These minerals include magnesium which also protects against osteoporosis and high blood pressure and sulphur which is essential for digestion and is used extensively by the liver and pancreas in the metabolisation of fats and proteins. Other minerals in cacao are calcium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese and potassium.
- It restores hormone balance. Not only does cacao improve levels of the feel good hormone seratonin, it also reduces cortisol to create a better balance in the body. The overall effect is improved metabolism and less mood swings.
- It improves digestion. Raw cacao is an important prebiotic (aka something that our gut flora thrive on). It contains insoluble fibre and other nutrients that create a positive environment in our guts that supports good bacteria.
- It is very good for your skin. The unique antioxidants and phytonutrients in chocolate improve micro-circulation and oxygen saturation in the skin which improves skin texture and levels of hydration. They also protect against harmful UV rays.
- It reduces your appetite. The same MOA inhibitors in raw cacao that stop you feeling depressed also work to reduce your appetite.
- It balances blood sugar. The mineral and nutrient combination of cacao protects against insulin resistance and lowers levels of blood sugar making it an extremely important weapon against one of the most prevalent chronic diseases today – diabetes.
Of course I am not talking about the highly processed chocolates that are available everywhere. I am talking about the real deal, raw chocolate. Unfortunately processed chocolate contains dairy products which interfere with the uptake of the nutrients and huge amounts of refined sugar which interfere with just about everything else.If you want the real benefits of chocolate, you need to eat it raw, and that’s not as difficult as you think. Raw cacao powder can be added to smoothies and Nice Cream (a heavenly concoction of frozen bananas and any kind of nut butter), drank as a beverage in hot water or nut milk (remembering that dairy milk inhibits the absorbtion of the nutrients) or made into delicious home made chocolates!
Talking of which, here is my recipe for sublime Rose, Cardamom and Sea Salt Chocolate Bark. Ingredients
- 250g cocoa butter*
- 6 tablespoons raw cacao powder*
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 4 cardomom pods
- 4 dried rose buds or 6 or 7 dried rose petals
- Large pinch sea salt flakes
* My favourite are from Choc Chick
– she has all sorts of amazing cacao ingredients, chocolate making ideas and paraphanalia. Definitely worth a visit.Method
Melt the cocoa butter in a bain marie. When completely melted add the cacao powder, maple syrup, coconut butter and rose water and stir until well combined. Move to the freezer for approx 5 minutes until mixture starts to set.Grind the cardomom in a pestle and mortar, discarding the outer husk. Add the dried rose petals and grind to an uneven powder (it’s nice to have some big bits)Pour chocolate onto a silicon sheet on a baking tray. Sprinkle with cardomom, rose petals and sea salt.Return to the freezer to set.Once hard, the Chocolate Bark can be broken into chunks, but best to keep in the fridge as the absence of refined sugar makes this chocolate a little softer than the norm.