Does Healthy Chocolate Exist?

By Revital Aranbaev

Cacao vs. Cocoa?

A slight change in spelling but a complete change in nutritional value.

Raw cacao is cacao in its purest form. It has not been processed, recreated or combined with other chemicals.

How is cacao processed into cocoa? The Cacao is cooked to high degrees and becomes a paste which is then further processed in order to separate the oils. The oils are left behind and the remaining solids are made into conventional cocoa powder. Alkaline salts are then added into the cocoa in order to make it dissolve easily in water.

The nutritional value of cocoa is further lessened when it is called “milk chocolate,” which means that powdered milk is added to it. In milk chocolate, rather than cocoa being the main ingredient, processed sugar is the main ingredient with a small percentage of cocoa added to it. For example Hershey’s milk chocolate bar contains only about 10% chocolate liquor [i] (chocolate liquor is pure chocolate in liquid form).

Many negative things attributed to chocolate bars such as weight gain, diabetes, cavities are more likely caused by the processed dairy, sugar and preservatives added to the dark chocolate.

These two terms are so different in fact that some people living with a “chocolate allergy” have found out that they can consume raw cacao without any allergic symptoms!  They were probably allergic to the milk, sugar or chemicals mixed into the production of chocolate bars. This just proves how much the process if an ingredient is as vital as the ingredient.

There are numerous studies out there investigating the benefits of cacao. Cornell University food scientists found that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea. Plus a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that the consumption of cacao improves heart health.[ii]

In addition cacao has one of the highest sources of magnesium. Raw pumpkin seeds, which are revered for being high in magnesium, contain 47.7 mg per tablespoon, while cacao contains 84 mg per tablespoon; that’s almost double the amount!

Additionally, there is a reason why people feel good after eating chocolate or why people crave chocolate when they’re feeling down. Raw cacao contains PEA which is sometimes called the “love” or “happy” chemical. Your brain naturally releases PEA on its own when you are enthusiastic, excited or sexually aroused.

Something to remember though is that even though cacao has more antioxidants than blueberries it also has caffeine which blueberries don’t. Caffeine is a stimulant and can create a high and then a low in energy.  So is cacao a stimulant or superfood?

Well, in comparison to coffee it is not as simulating. The average size dark chocolate bar contains between ten to sixty milligrams of caffeine. The normal cup of coffee has 175 milligrams.[iii] Just keep in mind moderation is always key.

Storing-

Cacao powder should ideally be stored in airtight glass jars. Do not keep cacao powder in the fridge because the moisture can trigger mold formation.

Recipes with Raw Cacao-

Rather than missing your chocolaty friend that has been with you since childhood, learn how to create a new relationship with raw cacao. Over the past years raw food has really become so popular that there are tons of yummy recipes you can make at home to satiate that chocolate craving.

 

[i] http://www.hersheys.com/nutrition-professionals/chocolate/composition/chocolate-types.aspx

[ii] Baba S, Osakabe N, Kato Y et al.Continuous intake of polyphenolic compounds containing cocoa powder reduces LDL oxidative susceptibility and has beneficial effects on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in humans.Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):709-17

[iii] http://www.interesting-health-facts.com/2011/02/raw-cocoa-super-nutrition.html
 

10 Comment(s)

  1. Wonderful article about a wonderful food- raw cacao is certainly something special!
     
    I would encourage people to go one step further- if you use any sweetener with your cacao, try to make sure that it is a healthy sweetener (for example, dates, coconut nectar). Agave has had some bad press lately, and I don't use it in my chocolate bars. 
    If you would like some raw, organic, fair-trade, diabetic friendly-coconut-nectar-sweetened, hand-made, micro-batch processed chocolate, please check out http://www.zimt.ca- and send me an e-mail (emma@zimt.ca) to get your bars (also great as Christmas and Holiday gifts!). 

    Emma | Reply

  2. Please do more research on cacao before recommending it to unsuspecting readers…you can begin here – http://www.living-foods.com/articles/toxiccacao.html
    Cacao is a very toxic substance and is not fit for human consumption.

    Cherie | Reply

  3. Thanks for this post – it is really informative.

    Leila | Reply

  4. Thank you for this.  I've been wondering about cocao.  It's time to order some!

    Debbie | Reply

  5. I thought cacao contained theobromine, not caffeine. So which is it? Ti

    Ti | Reply

  6. Hi there   i was wondering if u know how carob stacks up again raw cacao?   please let me know tks 

    cj | Reply

  7. Makes me wonder if those 20 dollar 70% chocolate bars at Bernard Callebaut have cocoa that is less treated that a 3 dollar 70% chocolate bars and the supermarket. And further still do the 10 dollar chocolate bars that I buy at my tea store lie somewhere in between.

    KEVIN | Reply

  8. Hi Cherie. Just read the article you referred me to. Maybe what Paul says is true, but it would have more credibility if he cited scientific sources with footnotes. Based on our research, I stand by our statement that cacao is a better choice that cocoa. That said, cacao is like coconut butter and acid-forming nuts; it should be used sparingly.

    admin | Reply

  9. Shouldn’t the ‘cocoa powder’ be cacao powder?
    See excerpt below

    There are numerous studies out there investigating the benefits of cacao. Cornell University food scientists found that ****cocoa powder ****has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea. Plus a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that the consumption of cacao improves heart health.[ii]

    mmontg | Reply

  10. Hi Marcy — yet it’s always better to use the raw form of any plant food, rather than processed. Cocoa is the heated form of cacao. So the raw cacao will have more antioxidants but the heated cocoa still retains some of cacao’s nutrients such as magnesium.

    valarcher | Reply

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