I have always had a sweet tooth for chocolate. Chocolate is decadent and sensual, a guilty pleasure of my childhood and early adulthood. Today, I enjoy chocolate in its raw form, known as raw cacao. Raw cacao has no refined sugar, no dairy and is not processed.
Raw cacao comes from the cacao bean, which is actually a nut. The nuts grow year-round on cacao trees found mainly in Central and South America. Its use can be traced back to the Mayans and Aztecs, who used cacao as money instead of gold. The Mayans, Aztecs and Olmec all enjoyed the cacao bean for at least 5,000 years before it made its way to Europe. The cocoa pod, which was often represented in religious rituals, was referred to as “the god’s food”.
Raw cacao was revered for good reason. It is a superfood, containing one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any food in the world. Cacao is also one of the best sources of magnesium, second only to seaweeds. Are you a “chocoholic”? In some individuals, this craving for chocolate can be traced back to a magnesium deficiency. Try adding in more magnesium-rich foods like dried seaweeds, beans, and whole grains like buckwheat, millet, corn, and rice. Also good are wheat, barley and rye if you are eating gluten.
Raw cacao is also a rich source of iron, manganese, zinc and chromium. Most Americans are deficient in the mineral chromium, so adding in raw cacao would help to reverse this deficiency.
Also important to mention is that raw cacao is rich in serotonin, our feel good neurotransmitter.
Raw cacao can be found today in the form of powder, beans, nibs, butter, and raw bars. It’s taste is bitter, so most often find it best eaten when combined with other foods. Raw nibs can be added to a trail mix; the powder is great in homemade chocolate ice cream and pudding, as in my favorite recipe for Chocolate Avocado Pudding. It can be added into tea or coffee or sprinkled on a dessert like chocolate chips.
Cacao can be found in chocolate bars, to varying degrees. The darker the chocolate, the higher the content of cacao, the healthier the food. White chocolate is similar in nature to white breads and pastas, and will contain none of the beneficial nutrients and flavonoids found in other chocolates.