By Kate Maxey
So we have all heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate and we love it, do we not? I sure do. Chocolate has been around for centuries and goes by many names. One of those names is ‘cacao’ which is extremely ancient and probably originated with the pre-Mayan Olmec peoples. Cacao has even been used as currency with one cacao bean being worth one ripe avocado, one large tomato or five large chilies. A Mayan chocolate drinking vessel was found dating back thousands of years with the word “ka-ka-wa” on it. So there is proof that people have always enjoyed this amazing plant.
The health benefits of raw cacao and dark chocolate are many. Raw cacao is going to have more active benefits then the dark chocolate because it has not had any processing done to it. Like most foods the less processed the better. I like to add cacao nibs to a trail mix with nuts and lycii berries and it’s also great powdered in smoothies!
Cacao is extremely high in magnesium, which supports the heart, increases brainpower, relaxes smooth muscles, which helps with menstrual cramps, constipation and overall muscle cramping. Magnesium is a primary alkaline mineral, which opens up over 300 different detoxification and elimination pathways.
Cacao beans are also super high in antioxidants. They contain 10 grams per 100 grams of flavonol antioxidants. Research has shown that the antioxidants in cacao are highly stable and easily available to human metabolism. Studies have shown that cacao has nearly twice the antioxidants as red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea.
Cacao also contains up to 2.2% phenylethylamine or PEA. PEA has been dubbed the “love chemical” and creates feeling of attraction, excitement and euphoria and is noticeably abundant in the brains of happy people. Levels drop when someone is feeling depressed or despondent. The brain releases PEA when we are sexually aroused and level can peak during orgasm. Hence the reputation of chocolate as the food of love.
So whether it’s constipation, depression or a desire to spark up ones love live, chocolate is here for us.
I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with you that I have been making for years, Raw Cacao Bars!!
Raw Cacao Bars
2/3 cup cacao nibs ground into powder
¼ cup agave, honey or maple syrup
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter or coconut oil
2 Tablespoons lycii berry powder (A good place to get this: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/l.html )
3 Tablespoons herb powder blend of choice*
1 Tablespoon Dried blueberries (opt.)
½ tsp vanilla extract (opt.)
*You can use any herbal powder you want but here are some ideas:
Hawthorne 2 Tbsp
Rosehips 1.5 tsp
Hibiscus 1.5 tsp
Stevia ¼ tsp
Shitake 1 Tbsp
Astragalus 1 Tbsp
Reshi 1 Tbsp
Kava Kava 2 Tbsp
Lemongrass 1 tsp
Ginger 1 tsp
Nutmeg 1 tsp
Damiana 2 Tbsp
Roses 1 tsp
Cinnamon 1 tsp
Ginger 1 tsp
1) In a double boiler melt the cocoa butter, then add your liquid sweetener of choice and the vanilla extract if desired. Mix well.
2) Add the powdered lycii berry and stir until completely dissolved. I use a spatula to help with this process.
3) Then add the powdered herbs and mix well.
4) Then the powdered cacao. Mix well and stir in dried blueberries if desired.
5) Line and 8×8 square baking dish with parchment paper and put the mixture into it and flatten and shape mixture to make a thin square.
6) Put into the fridge and when it has hardened cut into 8 small rectangles or 16 small squares, however you want to serve it.
A great book for more info on the benefits of chocolate and more fun recipes: Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe & Shazzie