Let's be real. It's not like we even need to go through the nutritional know-how which makes chocolate a super food. It's unwavering ability to nourish our mental stability and menstrual agony should be plenty enough to keep said food in our diet. BUT, when done right, chocolate can be a pleasant surprise to the wellbeing of our insides; boosting excellent benefits like phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, magnesium and iron to name a few.
The only catch is you may need to swap our cocoa for cacao.
Harvesting Methods & History
Cacao is the unprocessed, straight from dah tree bean of the cacao tree. These trees rely on damp, tropical habitats, such as South America. In the mid 1700's, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus deemed the tree Theobroma cacao, translated from Latin as "Food of the Gods". The European's claimed that chocolate comforted the liver, aided in digestion, stimulated the kidneys, as well as used for treatment of anemia, tuberculosis, fever, and gout.
These Godly beans are housed inside gourd like pods. Once harvested, they are then fermented, roasted, and grounded down to a paste known as chocolate liquor. Through out processing, cocoa can lose a serious amount of its health benefits, be loaded with creepy chemicals and processed sugar. Of course in times of desperation you're like 'who cares my bf just broke up with me and CVS is still open'. But for us to truly experience the crazy amaze benefits of this super food, try to stick with raw cacao or organic and unprocessed cocoa. C'mon, the ancient greek gods ain't got no time for a Hershey's. Basic.
There are many phytochemicals in raw cacao on account of its high content of flavonoids and its subclass of polyphenols, like flavan-3-ols, proanthocyanidins, and epicatechin. Theobromine is another active component in chocolate, for it is found in the alkaloid family and belonging to the methylxanthines. The structure of theobromine is similar to caffeine. Consequently, its stimulating and diuretic effects.
As we know, utmost supply of health benefits are derived from the raw, unprocessed cacao bean. During its mutation to chocolate, remaining benefits primarily depends on the type of chocolate, and how it is processed. Dark chocolate has the highest amount of the cocoa liquor and theobromine. Next, milk chocolate follows with the second highest amount in the chocolate family, and then white chocolate containing no cocoa liquor. Milk chocolate does not qualify as a nutritious food because of the low cocoa mass and the high amount of cocoa butter and sugar that is additionally added.
Circle back to cacao though, and we can round up its nutritional impact:
- Cardiovascular protection by dilating blood vessels to lower blood pressure
- Increases HDL and decreases LDL oxidation
- Improved digestion
- Stimulant and stress reducer
- Magnesium Balances brain chemistry, cardio vascular health, helps build strong bones
- Sulfar Detoxifies liver, promotes strong nails and healthy hair
The theobromine first starts off by being broken down into methylxanthine. Once it is broken down to methylxanthine, it then blocks off the Phosphodiesterase (PDE) in which then inhibits the cyclic AMP (cAMP) degradation and promotes the airway smooth muscle relaxation by raising intracellular cAMP levels. Meanwhile, the Adenosine receptor is activated and signaled to increase the intracellular calcium levels. By antagonizing adenosine receptors, methylxanthines block calcium-activated ASM contraction. As the final result, the muscle contractions decrease as the relaxation increases by dilating blood vessels and lowering the blood pressure.
Preparation & Buying Tips
Raw cacao can be found in forms like powder and 'nibs' at most health food stores. Not really as sweet, raw cacao still maintains the familiar flavor of chocolate. Makes a great choice to throw in smoothies or add to raw desserts.
For a quick fix, try buying dark chocolate with high amounts of cacao. While these are more bitter, they pack the highest nutritional punch. Plus it saves you insane amounts of processed sugar. But be sure to stick with organic products with fewer ingredients, whatever bar of joy you chose to purchase. Really a lot of health food stores have raw chocolate bars, which are not only SO GOOD but one step closer to our beloved cacao.
Of course you can always make your own ~healthy~ chocolate bars and chocolate treats! This website offers great raw chocolate recipes for the hardcore readers.
Recommended Amount: A daily dose of 40 grams of dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. (Equivalent to 1.5 ounces or half of a large bar)