At our monthly Raw Food Potluck earlier this month there were several wonderful entrées, salads, and assorted finger foods. There was also a fair share of desserts that were as nutritious as they were delicious, and, because of Valentine’s Day coming up soon, the Raw Chocolate ones were predominant. It happens every February like that, and it’s fun to get geared up for the day of love and chocolate, and be reminded and encouraged that the day does not have to be a highly-sugary, bad-fatty one.
There’s more to say about the nutrition benefits of Raw Chocolate, and I will, but first, a few words about the very roots of the chocolate phenomenon as we know it.
About Chocolate – All chocolate begins as a raw, unprocessed cacao bean, the seed of an indigenous American jungle tree and other places near the equator. Since the mid-18th century it has been called “the food of the gods.” When the beans are allowed to dry naturally in the sun rather than being roasted before further processing, “raw chocolate” is the result, and is known as a superfood.
Superfoods in general comprise a specific set of edible, nutritious plants which are not classified as foods, nor are they classified as medicine. They belong to each category, really, as do some herbs. As such they are easier to digest in a healthy body, and easily absorbed and assimilated, providing an instant “boost.” In general they are superior to supplements, because they are whole foods with all their natural nutrients intact, and thus can make a big increase in vital force and energy in the body.
Why Raw Chocolate is Good for You – Raw Chocolate, specifically, contains many important vitamins and minerals including
Magnesium, and other essential minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese
Polyphenols called flavonoids, with antioxidant properties
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, and E
Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat
These undamaged-by-heat nutrients found in Raw Chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits. It can
Lower blood pressure and improve circulation
Promote cardiovascular function and health
Neutralize free radicals
Enhance physical and mental well-being.
How to Buy Raw Cacao – Watch for labels that read “raw” chocolate or cacao. Raw Cacao beans have not been roasted, so have preserved their superfood composition. Avoid labels that read “roasted” chocolate or cacao. When the beans are roasted, they are stripped of their antioxidant and other nutritional properties. Raw Chocolate is available in health food stores and on some online outlets in three forms: powder, paste, and nibs. It’s good to have some of each on hand, as different recipes call for different forms.
Working with Raw Cacao – Many fine recipes exist that call for Raw Cacao. There are a few reasons to either substitute something else for it, or combine with it. For example, some people are sensitive to the caffeine in chocolate, and, in some cases, it has been linked to migraine headaches. Another reason is that raw cacao is a very strong flavor that often requires some sweetening to calm. (We’re not talking about the high amounts of sweet things that are added to the vast majority of chocolate on the market by any means, but by itself, raw cacao is bitter.
Raw Carob comes from the pod of a tree that grows along the Mediterranean Sea and it contains a sweet, edible pulp. It is often roasted, but can be found as a raw powder which can then be used instead of, or along with, raw cacao. It is similar to cacao in color and can be substituted one-for-one in recipes. It is also filled with a high nutrition content. I will blog further next time about the similarities and differences in nutritional values between Raw Cacao and Raw Carob. I offer it here as an option because of a possible caffeine sensitivity issue (Carob has none), and because it is a little sweeter and creamier in texture, so less added sweetener is needed in whatever recipe you’re using. If you search in “Desserts” in this blog, you’ll see that I often use a combination of Raw Cacao and Carob. I encourage you to experiment with taste and texture to get them both the way you like them.
Enjoy! And then leave a comment about which recipe you liked the best– for now.