Medical professionals, nutritionists, and other professionals concerned about human health are now promoting raw cacao as a beneficial food. Even more potent in its positive effects on the human body than chocolate, raw cacao offers a rare, delicious way to boost personal well being.
What is raw chocolate?
Ever thought about where chocolate comes from? It grows on trees! That’s right, cacao beans which are the source of all chocolate are grown on a plant called the Cacao Theobroma, which literally means “the food of the gods.” Originating in the Amazon, the Cacao Theobroma plant is now cultivated around the world.
The Cacao Theobroma grows cacao beans which are relatively large seed pods that contain concentrated nutrients and other compounds that we use to make all know chocolate today. Cacao beans are sugar-free naturally and are made up of 12 percent to 50 percent fat depending on the growing conditions and the variety of plant being cultivated.
Many now tout raw cacao or raw chocolate as a superfood. For instance, raw cacao contains high concentrations of protein, calcium, phosphate, and other minerals which have been shown to have beneficial effects on tooth enamel! Who knew chocolate could protect our teeth! But there are many other nutritional benefits of eating raw cacao, especially if it’s grown organically.
Why eat raw organic chocolate?
Raw chocolate or cacao contains a long list of unique properties and beneficial minerals that can really help to fire up your health. In addition to making you happier and more positive, raw cacao can focus your attention and make you more alert. Like regular chocolate it can also make you feel like you’re in love.
Known as the “bliss” chemical, anandamide is a neurotransmitter that has been isolated in raw cacao. It is produced naturally in the brain and makes you feel happy and vivacious. Additionally, cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that suppress your body’s ability to break down anandamide which means this chemical will stay in your brain for longer, increasing the time you experience the positive feelings associated with this chemical.
Like regular chocolate, raw cacao contains powerful antioxidants. These chemical compounds are key to fighting off free radicals in our bodies that can lead to diseases like cancer and heart attacks. Antioxidant flavanoids found in cacao and chocolate have also been shown lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure.
These benefits are found in products that contain high levels of cocoa solids. In fact, some studies point to higher levels of antioxidants in raw chocolate than in fruit, vegetables, tea, and even wine! Dark chocolate is therefore the best source of antioxidants of all the prepared chocolate varieties, but raw cacao contains even higher levels of these beneficial antioxidants.
This is another aphrodisiac-like amino acid that is said to help build muscle and aid in work-out recovery. It is about 33 percent more concentrated in raw cacao.
Caffeine and theobromine
Cacao can also have stimulating compounds such as caffeine and theobromine (a chemical related to caffeine), although these levels are relatively low because uncooked cacao has limited potency of these chemicals. These subtle amounts of stimulants can increase energy, improve alertness, and boost mood, and come in very small doses: about 70 mg in every 100 g of cacao.
According to some, raw cacao is the number one food source of magnesium, which is apparently one of the minerals Americans are commonly deficient in. According to Standard American Diet, close to 80 percent of all Americans have low magnesium levels! This deficiency may be the reason why women crave chocolate during their menstrual periods (menstruating depletes magnesium reserves).
Magnesium is an important mineral for balancing brain chemistry, building strong bones and muscles, aiding in sleep, and combating depression. Magnesium is also essential for having a healthy heart and supporting a robust cardiovascular system. Raw cacao contains about 131 mg of magnesium in every 100 g of cacao.
Monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (appetite inhibitors)
MAO inhibitors (monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors) are likely responsible for reducing appetite when people eat raw chocolate. MAO is found in most nuts and seeds and can contribute to increased levels of serotonin and neurotransmitter activity in the brain. These further encourage weight loss naturally and facilitate feelings of youthful regeneration.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) is an adrenal-related chemical found in raw cacao that can also be created in the brain when we are in love. Raw chocolate is an excellent source of PEA and can play a role in increasing focus and alertness. It will also aid in lifting people from feelings of depression.
Serotonin and tyramine
These two compounds provide a calming effect on a person, giving raw cacao a balancing effect on mood and brain function. In general, 100 g of raw cacao will contain about 3 mg of serotonin and 2 mg of tyramine.
An amino acid that enhances relaxation and promotes sleep (know that feeling of drowsiness you get after a Thanksgiving meal? That’s tryptophan!), this chemical occurs naturally in raw cacao. In fact, it can have as much as 33 percent more than regular chocolate.
Potential downsides to raw chocolate
Possible weight gain
As we’ve already mentioned, raw cacao beans contain up to 50 percent fat, making them a high fat-to-calorie food. It is therefore wise to limit your intake of raw chocolate to avoid the potential of weight gain.
Toxic to pets
Chocolate is a known toxin for pets, but raw chocolate is an even greater risk of harming your animal companions. In general, the higher the concentration of raw cacao, the greater the risk of injury to animals. Therefore, keep your raw chocolate products well out of reach of your beloved pets.
Some believe that raw cacao (as well as some chocolates) can trigger the onset of migraines. If you are prone to this health problem, it is wise to consult your doctor before consuming huge quantities of raw cacao.