SUPERFOODS Series: Raw Cacao

RawCacao_01Cacao, the dried seeds of a South American evergreen tree, is used to make cocoa, chocolate and cocoa butter. Cacao has also been used in Mexico and Central and South America for centuries for its healthful and energizing properties. Cacao in its raw, unprocessed state is filled with beneficial nutrients.

Raw Cacao

Raw cacao can be found in a number of forms, including whole beans, nibs and powder. Raw cacao nibs are made by removing the skin from the cacao seed and cracking it into small pieces. Raw cacao powder is created by processing raw cacao beans through a cold-pressing process with the cacao fat removed. All raw forms of cacao are filled with iron, dietary fiber, calcium, zinc, potassium and antioxidants.

Neurotransmitters

Raw cacao promotes the release of neurotransmitters, which promote a positive outlook and bodily rejuvenation, and release feel-good hormones. Raw cacao raises levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, and acts as an anti-depressant that can help reduce symptoms of PMS. It also stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which produce a pleasurable sensation, and phenylethylamine which is a mild mood booster. It also releases anandamide which promotes elation and helps us feel good longer.

BENEFITS

1) Raw chocolate can lower blood pressure & improve circulation

Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels

2) Raw chocolate can promote cardiovascular function & health

The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning5 by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.

3) Raw chocolate Can Neutralize free radicals

High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

4) Raw Chocolate can improve digestion

A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.

5) Raw chocolate can enhance physical and mental well-being

There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health.  For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy;  “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression.

Uses of Raw Cacao

Raw cacao can be combined with natural sweeteners, such as raw nectars and syrups, and dried fruit, to make healthier desserts. It is also a beneficial addition to smoothies, chocolate drinks and trail mixes. Combine 1 tbsp. of raw cacao powder or nibs with one frozen banana and one cup of your favorite milk or nondairy milk for a creamy chocolate banana smoothie.

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George M
Fitness Instructor
Certified Personal Trainer by I.S.S.A., CPR

Source: Ori Hofmekler with Marc Salzman

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Categories: Nutrition

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