Now that we’ve covered some other important superfoods like goji berries and coconuts, I’d like to introduce you to what I call the “love superfood”, raw cacao. All chocolate is made from cacao beans. Cacao is the seed (nut) of a fruit coming from an indigenous American jungle tree. Raw cacao is considered by many nature’s number one weight loss and high-energy food. Not only is chocolate always in season, but it is the food with the highest concentration of antioxidants in the world.
These are some of the benefits you can experience from regularly incorporating it into your diet:
1) A Healthier Cardiovascular and Immune System (The Happy Heart)
Your heart will surely thank you each time you eat raw cacao. It’s the rich content of magnesium in it that contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system. Cacao is also rich in manganese and iron, two essential trace minerals. Manganese helps assist iron in oxygenating the blood and formation of hemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein). This keeps our blood healthy and fights back anemia.
Zinc is another vital mineral necessary to maintain a healthy immune system, liver, pancreas, sexual fluids and skin. Cacao is an excellent source of zinc. It also provides a considerable amount of vitamin C, one of the most beneficial vitamins you can incorporate in your daily diet. Cacao nutrients promote healthier blood circulation.
2) A Smarter Brain (Increased Brain Function)
The compound known as phenylethylamine (PEA) in cacao plays an important role in increasing focus and alertness. The cocoa flavonols in Cacao have proven to be beneficial with increasing the brain’s blood flow and enhancing brain function, especially for older adults and others that are cognitively impaired. The high content of magnesium, allows cacao to increase our brainpower.
3) Protection From Free-Radical Damage
As we age, antioxidants become crucial to combat age-related health conditions and illnesses. Cacao is a high antioxidant superfood that can help shield our DNA and perhaps help reverse aging. Over 80 percent of Americans are highly deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is actually one of the most deficient minerals in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and is thus one of the most important minerals to incorporate in your diet. Cacao also contains high amounts of chromium, which also contributes to fight disease.
4) A Balanced PH
The magnesium in cacao contributes to it being an alkaline food. Ideally, our diet should mostly consist of alkaline goodies, or in other words, foods that are slightly on the alkaline side. If you’re a coffee lover, coffee is an acidic drink, so incorporating raw cacao in your coffee mugs can contribute to neutralize the acidity of the morning coffee while you transition to a healthier diet.
5) Helpful for Weight-Loss
The content of PEA molecules and minerals make cacao one of the best foods to eat. They can help us shut off and control our appetites.
6) Improved Overall Mood And…Love!
Cacao contains a hormone called phenylethylamine. We have to thank phenylethylamines (PEAs) for feeling exited or in love. This is probably why chocolates have such a deep and powerful connection to our bodies when we fall in love. Anandamide is an endorphin that our bodies produce after exercise. It is known as the “bliss chemical”, since it is released when we are feeling great about ourselves. It has only been found in one plant, guess which one? Cacao!
Cacao is significantly high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is a powerful mood-enhancer. It is also an important nutrient for the production of serotonin, one of our primary neurotransmitters. Tryptophan is extremely sensitive to heat and thus highly susceptible to damage from cooking. As a result, most diets are deficient in this necessary amino acid.
A fair warning that processed chocolate is very different from raw cacao and carries very little goodness after having been treated with high temperatures. It is also often combined with refined sugar, which naturally takes away the healthy benefits of consuming it. When looking for raw cacao, it’s important to make sure that it hasn’t been processed into chocolate or treated at high temperatures. As with any food, moderation is key ;).
How about a little “love” mocha from time to time?
Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future, by David Wolfe, 2009
Superfoods List: The 11 Best Nutrient Rich Foods For Increased Immunity, Energy and Longevity, by Andrea Briggs, 2011