Cacao. . . maybe just the word alone inspires chocolate cravings. But let’s take a closer look at cacao.
For starters, did you know that it takes approximately 400 hundred cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate? It’s true—and there’s a lot of goodness in cacao, too.
Cacao is considered a superfood, since it contains over 300 nutrients, including various vitamins, protein, healthy fats, good-for-you carbs, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Likewise, it also has quercetin, flavonoids, flavanols, xanthenes, polyphenols, a small amount of caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine and anandamide, along with other health-bolstering elements.
It’s known as an antioxidant, antibacterial, as a protector of the cardiovascular system and as a stress reliever. In fact, the flavonoids in cacao are the sources of the chocolate’s antioxidants, which fight off free radicals and reduce or prevent tissue and DNA damage from oxidative stress. According to a Spanish study, those same flavonoids also have an antibacterial effect on Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. Likewise, cacao's flavonoids can help improve cognitive function.
Clinical and epidemiological studies also note that cacao and certain chocolate can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing unhealthy inflammation, improving platelet function, raising HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering LDL oxidation (bad cholesterol).
As far as stress relief, the magnesium and valeric acid in cacao quells stress and can be calming. They do this by relieving stress hormones and other biochemical agents in the body that can exacerbate stress. Chocolate also contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which plays a role in the production of the anxiety-diminishing neurotransmitter serotonin. Additionally, chocolate allows for neurotransmitters to remain in the bloodstream longer to assist in relaxation and to provide a natural “antidepressant” benefit.
You might be interested to know, too, that the small amount of caffeine in cacao and the theobromine content can boost energy levels and fight off fatigue. Add that to cacao’s endorphin content such as phyenylethylamin and lipid anadamide—known as “bliss chemicals”—and you have nutrition-packed, euphoria-building cacao.
And know this: high-quality, organic, raw is the way to go with your cacao and chocolate because raw chocolate has a much higher nutritional value than chocolate that is made with roasted cacao beans, while being grown organically ensures that you don’t get unwanted toxins, GMOs and more. In addition to the nutrients mentioned earlier, raw chocolate also has manganese, vitamin C and chromium. In short, the low temperature used in preparing raw chocolate leaves the nutrients intact.
So, go ahead and enjoy healthy chocolate. It's good and it's good for you!