It’s no secret that the health benefits of dark chocolate are far more than that of the popular milk chocolate. The cocoa found in chocolate bars provide a vast array of nutrients that are beneficial to our health. To meet the demands of the market these days, dark chocolates undergo intense processing, causing it to lose its natural antioxidants and nutrients. As a result, you get nothing but fat and excess sugar dressed as “healthy” dark chocolate bars to trick you into thinking that what you’re eating is good for you. There’s also a high chance that you can’t distinguish cacao from cocoa but worry not because we will discuss that in a bit.
This short article about raw chocolates aims to let more people know about the fat-gaining and artery-clogging characteristics of chocolate. Through this article, you will discover the health benefits of raw chocolate, how to source it, and how to integrate this in your daily meal plan.
What Makes Raw Chocolate Special?
If you reverse the process of making chocolates, you’ll see cacao (ka-cow) beans or raw chocolates. Cacao beans are untreated and are deemed as a superfood that contains an abundance of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Cacao is actually chocolate that grows on tiny trees called The obroma cacao which, according to the Greeks, means “cacao, the food of the gods”. These small cacao trees hail from South America, Mexico, and Central America. A cacao pod that grows from the tree normally contains around forty to sixty cacao seeds. Once these pods are carefully harvested, they are cut open so the cacao seeds can be removed and then they are naturally dried and fermented. It takes one to two weeks to complete the drying process. You get raw cacao beans once the whole process is finished.
Now how are these raw cacao beans transformed into those tasty chocolate bars we all love? Well, the beans are roasted in order to form cocoa which is eventually mixed with fats and sugar until they become a homogenous mixture. The antioxidant content of cacao beans are reduced during the roasting process because of the high heat. This minimizes nutritional benefits contained in raw,
If you want to enjoy and maximize the health benefits, look for raw and non-roasted cacao beans.
The Health Benefits of Raw Chocolate
Raw chocolate is a good source of minerals and vitamins such as:
- Flavonoids (polyphenols) that contain antioxidant properties
- Vitamin E
- Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9
- Oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat.
These nutrients sourced from raw chocolate are related to the health benefits listed below:
1) Improve cardiovascular health and functions
The minerals, vitamins, and flavonoids found in cacao beans contain powerful antioxidants that can improve and strengthen cardiovascular functions. It enhances blood circulation, lowers LDL cholesterol (also known as “the bad cholesterol”), reduces the buildup of plaque on the arterial wall, and lowers blood pressure.
2) Improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure
Cacao contains the obromine, flavonols, and other nutrients that strengthens and promotes the health and dilation of the blood vessels. This improves the blood circulation and helps lower the blood pressure.
3) Promotes healthy digestion
A small serving of cacao is abundant in fiber and helps boost the production of enzymes that are needed to properly digest food.
4) Boosts mental and physical health
The beta-carotene, linoleic, alkaloids, lipase, proteins, theobromine, and lysine compounds found in cacao beans work hand in hand to boost our mental and physical well-being. The obromine boosts the functions of the central nervous system, expands the blood vessels and relaxes the smooth muscles. This gives the body an instant energy boost. The “bliss” chemicals contained in cacao have the ability to improve the availability and circulation of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain which help fight depression and improve your emotional state. It’s no wonder people devour boxes of chocolates after getting their hearts broken!
5) Offset free radicals
We get our daily dose of free radicals from pollution, cigarette smoke, prolonged sun exposure, and other factors. Antioxidants defend the body from the buildup of these free radicals that may lead to serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Things to Remember when Buying Raw Chocolate
Cacao beans can be sourced from health and wellness specialty stores and food markets. You may purchase raw cacao as whole peeled or unpeeled beans, powder, or nibs.
Know the difference: Cacao powder is made of cold-pressed, peeled cacao beans. Cacao nibs, on the other hand, are crushed peeled cacao beans.
When buying raw chocolate, make sure that the label has the words “raw chocolate” or “raw cacao”. Since raw beans have not yet been roasted and are only dried and fermented, their nutrients are preserved. As much as possible, stop yourself from buying “roasted” cacao or chocolate because their antioxidant properties have already been reduced because of the roasting process.
The Pecking Order of Raw Chocolate (Health Benefits):
- Raw cacao beans that have not yet been processed.
- Cocoa powder that’s organic, unroasted, and without alkali treatment.
- Organic dark chocolate that contains the highest percentage of cocoa liquor or powder and the lowest percentage of commercial sugar.
How to Integrate Raw Chocolate in your Diet:
There’s a plethora of ways to integrate raw chocolate in your daily food consumption. You can munch on whole cacao beans or nibs and add them as toppings to salads, crepes, ice cream, and milk shakes. If you find that the beans are too bitter for your liking, you can put them in a blender or food processor, grind them until they become powder, and then use it to boost the flavor of your favorite dessert.
How to Eat Raw Chocolate:
- Mix it into your favorite milk shake
- Instead of chocolate chips, use cacao nibs as toppings on your favorite snack: frozen yogurt, muffins, pancakes, and cookies.
- Mix cacao nibs or powder into your morning oatmeal or cereal
- Combine cacao beans or nibs with trail mixes or granola
- Blend cacao powder with nut milk, dairy or your favorite protein drink