Benefits of Raw Chocolate (Cacao)
Revered by the indigenous people of southern and central America this sacred food was ritually consumed as a beverage. Cacao produces stimulating, energising and alerting effects. It is also a well known aphrodisiac, which may explain why chocolates are a popular gift on valentines day.
What can you get out of drinking cacao? The effects include heightened focus, elevated mood and stable energy. This makes it perfect for those who need gentle stimulation without the downsides of other stimulants.
The thing with a food like cacao is that it contains a wide array of important vitamins, minerals and proteins all in one place. These are also found in high concentrations too. You would typically have to source these from a few different foods to get the same spread. Thats what defines it as a ‘superfood’. Convenient, no?
The nutrients, neurotransmitters and compounds below are the most noteworthy in producing the effects enjoyed when consuming Cacao:
- Relaxes Nerves
- Relaxes functioning of muscles including the heart
- Harmonises emotional and mental imbalances. Think cognition like memory, attention and learning. Think mood – depression and irritability.
- Promotes smoother digestion
- Helps to balance blood sugar
- Regulates blood pressure by easing resistance. This allows efficient transport of oxygen and nutrients in the bloodstream.
- Iron increases the oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin. The iron in Cacao ebales more efficient transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
- Is an active component in enzymes that produce ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), the body’s energy currency.
- Iron also plays a role in the synthesis and functioning of neurotransmitters. These regulate and influence learning, memory, attention, motivation, mood, relaxation, energy and more.
- Is involved in the synthesis and breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
- Promotes healthy functioning of the immune system.
- Influences expression of genetic information. Gene expression accounts for they way proteins behave within a cell, determining what that cell can do. We want healthy cells!
Tryptophan >> Serotonin
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which plays a large part in regulating mood. Serotonin gets built from tryptophan with the help of Vitamin B3, B6 and magnesium. You may find that combining Cacao with sunflower seeds and almonds (vitmain B6, B3 and more magnesium) further supports this synthesis.
Serotonin is one of the most well known neurotransmitters, for good reason. It accounts for feelings of happiness, keeps anxiety at bay, regulates sleep and acts as the bodies stress defence shield.
Maintaining naturally high levels of serotonin through foods can keep that skip in your step from day to day.
Anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule, is at work when we are feeling like a million big ones. It is a cannabinoid endorphin which increases after exercise, accounting for that exercise high.
Aside from containing Anandamide, Cacao also contains enzyme inhibitors which prevent the degradation of anandamide. This inhibition keeps us feeling great for longer.
Like coffee, Cacao exerts its stimulating effects through a compound similar to caffeine – theobromine. It is of the same family (xanthine alkaloids) but its effects as a stimulant are not as strong on the central nervous system.
Cacao contains only 1% Theobromine, so lets say a serving of 5g Cacao will contain ~ 50mg. Your typical cup of coffee runs at around 95 mg caffeine and can go up to amounts of 500mg.
Do you rely on the buzz that caffeine gives you throughout the day? Experience negative side effects like headaches, blood sugar crashes and low energy? This is down to not only the highly stimulating nature of caffeine but also the amounts that lie within coffee.
Cacao, with its myriad of benefits could be a more gentle substitute to other caffeinated drinks.
Best of all, cacao produces less side effects, but still provides a similar productive buzz.
- Ramekin of Raw Cacao Nibs ~ 5-10g
- 500ml Hemp/coconut/almond milk/milk
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Portion out how much Cacao you would like to use. Its personal preference how chocolately you would like your drink but look to use about 5-10g to about 500ml hemp milk. That yields around 1-3 cups.
Get your raw Cacao nibs and pour them into a ramekin or anything else that you can get your hands on that you can put in the oven.
Pre – Heat your oven to 180 C then put your nibs in to roast for 10 minutes.
Once you’ve roasted the nibs, you need to grind them up – anything that’ll get the job done will do. Get resourceful. If you have a coffee grinder then ideal but if not, use something else.
In the meantime, start to boil your mixer of choice. I use hemp/coconut/almond milk but if you like to use milk then go for it! Bring it to a gentle boil and add your ground Cacao along with the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Give it a stir every few minutes to ensure everything is combining well and keep checking to ensure you don’t boil it too much.
Gently boil until you see something that resembles hot chocolate, call it 10 minutes, 15 if you want that extra zing.
All thats left to do is filter out the bits (optional) let it cool and enjoy the taste and effects of a relaxing but energising beverage.