Is Chocolate good for us….?
Hmmm…….now there’s a great question! Answered by a Chocolatier and a lover of beautiful chocolate, my answer will always be biased. Hands down, it’s a yes from me! I would also ask the question what does health mean - how does something affect us physically, mentally, emotionally and even energetically - how do our choices not only affect our wellbeing but also ripple out and effect the rest of the planet.
The cacao bean has been considered a precious food throughout history - it has been worshiped, consumed during festivals & celebrations, fought over and used as currency. There’s certainly something complex and special about this bean.
Cacao, like many foods, is packed with nutrients when in it’s natural state and we can’t really compare a chocolate made with health in mind to a mass produced chocolate filled with refined sugar & pasteurised non organic dairy. But does that mean we can consider it a health food? I guess that really depends who you ask….. so maybe the correct question to ask ourselves is “do we want chocolate in our life?” and if so, “do we have a healthy relationship with it?” Before we delve down that rabbit hole, lets look at the nutritional profile.
Chocolate is full of nutrients. The 2 main minerals it contains are Magnesium (good for our bones, our heart, our blood and helps alleviate symptoms of PMT,) as well as Sulfur, the beauty mineral (good for hair, eyes, skin and teeth). It is also packed with iron, B-vitamins and the essential amino acid tryptophan which the brain uses to make serotonin. It is full of anti-oxidants and has a high ORAC rating (ORAC = Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a system developed to measure the effectiveness of antioxidants to absorb free radicals in the body). In fact, chocolate is rated higher than many other well known anti-oxidants such as blueberries, goji berries, broccoli and green tea. Chocolate also contains the neurotransmitter Anandamide which is a cannabinoid found in the brain known as the bliss molecule (the word ananda derives from Sanskrit and means joy & bliss) and also the hormone-like substance Phenethylamine (PEA) that functions like a neurotransmitter and can provide heightened focus, attention and goal-directed attention (also found in blue-green algae).
The main reason that chocolate (whether raw or heated) is controversial with regards to health is because of the caffeine content (which varies for each variety of cacao, the regions it is grown in and the growing conditions). All cacao contains theobromine which is similar to caffeine and but has of a calming effect). Both can have stimulating effects on some people, particularly when raw and especially if eaten in excess. Some people simply cannot process caffeine efficiently due to differences in the genes that metabolise caffeine, and for anyone with adrenal fatigue or leading a stressful life, eating chocolate in moderation is a wise move. Most people react to chocolate and find it incredibly stimulating thus it is wise to avoid in the evening but for some people, as surprising as it seems, raw chocolate can have a calm relaxing effect and aid with sleep, possibly due to the high levels of magnesium it contains.
Chocolate is viewed by many as being medicinal, it certainly is a magical food and can quite easily be part of a balanced diet. If you don’t have a sweet tooth then try adding raw chocolate to savoury dishes – sprinkle cacao nibs in a salad or add them to dips and sauces. Adding 100% cacao or dark chocolate to a chill or making a chocolate mole sauce are also fabulous savoury options.
Raw chocolate often introduces people to the raw food lifestyle and for that reason alone it can be educating and inspiring. I highly recommend reading this insightful article by Kate Magic on the potential downsides and side effects of cacao.
Cacao has a trans formative effect and personally I feel that chocolate is a food that nourishes our heart and soul. Home made chocolate made with love brings people together, opens our heart and quite frankly brings more joy into the world. Provided of course that we are supporting fair trade, organic and ethical brands! There is a dark side of cacao so lets try not make purchasing choices that support the slave trade of children and damage the earth by pumping pesticides into the soil along with all the other ingredients that are added to a commercial chocolate bar. We all have a choice with what to do with our money. So if you do currently invest in some of the mainstream Chocolate companies, you may wish to start opting for a more ethical brand. Find out more here - http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/