Chocolate comes from cacao, which is a tree. This makes it a plant. So, CHOCOLATE IS REALLY JUST A SALAD. – unknown
Yes, the above quote is a joke, but actually it is half right. Real chocolate does indeed come from a tree–a beautiful Amazonian tree that bears the cacao seed. It is from the highly desirable cacao seed that we obtain chocolate. Now that we have established true chocolate is plant based, let’s discuss the benefits of high-quality chocolate. Did you know there are actually two different kinds of chocolate powders on the market? One leaves you wanting more because, well, it is completely processed. The other, leaves you feeling utterly content. Cocoa, the standard kitchen cupboard baker’s chocolate, is the cheap stand-in that we associate with Hershey’s or Ghirardelli baking powders. CACAO, on the other hand is the way more spectacular, magnesium-rich, mineral loaded superfood. The two types sit side-by-side in the baking aisle of your supermarket, and even though they look almost identical, there are huge nutritional differences. Let’s demystify the two products, so we can get on to enjoying our perfect cup of hot cacao!
First, cacao (remember two A’s for better quality)…is the superior choice for your perfect hot chocolate and baking recipes. Cacao is the purest, healthiest form of chocolate you can consume. This is because it is not heated at high temperatures, nor is it processed. And because it is raw (not heated above 118 degrees), this means it maintains all of its remarkable nutritional qualities. Cacao is an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our body. In fact, magnesium is responsible for helping the brain and body relax. This equates to that perfect cup of hot cacao near an open fire during the winter. In fact, one ounce of cacao has 63.8 mg of magnesium. The daily recommended values of magnesium for men is 350 mg per day and 300 mg for women. So that cup of hot cacao is actually a nice little vitamin boost during the day. (Murray, 2005)
How Can CACAO Improve Health?
Magnesium is tremendously important to the heart (for energy production and muscle contraction), prevents heart disease and kidney stones, it fights insomnia, PMS and menstrual cramps, it calms sensitivity to pain, quiets nerves, builds strong bones and teeth and is essential for many other functions. Over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium. In addition, cacao also has a tremendous amount of antioxidants, which help us to look youthful and fight disease! Even more amazing, cacao contains chromium, which is an important trace mineral that assists in balancing blood sugar. (Ah ha! This means cacao can actually aide in weight loss!) Sadly, almost 80% of Americans are deficient in this trace mineral too. All of this must be why cacao beans were so deeply respected by the Mayans and Aztecs–they even used them as money! (Murray, 2005)
Over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium. – Murray
Cocoa on the other hand, which we are accustomed to seeing and eating, is largely present in processed foods. Frankly, it leaves us with little to be desired. In fact, it does not offer satiety simply because it is stripped of its nutrients and minerals, heated to high temperatures, mixed in with milk fats, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and bad oils. To make things worse, we have to use more cocoa per serving to get the desired chocolatey flavor and the nutrients our bodies require, compared to cacao. On top of this, we end up with cravings because our sweet tooth gets addicted to the refined sugars that are so often mixed in with cocoa. So at the end of your “hot cocoa,” you end up feeling guilty about your “chocolate” indulgence, instead of calm and relaxed. Double “o” = oh no!
In short, cacao is the best way to invest your dollar, as it will leave you feeling relaxed and nutritionally balanced. Cocoa will leave you feeling ripped off because your cup didn’t offer the super relaxing support of magnesium and antioxidants that its counterpart cacao does. Ultimately, cocoa is not a happy chocolate ending, but cacao is an A+!
Here’s a quick run down on Cocoa vs. Cacao…
COCOA vs. CACAO
– Highly Processed – Raw Superfood
– Heat Refined – Full of Antioxidants
– Stripped of Nutrients – High in Flavonoids & Polyphenols
– Often contains: sugars – Aphrodisiac!
milk fats, hydrogenated – Enhances Mood, Helps Headaches
oils, and artificial flavoring – Good Source of Vitamins & Minerals
– May Cause Weight Gain – Aides in Weight Loss
From this comparison, you truly get what you pay for! Now for our recipe…
Recipe for the Perfect Hot Cacao!
- 1 cup of milk of choice (coconut, flax and almond are great choices for dairy sensitive)
- 2 tbs of organic cacao powder + tsp of organic maca powder (I use Natierra’s Organic Cacao with Maca to make it easier)
- 2 tbs of maple syrup or 1-2 tsp of honey or stevia to your liking
- 1 tbs of almond butter (I use Justin’s Maple Almond Butter), which provides an extra boost of magnesium. However, sunflower butter (high vitamin E) works amazing too!
*Remember less is more with cacao. Even though cacao is slightly more expensive, it offers a stronger chocolatey flavor and therefore, doesn’t require as large of a serving size as processed cocoa. Using cacao actually saves you money and your health in the long run.
- Pour milk into a medium pot and simmer at low to medium heat.
- Stir in the cacao powder and maca until they are well combined.
- Pour in your sweetener of choice, as well as your nut butter.
- Continuously stir your hot chocolate to ensure the nut butter melts properly and is well combined.
- Pour into a beautiful mug and enjoy! Garnish with mint for healthy digestion.
In divine health,
Real Raw Food. http://realrawfood.com/cacao-info
Coles, T. (2013). The Huffington Post. “Cacao Nibs, Even Better For You Than Dark Chocolate.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/02/cacao-nibs_n_3695571.html
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/10638/2