By: Dayna Copeland Schaef
Most often found in sugar laden sweets and high fat desserts, chocolate has developed a bit of a bad rap as a food that tastes ‘oh, so good,’ but one that is ‘oh, so bad,’ for your health. Some even call it a guilty pleasure, but there are many reasons to change your view on this once exotic treat. Eating organic, raw chocolate or ‘Cacao’ can be good for your physical and mental health, and it tastes great; a ‘not so guilty’ pleasure, after all.
In their conquests of “the New World,” Columbus and Cortes both noticed that the Natives enjoyed the fruits of the Cacao tree in their drinks and their cooking. This observation was not lost on either conquistador, both of whom hurried to ship samples of this bean to their homeland, where their respective kings enthusiastically responded. The pure Cacao bean that the kings received from exotic lands was cooked and roasted and mixed with sugar and cream, among other ingredients, to create a luxurious treat that we know today as Chocolate.
Going back to the bean’s simple origins, raw foods enthusiasts are boasting about the incredible antioxidant and mood boosting benefits that eating Cacao can bring.
Not unlike the positive feelings we experience when enjoying a chocolate bar, cacao contains strong mood enhancing neurotransmitters that encourage feelings of contentment, happiness, comfort and even love. Phenylethylamine, found in Cacao, is also a hormone that is naturally present in our brains, and one that is secreted when we experience feelings of love, thus the reason that many people find associations between chocolate and emotions, both good and bad. Cacao also increases levels of Seratonin and other Endorphins that improve your mood.
Not only is Cacao good for your mental health, this fruit in it’s raw form can also tote loads of cancer fighting antioxidants; some say that it has more than any other food on the planet. Similar to the antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, those found in Cacao are called flavinols, and they help regulate healthy heart and blood flow, helping to prevent heart disease.