Raw cocoa has the highest antioxidant value of all the natural foods in the world! The official scientific name of the cocoa tree is Theobroma Cacao. "Theobroma" is Latin for "food of the gods". Cacao is pronounced "ka-COW". The words "cacao" and the more commonly used term "cocoa" both refer to the cacao bean, the seed of the Theobroma Cacao fruit. Health Benefits of Cocoa CACAO: THE SUPERFOOD Cocoa beans/Cacao is one of the most nutrient rich and complex foods known to man. Cacao is considered by some experts to be #1 antioxidant food and to have #1 source of magnesium of any food. FOUND IN CACAO Nutrients and Minerals Found in Cacao Magnesium, Iron, Chromium, Anandamide "The Bliss Chemical", Theobromine, Antioxidant Flavonoids, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Omega 6 Fatty Acids, Phenethylamine (PEA), Tryptophan, Serotonin, Endorphins, Sulfur, Calcium, Potassium, N-acylethanolamines, Oleic Acid, Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fat, MAO Inhibitors. Historically, cocoa has been used to treat everything from kidney disorders and liver disease to depression and tickly coughs, but scientists now believe the antioxidants in it could also help prevent cancers and heart disease, and increase blood flow to the brain, fighting dementia into the bargain. BENEFITS OF CACAO Nutrients and Minerals in Cacao provide the following: Reduces Appetite and Helps in Weight Loss Helps with Cardiovascular Health Dilates Bloods Vessels and Reduces Blood Clotting Assists in Regulating Heartbeat and Blood Pressure Lowers LDL Cholesterol Reduces the Risk of Stroke and Risk of Heart Attacks Helps to Protect from Environmental and Metabolic Toxins Acts as an Anti-Depressant and Balances the Mood Balances the Brain Chemistry Builds Strong Bones Helps to Reduce PMS Systems and Regulate it Helps to Increase Focus and Alertness Builds Strong Nails and Hair Detoxifies the Liver Helps with Healthy Pancreas Functioning Balances Blood Sugar Helps to Fight Cavities Builds a Stress Defense Shield Facilitates Anti-Aging and Rejuvenation Disclaimer: The FDA has not evaluated these statements, and they are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. ****************************************************************************************************************************************** Raw Cacao Nibs Many people consider eating chocolate a “guilty pleasure.” But the reputation of chocolate as a junk food should more accurately be attributed to the harmful effects of commercial processing and refining techniques, and the other ingredients commonly added, most notably white sugar. All chocolate is made from the cacao (cocoa) bean, and cacao beans in their natural, unprocessed, unadulterated state are rich in nutrients and beneficial to health. Our cacao nibs are Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional, a well-fermented cacao with lots of delicate high notes. Cacao beans are protected by a paper-thin shell, which you remove before eating. When the shell is removed, the bean often breaks into small pieces, called nibs. Nibs are our most popular cacao product because they shares all the nutritional benefits of the whole bean with the added convenience of having the shell removed for you. Excellent with lucuma, vanilla powder, agave nectar, yacon syrup and coconut oil. ________________________________________ Why Unprocessed Chocolate is Good for You Antioxidants: Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Health benefits of these antioxidants include: • Promote cardiovascular health - Help dilate bloods vessels, reduce blood clotting, improve circulation, help regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. • Protect from environmental and metabolic toxins - Help repair and resist damage caused by free radicals, and may reduce risk of certain cancers. Neurotransmitters: By increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in our brains, cacao promotes positive outlook, facilitates rejuvenation and simply helps us feel good. • Serotonin - Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS symptoms, and promotes a sense of well-being. • Endorphins - Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” a jogger feels after running several miles. • Phenylethylamine - Found in chocolate, phenylethylamine is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. Acts as mild mood elevator and anti-depressant, and helps increase focus and alertness. • Anandamide - Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released by the brain when we are feeling great. Cacao contains both N-acylethanolamines, believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain, and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. Promotes relaxation, and helps us feel good longer. Essential Minerals: Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese. • Magnesium - Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency, present in 80% of Americans, is linked with PMT, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and joint problems. • Sulfur - Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning. Essential fats: There is a misperception that chocolate is fattening. In truth, the fats in cocoa butter are healthy fats. Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, also found in olive oil, that may raise good cholesterol. Also, substances found in cacao are known to help reduce appetite. Important note- To fully benefit from chocolate’s wide array of nutrients, eat chocolate that is as close to its natural state as possible. Whole cacao beans and nibs are best. You lose many of the health benefits when you eat commercially produced chocolate. ________________________________________ Cacao: Its History and Use From the Time of the Aztecs to Today The cacao tree has been cultivated in Mexico and Central and South America for thousands of years, and it has been so highly valued that some Native peoples once used its seed, or bean, as currency. The Aztecs believed cacao to be of divine origin, and both they and the Mayans used the roasted bean in the famous beverage Chocolatl, together with vanilla and other flavorings. In the early 16th century, Columbus brought sacks of cacao back to Europe, but he did not realize its economic value. Then, in 1519, Cortez brought cacao back to Spain, and it was soon made into a luxury drink for the upper classes. By the 17th and early 18th centuries, chocolate was considered a cure for many illnesses, as well as a catalyst for provoking passion, although it was still too expensive for the general populace. Finally, in the 18th century, chocolate houses were established in London, making chocolate available to a broader spectrum of society, and their popularity quickly surpassed that of the coffee houses. Today cacao is planted on over 43,000 square miles worldwide. Forty percent of production is from Cote d’Ivoire, while Ghana and Indonesia produce about 15% each, and Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon provide smaller quantities. How Cacao is Harvested Cacao beans are harvested today in much the same way as they were by the Aztecs. After the pods ripen, which takes 5 to 6 months, they are removed from the tree and carefully cut open with a machete, and the cacao beans are extracted. After harvesting, the beans are placed on banana leaves in large wooden boxes and left to ferment for several days. During fermentation, complex chemical changes take place. The bitterness of the bean is reduced and the rich chocolate flavor begins to develop. The beans are dried after fermentation, and during this drying process, the brown color develops and further flavor development occurs. The Different Varieties of Cacao There are three main cultivar groups of cacao beans grown today: • The Criollo group, which was used by the Maya, is the most rare and expensive of the three. Only 10 to 15% of cacao trees are Criollo, and they are small and difficult to grow. The chocolate made from the Criollo bean has a delicate and complex array of flavors. Often referred to as the “King of Cacao,” Criollo is highly prized and is used by many of the new “micro chocolate makers.” • The Forastero group makes up about 70% of the cacao grown today. Forastero trees are easier to grow and significantly hardier than Criollo, resulting in more affordable beans. Well-prepared Forastero is what most of us are used to eating in chocolate. • Trinitario is a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, and it makes up about 20% of the cacao beans produced today. Our cacao beans and nibs are Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional, a well-fermented Criollo with lots of delicate high notes. The Nacional is the type of cocoa bean that gave Criollo its reputation. It has a tangy berry note integrated with a delicate chocolate flavor. Different Kinds of Chocolate Many types of chocolate are made from the cacao bean: • Chocolate liquor is made from roasted, ground cacao nibs (the meat of the cacao bean) • Cocoa butter is the fat of the cacao bean, and is solid at room temperature • Cocoa powder is made by separating most of the cocoa butter from the liquor • Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, containing about 50% cocoa butter • Bittersweet chocolate contains at least 35% liquor, along with cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla • Semisweet chocolate contains the same ingredients as bittersweet but has a greater sugar content • Milk chocolate has only about 10% chocolate liquor, and also contains about 12% milk solids • White chocolate does not contain any chocolate liquor; it gets its flavor from cocoa butter Using Cacao Beans and Nibs at Home If you are using whole beans, simply crunch them between your fingers to loosen and remove the peel. You can use the beans whole or grind them in a spice mill/coffee grinder or food processor. Then add them to smoothies, teas, desserts, raw food bars or any dish that calls for the delicious flavor of chocolate. They are especially good when used in recipes with our vanilla beans. Here are some more detailed suggestions for enjoying the exquisite flavor of cacao: 1. Try eating them straight, a tablespoon at a time. Chew thoroughly and experience the taste extravaganza of raw (or roasted) chocolate. 2. Sprinkle on yogurt, granola, desserts, etc. 3. Make a delicious chocolate shake with dairy or nut milk, coconut oil, a frozen banana, agave nectar, and cacao beans. 4. Add agave nectar, yacon sweetener, or honey to the raw cacao nibs and chew! 5. Freeze cacao nibs with sweeteners (agave nectar or honey is fantastic). Eat cold. 6. Blend powdered cacao into herbal teas with the Peruvian superfood maca. 7. Add cacao nibs to ice creams for the healthiest chocolate chip ice cream in the world. 8. Create a raw chocolate bar! Blend the following raw ingredients together: cacao, agave nectar, carob powder, maca, coconut oil, and cashews. Pour into a mold and freeze. Eat cold and experience the truth about the food of the gods! 9. Grind whole beans or nibs into a powder and combine with coconut oil to make a chocolate sauce. Use in cookies, brownies or other raw or baked desserts. 10. If you have a Champion juicer, you can make unsweetened baker’s chocolate by running the nibs or unpeeled whole beans through it. To make a “liquor” run the powder through the Champion several more times until it separates into powder and liquid. 11. Make a scrumptious chocolate nut fudge. In a food processor or blender, start with your favorite nut (cashews or almonds are particularly good) and add coconut oil, agave nectar or honey, coconut flakes, cacao beans, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Cacao nibs keep well in cool, dry conditions. 2) Cacao Beans What's healthy is the cacao bean, minimally processed. This amazing, hedonistic bean is one of the world's longest-revered foods (think 'time of the Aztecs' old) and has in recent years been shown to be a veritable powerhouse of cognitive enhancement, mood and bliss-enhancement (thanks in part to the Theobromine in cacao), antioxidants, flavonoids, catechins and many other brain & body-enhancing elements. In fact, chocolate has been very recently cited by some top health professionals and researchers to be THE single most exciting health food, and as more research continues to pour in, the more true this appears to be. If you want the real stuff, the best bet is to either use 100% organic non-alkalized cocoa powder from a high-quality maker who minimally processes the cocoa to ensure that the health properties are retained, or, second best, choose only high cacao percentage dark chocolate bars (typically at least 75% cacao content or higher, but we suggest 85% or higher), also from a high-quality provider. Here at BrainReady, we've found it easiest to just mix a large spoonful of 100% organic cocoa powder with a bit of espresso, organic unsweetened soy milk and some cinnamon, even a sprinkle of cayenne red pepper...yes, cayenne pepper!) in the morning (and sometimes again in the afternoon) to make a drink not unlike what the ancient Aztecs used to make: it's one tasty, brain & body-fueling drink that gives you your pure cacao bean dose without the sugars and milk fat, you get your protein from the soy milk, brain-enhancing (and blood sugar-stabilizing) cinnamon, a little brain-enhancing caffeine from the espresso and theobromine (plus more) from the chocolate, and a digestion, brain-enhancing and respiratory-enhancing kick from the cayenne pepper. No sweetener needed (sweet is overrated these days...but we'll save that topic for another BrainReady feature). All that in one tasty drink that really gets you going! In summary, yes: chocolate is a brain health food. Or more specifically, the cacao bean is a true brain health and body health food. And worth considering adding to your diet (barring any allergies to chocolate or contraindications, of course). Cocoa - The Super Healthy Fruit You may be surprised to learn that cocoa is actually a FRUIT - and even more surprised to learn that it is actually one of the most healthy fruits commonly eaten by man! Recent research studies have shown a link between cocoa and cardiovascular health, with reduced risk of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks. Cornell University food scientists discovered that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea. Raw cocoa has the highest antioxidant value of all the natural foods in the world! The ORAC score per 100 grams of unprocessed raw cacao is 28,000, compared to 18,500 for Acai Berries, 1,540 for Strawberries, and only 1,260 for raw Spinach. The ORAC score for a typical manufactured Dark Chocolate is an impressive 13,120 - although one unique, organic, and non-roasted brand of Dark Chocolate has a much higher ORAC score. But for Milk Chocolate the ORAC score is much lower at 6,740. Cocoa also appears to have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. And cocoa is a good source of the minerals magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and manganese; plus some of the B Vitamins. When heart problems occur, magnesium is the most likely mineral to be missing in the person's diet. Cocoa has a high content of the "beauty" mineral, sulfur. Sulfur helps build strong nails and hair, promotes healthy and beautiful skin, helps detoxify the liver, and supports healthy functioning of the pancreas. Fresh cocoa beans are super-rich in the type of bioflavonoid called flavanols which are strong antioxidants that help maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure. The heart-healthy flavanols in cocoa, especially the epicatechins, prevent fatty substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and then clogging the arteries. Flavanols help make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes - without the negative side effects associated with the use of aspirin (ASA) and other pharmaceutical blood-thinners. Cocoa beans contain 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) of flavanol antioxidants per 100 grams - or an amazing 10% antioxidant concentration level! When it comes to supplying your body with effective antioxidants, no other natural food can even come close. No exotic super-fruit like Acai berries, no high-antioxidant fruits like prunes or blueberries, and no vegetables. The antioxidants in cocoa are easily absorbed by the human body, and are more stable and long-lasting than those in any other foods. Cocoa also contains the amino acid Tryptophan which makes the neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which promotes positive feelings and helps keep us from feeling depressed. Cocoa contains the neurotransmitters dopamine, and phenylethylamine (PEA), and contains anandamide and MAO Inhibitors - which make this heart-healthy food a healthy food for the brain too. Phenylethylamine (PEA) helps promote mental alertness and the ability to concentrate. The PEA in healthy chocolate can be of help to students taking tests, and to senior citizens who want to retain the mental capacity of a younger person and postpone the onset of dementia. Studies have indicated that consuming dark chocolate produced an increased sensitivity to insulin (which indicates a protective effect against diabetes). While you may have believed that cocoa and chocolate were "bad for you", the truth is that THE RIGHT KIND OF CHOCOLATE provides many health benefits that make it not only "good for you" but better for your body than most of the fruits and vegetables your mother made you eat when you were a child. Eating a healthy dark chocolate provides a sweet, sensual, sin-free pleasure, as well as some significant health benefits. A heart-felt gift of healthy dark chocolate to a loved one offers a heart-warming, delightfully delicious treat, as well as a super heart-healthy food that promotes a longer and healthier life. If the pharmaceutical industry managed to produce a patented product that offered all the health benefits of cocoa, they would likely proclaim it a "miracle drug"! But since cocoa is widely available, is relatively inexpensive, and does not require you to pay for a doctor's prescription nor pay fees to a dispensing pharmacy, you are not likely to hear many members of the medical establishment recommending chocolate for its many health benefits. You may also be surprised to learn that dark chocolate can help you lose weight! Because it has appetite-suppressant properties, cocoa is often added to weight loss products to help control hunger. While you may have been told that chocolate is "fattening", the truth is that the fats found in cocoa butter are actually healthy fats! Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which is also found in olive oil and is believed to raise the level of the "good cholesterol" known as HDL cholesterol (the acronym HDL stands for "High Density Lipid"). Healthy chocolate can be of great benefit to tobacco smokers - but not just because they need lots of the antioxidants which neutralize the free radicals generated by the toxic compounds in tobacco smoke. A recent study in Switzerland indicated that dark chocolate may help prevent hardening of the arteries. A 2006 clinical study by Swiss researchers found that within minutes of consuming dark chocolate, their test group of 20 smokers experienced a significant improvement in the function of the endothelial cells which line the artery walls. Smoking tobacco has long been linked to hardening of the arteries and an increase in the production of clot-forming platelets in the blood. Raw cocoa beans contain over 300 chemically identifiable compounds. This makes cocoa one of the most complex food substances on Earth! Click here to learn more about the many Health Benefits of chocolate. How Chocolate Is Made Chocolate really does grow on trees! Cocoa beans come from the fruit of the cacao tree which grows in tropical rain forests in South America, Africa, and Malaysia. The official scientific name of the cocoa tree is Theobroma Cacao. "Theobroma" is Latin for "food of the gods". Cacao is pronounced "ka-COW". The words "cacao" and the more commonly used term "cocoa" both refer to the cacao bean, the seed of the Theobroma Cacao fruit. The main producers and exporters of cacao beans are the West African countries of Cote d'Ivoire or "Ivory Coast" (40%); and Ghana, which until 1957 was the British colony known as the "Gold Coast" (15%). Indonesia also produces about 15%. Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon also grow cacao in lesser quantities. Strictly speaking, cocoa or cacao is a nut, the seed of a fruit, but is most commonly called cocoa beans, cocoa seeds, cocoa nuts, chocolate seeds, or chocolate beans. Commercial cocoa growers and processors refer to the dried cocoa beans as cocoa nibs. The term cacao often refers to the beans before they are fermented and dried. All of these terms refer to the dried fruit or nuts of the cacao tree, and here we will use the most popular term cocoa beans to refer to the fermented and dried bean that is used to make cocoa powder and dark chocolate. The cacao pods take five to six months to ripen. In the typical cacao plantation, the growers harvest the pods from the cacao tree at the time of perfect ripeness, then remove the cacao beans from the pods (about 45 beans per pod) by cutting the pods open with a machete knife. The beans are then covered with banana leaves and left for about five days to ferment, which reduces the bitterness and develops an enhanced chocolate flavor. When they have reached the proper level of fermentation, the beans are then left to dry in the sun, where the brown color and the chocolate flavor intensifies. Then the now-finished cocoa beans are shipped to the cocoa buyers and processors. Cocoa butter is a fatty substance that comes from the fruit of the cacao tree, though some is also found inside the cocoa bean and is usually removed by pressing the beans to ensure the best cocoa flavor. Cocoa butter is often used in making chocolate, but the dark brown chocolate color and the chocolate flavor and the greatest health benefits come from the cocoa bean, not from the light-colored cocoa butter. ABC News reported in 2005 that the average American consumes 11.5 pounds of chocolate each year. That would likely be chocolate bars and various types of chocolate candy, which are mostly sugar and fat. Chocolate consumption represents one percent of the American diet, yet most Americans have never tasted "real" chocolate - natural cocoa or the cacao bean in its raw form. You could sprinkle crushed cocoa beans or cocoa nibs onto whipped cream, ice cream, puddings, or other desserts for a natural chocolate flavor from these original "chocolate chips". The crushed raw cocoa beans or nibs look a lot like coarse-ground coffee beans and taste like unsweetened dark chocolate - because all real chocolate is made from cocoa/cacao beans. From Cocoa Bean to Cocoa Liquor to Baking Chocolate Chocolate is manufactured from cocoa mass, the base product produced by processing the cocoa/cacao beans or nibs by fermenting and then roasting them to produce a liquid called chocolate liquor, which is very "thick" or viscous. You might expect the cocoa mass to be solid or a kind of powder, but it is a thick liquid or paste because cacao beans are nuts, and all nuts contain fat - in this case the fat known as cocoa butter, which has a very high viscosity at room temperature, like soft butter made from dairy cream. The chocolate liquor can be molded and hardened into the bitter chocolate known as unsweetened baking chocolate. Most people would not like to eat this chocolate because it is quite bitter in taste. Those who acquire a taste for it are able to eat this kind of sugar-free dark chocolate which is more healthy than other forms of chocolate. From Cocoa Liquor to Cocoa Cake to Cocoa Powder The chocolate liquor can be machine pressed under great pressure to squeeze out most of the the fats known as cocoa butter and leave a flattened dry material called cocoa cake, also known as "cocoa solids". This cocoa cake can then be broken up or finely ground to produce a natural and unsweetened cocoa powder, which is used by chocolate manufacturers. At their local grocery store, consumers can also buy a cocoa powder known as Hershey's or Fry's, or other cocoa powders from other makers. A much healthier organic cocoa powder made from raw cacao beans which have not been fermented, roasted, or processed with high heat can be ordered online in a 16 oz. package. This raw cacao provides a much higher level (over 3 times higher) of antioxidant flavanols (i.e. has a much higher ORAC score = 95,500 per 100 grams) than other cocoa powders made from cacao beans which have been fermented and roasted. This antioxidant-rich cocoa powder can be used to make a healthy hot chocolate and other hot or cold chocolate drinks, mixed with agave nectar to make a healthy chocolate syrup, or used with organic virgin coconut oil to bake healthy brownies and cookies and cakes. Click here to learn about raw organic cocoa powder. From Cocoa Powder to Dark Chocolate To make a solid dark chocolate from the cocoa powder, a chocolate manufacturer will add some cocoa butter (the natural fat from the cocoa fruit) and some kind of sugar, usually refined white cane sugar. A dark chocolate can be "bittersweet" or "semisweet" or "sweetened", depending on how much sugar is added to the cocoa powder and cocao butter. Since the viscous cocoa butter melts to a liquid at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it provides that "melt in the mouth" creamy texture. After Christopher Columbus introduced chocolate (dried cacao beans) from the newly-discovered Americas to Queen Isabella of Spain, Europeans soon started adding sugar cane (also from the Americas) to the chocolate drink to sweeten the taste. They also experimented with adding flavorful New World spices like vanilla and cinnamon. It is well known that refined sugar is a cause or a contributing or aggravating factor with respect to many medical conditions, including: heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, insulin and blood sugar disorders like diabetes, mood disorders, immune system disorders, leukemia, inflammatory conditions, dental cavities, yeast infections, and depletion of essential nutrients. Sugar-laden chocolate candies and syrups are more of a health risk than a health food. A study reported in the Journal of Hypertension in August, 2005 found that test subjects with high blood pressure who were given 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for 15 days received these measurable health benefits: (1) a drop in LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol); (2) a drop in blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, which compared to the results of healthy changes in diet usually recommended for patients with hypertension; (3) an increased sensitivity to insulin (which indicates a protective effect against diabetes). In the same study, test subjects with hypertension who were given 3.5 ounces of white chocolate for 15 days received NONE of the above health benefits. [Journal of Hypertension, 2005, August; 23(8):1453-1459.] Cocoa butter is a fat that is found naturally in cocoa beans. The cocoa butter consists of 34% stearic acid, 34% oleic acid, 25% palmitic acid, and 7% other fatty acids. A bittersweet dark chocolate bar contains about 70% chocolate liquor; while a semisweet dark chocolate contains about 60%. Note that this chocolate or cocoa "liquor" does NOT refer to alcohol, but is a term used by cocoa processors to describe the viscous liquid made from roasted cacao beans. Next to raw and unprocessed organic cocoa, organic dark chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate - especially when it contains more of the nutritious cocoa mass and less of the fattening cocoa butter and sugar. The dark chocolate is "healthier" when it is unsweetened or bittersweet dark chocolate. Any sweetened dark chocolate is a little less "healthy" when it is sweetened with refined white sugar (sucrose) instead of raw cane sugar or dehydrated cane juice. Dutch Chocolate Cocoa powder usually has a slightly bitter and acidic taste. In the 19th century Dutch chocolate makers learned that they could treat the cocoa powder with alkaline salts to reduce the bitter taste - a process now known as the "Dutching process". Dutch cocoa provides less antioxidants than natural cocoa because the alkali process destroys some of the flavanols (the powerful antioxidants found in cocoa). You can tell a cocoa or chocolate is Dutch Chocolate when the label indicates "Dutch process" or "alkali added" or "European style". While you may have heard that chocolate is "bad for you", it is not the natural raw cocoa that is unhealthy, but the other ingredients in the kinds of manufactured chocolate made from refined sugar combined with various kinds of cheap animal fats like lard, or cheap and unhealthy hydrogenated vegetable oils. When healthy and high-quality natural ingredients are used, it is possible to make a truly "healthy chocolate" from organically-grown, unprocessed, unroasted, raw cocoa/cacao beans that has no pesticide residue and little loss of the natural nutrients. Next to organic raw cocoa/cacao beans or cocoa powder, unsweetened and dairy-free dark chocolate is the healthiest chocolate; while the LEAST healthy chocolate is milk chocolate which includes dairy products and milk fats, refined sugar, and possibly hydrogenated oils or lard. Remember, so-called "white chocolate" is not really a "chocolate" - and certainly not a "healthy chocolate". It is "white" because it does NOT contain any of the dark brown cocoa powder found in dark chocolate and milk chocolate, and provides none of the healthy flavanols. It is not made from the cocoa bean or nib, but from the fatty cocoa butter extracted from the "fruit" part of the cacao plant. How Healthy Is Dark Chocolate? What Are the Health Benefits? "The beverage of the gods was Ambrosia; that of man is chocolate. Both increase the length of life in a prodigious manner." - Louis Lewin, M.D., in Phantastica In general, the healthiest kinds of chocolate (in order) are: 1. raw, organic, unprocessed cacao beans (called "nibs") or cocoa mass; 2. organic and unroasted cocoa powder not treated with alkalis; 3. organic dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa liquor or cocoa powder and the lowest percentage of refined sugar (bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate). The Kuna people drink a lot of cocoa, and they don't have high blood pressure or diabetes ...except for those who move to the mainland and start drinking flavanol-poor commercial cocoa. Hollenberg also fed cocoa with flavanols or cocoa without flavanols to a split study group in the United States, and discovered that flavanols in cocoa seemed to improve blood flow throughout the body. Even when a chocolate product is made from organic cacao beans or nibs, this does not necessarily mean the finished product will have the same health benefits as the raw cocoa, if the way it is processed by the manufacturer has reduced the nutrient value of the cocoa beans, or if the addition of milk products limits the ability of the body to absorb all the natural antioxidants. Also note that the CAFFEINE in the cacao fruit is found mainly in the shell or membrane which encloses the cacao beans. Most suppliers of cheaper cocoa powder grind up this outer membrane along with the beans, which helps to increase the yield and lower their cost of producing cocoa mass. But when the membrane is removed before shipping the raw cacao beans or grinding them into cocoa powder, the chocolate made from those more expensive beans will be of higher quality and essentially free of caffeine. A List of Healthy Substances Found in Raw Chocolate (Theobroma Cacao) Many of the natural chemical compounds in raw cocoa or cacao beans and in organic dark chocolate have been discussed in scientific literature as being pharmacologically significant to health. Here is a partial list of these active substances in natural organic chocolate (and more are discussed below). • Anandamide (a neurotransmitter known as "the bliss chemical") • Arginine (nature's aphrodisiac) • Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) • Epicatechins (antioxidants) • Magnesium (for healthy heart function) • Serotonin (anti-stress neurotransmitter) • Tryptophan (anti-depressant amino acid) • Phenylethylamine (PEA) (controls the ability to focus attention and stay alert) • Polyphenols (antioxidants) • Histamine • Tyramine • Salsolinol Magnesium - the Mineral Your Heart Needs Is dark chocolate good for your heart? Research by Dr. Bernard Jensen indicates that the heart muscle requires these two minerals more than any other minerals: Magnesium and Potassium. In the heart muscle Magnesium is concentrated eighteen times greater than in the bloodstream. Magnesium helps regulate blood pressure and the heartbeat. The overall strength and vigor of the heart muscle and its ability to pump effectively is enhanced by the presence of Magnesium, and this important mineral also decreases blood coagulation and thus can lower blood pressure. Magnesium also balances brain chemistry, and helps build strong bones. When heart problems occur, Magnesium is the most likely mineral to be missing in the person's diet. Eighty percent of Americans are deficient in Magnesium. This deficiency is linked to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and PMT. Cocoa beans and organic dark chocolate are the #1 best food sources of this heart-supporting mineral, Magnesium. Can you see how a guilt-free daily dose of Magnesium-rich healthy chocolate could actually help lower your risk of heart disease? Anti-Depressant Properties of Cocoa and Healthy Dark Chocolate Cocoa is a potent source of serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine. These are three well-studied neurotransmitters which help alleviate depression and are associated with feelings of well-being. Cocoa contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) which help improve our mood because they allow serotonin and dopamine to remain in the bloodstream longer without being broken down. Cocoa also contains anandamide which stimulates blissful feelings. Cocoa also contains B vitamins, which are associated with brain health. Vascular Health Promoting Properties of Cocoa and Healthy Dark Chocolate Nitric Oxide (NO) One research study discovered that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide (a chemical compound designated as NO, where N = 1 Nitrogen atom, and O = 1 Oxygen atom). Nitric oxide or NO is a critical component in healthy blood flow and blood pressure control. Vascular diseases, including Erectile Dysfunction (ED) which is common in men over age 40, are connected to the inability of an artery to make the simple but fundamental chemical called nitric oxide (NO). It appears that flavanols help reverse that problem. Thus eating healthy chocolate might help men over 40 to enjoy a more active sex life without having to rely on expensive drugs like Viagra™ or Celebrex™ or those many herbal concoctions which are touted in millions of unwanted emails. Another research study showed that a type of bioflavonoid called flavanols in cocoa prevent fatty substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and then clogging the arteries. Flavanols also make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause blood clots. Researchers are excited by the potential of flavanols to ward off vascular disease, which can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even dementia. Antioxidant Properties of Cocoa and Healthy Dark Chocolate Scientists have known for years that cocoa/cacao contains significant antioxidants, but no one knew just how rich they were in comparison to those found in two other healthy foods - red wine and green tea. According to research cited in The New York Times, fresh cocoa beans are super-rich in the type of flavonoid called flavanols (not flavOnols) which are very strong antioxidants. Cocoa/cacao beans contain 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) of flavanol antioxidants per 100 grams - or an amazing 10% antioxidant concentration level! Recent research has demonstrated that the antioxidants found in cacao beans are highly stable and easily available to the human metabolism. Of all known foods, cacao is also the ONLY food which does NOT lose its Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) over significant periods of time. This makes cocoa both the most POTENT source of antioxidants and a source of the most USABLE antioxidants found in any natural food. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and keep them from damaging the DNA and mitochondria of the body's cells, which is a major cause of many degenerative diseases, cancer tumors, heart disease, and premature aging. Cells with damaged DNA cannot reproduce healthy new cells, but will reproduce damaged or malignant cells. Cornell University food scientists discovered that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea. Their findings were published in an article entitled "Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine", published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication. The Cornell researchers, led by Chang Y. Lee, chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, state the reason that cocoa leads the other drinks is its high content of antioxidant compounds called phenolic phytochemicals, or flavonoids. A class of flavonoids known as flavanols or flavan-3-ols includes: catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin. All three are found naturally in the cocoa bean. (Note that flavanols are NOT the same as another very similar-sounding class of flavonoids known as flavonols, which includes: myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol.) The Cornell researchers discovered 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE) in a single serving of cocoa. Examining a glass of red wine, the researchers found 340 milligrams of GAE and 163 milligrams of ECE. In a cup of green tea, they found 165 milligrams of GAE and 47 milligrams of ECE. By comparison, 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate delivers as many antioxidants as five ounces of red wine. That makes cocoa one of the richest sources of antioxidants in any food! Compare the raw cocoa bean's 10,000 milligrams of flavanols per 100 grams to other forms of commercial chocolate... Processed cocoa powder (defatted and roasted cocoa beans treated with potassium carbonate) and chocolate candy range in flavanol content from the more common concentration of 500 milligrams of flavanols per 100 grams of normal chocolate bars, to a concentration of 5,000 milligrams (5 grams) of flavanols per 100 grams of Cocoapro cocoa powder from the Mars Corporation. Neither comes close to the high concentration of flavanol antioxidants in raw cocoa/cacao beans - 10 grams of flavanols per 100 grams. ORAC Score - A Measure of Antioxidant Quality The current standard for testing and measuring the antioxidant properties of various foods is called the ORAC Score. ORAC is an abbreviation for "Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity" - which is a measure of the amount of free radicals that can be neutralized by a certain mass of a food substance (usually cited as "per gram" or "per 100 grams" of the food substance). The higher the ORAC score, the higher the concentration of antioxidants present in the food. (Source: US Department of Agriculture / Journal of the American Chemical Society.) Free radicals are molecules that are missing one or more electrons and are therefore chemically imbalanced with a positive electrical charge. They are created in several kinds of chemical reactions which take place in our bodies, such as when we burn energy by working our muscles. To balance their charge, these radical molecules will seek to attract or "steal" electrons from other molecules - including the molecules which make up the DNA in your body's cells which is the blueprint for producing new cells, and the mitochondria in your cells which create the energy to sustain the cells. Cells with damaged mitochondria are weak and have lower energy and less resistance to disease. When the DNA of a cell is damaged by the action of free radicals, the result is the creation of imperfect new cells - or even malignant new cells which form tumors and cancers. Free radicals are the cause of most degenerative diseases, premature aging, and the creation of cancer cells. Antioxidants are molecules which have one or more extra electrons and are chemically imbalanced with a negative electrical charge, so they can attract and "donate" an electron to a positively-charged free radical molecule, which balances its electrical charge and thus neutralizes it. So that "thieving" radical molecule which is now electrically balanced no longer needs to "steal" electrons from the molecules which form our body's cells. Thus the more antioxidant molecules we have in our body, the more free radicals are neutralized, and the less damage is done to our cells. By preventing the damage to our DNA and mitochondria, antioxidants can stop and even reverse the aging process, and help prevent all kinds of degenerative diseases and cancers. The ORAC value rates the capacity of the substance to prevent oxidation, i.e. its effectiveness as an antioxidant. It might help to compare the oxidation of molecules in our body to the oxidation of iron in an automobile - which we call "rusting". Oxidized or "rusted" iron becomes brittle and weak, and eventually breaks down into a reddish-brown dust known as iron oxide. You could say that our bodies are "rusting out" from oxidation by free radicals! Ashes to ashes, and rust to dust! But our bodies can be protected from this rusting by the antioxidants we get from eating natural foods which have a high ORAC value. Many natural foods have been supplying human bodies with those protective antioxidants since we first evolved, but the problem today is that we are not eating many natural foods! We consume far too many processed foods and junk foods which have had the protective antioxidants proocessed out of them! So we suffer more and more from many diseases such as cancer and heart disease, which were relatively rare problems for our ancestors who were eating nothing but whole foods fresh from the farm. It's very difficult today to avoid eating processed foods with inferior nutritional value, but we can at least try to eat enough whole foods (like cocoa or high-antioxidant fruits) or health supplements that supply us with enough antioxidants to protect us from degenerative diseases and the ravages of aging. We don't have to grow old before our time, or suffer painful ailments, or die from horrible diseases that could have been prevented. While the general public may be aware that they need to eat more raw fruits to get a good supply of antioxidants, the fruits most commonly eaten by North Americans are fairly low on the ORAC scale. Cantaloupe, banana, apple, apricot, peach, pear, and watermelon all have an ORAC score of less than 251 per 100 grams. No wonder the average North American is not getting enough antioxidants in his or her daily diet. Even milk chocolate with its ORAC score of 6,740 provides significantly more antioxidants per gram than most of the commonly consumed fruits and vegetables - and more than even the top scoring fruits like prunes (5,770), pomegranate (3,307), blueberries (2,400) and blackberries (2,036). The daily diet of the average North American only scores 1,000 to 1,500 on the ORAC scale. Nutrition experts tell us that it should be at least 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC. Some say it should be even more than 5,000. Eating healthy chocolate, with its super-high ORAC value, can be an efficient and enjoyable way to boost your daily dose of antioxidants and reduce the ravages of free radicals. Be careful not to assume that ALL organic chocolate or dark chocolate products (or any processed food product) are "healthy" just because they claim to contain ingredients which are known to have a high ORAC score. It does NOT necessarily mean that the finished product you are consuming will have a high ORAC score too. There are several factors that can affect the actual ORAC score of a finished food product such as dark chocolate: (1) how it is processed (excessive heat can destroy flavanols and reduce the amount of available antioxidants, which lowers the ORAC value), (2) how much of the high ORAC ingredients are actually in the product, (3) how some ingredients affect the ORAC score of other ingredients (e.g. adding milk to cocoa lowers its effective ORAC score to a little more than half because dairy products tend to block the absorption of the antioxidant flavanols in the cocoa). Table of ORAC Values for Common Foods Here is a comparison of the ORAC score per 100 grams for some common foods known to have a high antioxidant level, listed in descending order. • Unprocessed Raw Cacao - ORAC 28,000 • Acai Berries* - ORAC 18,500 • Dark Chocolate - ORAC 13,120 • Milk Chocolate - ORAC 6,740 • Prunes - 5,770 • Wolfberry Juice - 3,472 • Pomegranates - 3,307 • Raisins - 2,830 • Blueberries - 2,400 • Blackberries - 2,036 • Garlic - 1,939 • Kale - 1,770 • Cranberries - 1,750 • Strawberries - 1,540 • Tahitian Noni Juice - 1,506 • Raw Spinach - 1,260 • Raspberries - 1,220 • Brussels Sprouts - 980 • Plums - 949 • Alfalfa Sprouts - 930 • Steamed Spinach - 909 • Broccoli - 890 • Beets - 840 • Avocado - 782 • Oranges - 750 • Red Grapes - 739 • Red Bell Pepper - 710 • Cherries - 670 • Pink Grapefruit - 495 • Kidney Beans - 460 • Onion - 450 • Corn - 400 • Cauliflower - 385 • Frozen Peas - 375 • Potato - 300 • Cabbage - 295 • Banana - 210 • Carrot - 200 • Apple - 207 • Tomato - 195 • Peach - 170 • Lima Beans - 136 • Pear - 110 (*ORAC for Acai as determined by Brunswick Laboratories, USA.) This will be important new information for millions of children and teenagers who hate the taste of brussel sprouts or broccoli. Now they can advise Mom that dark chocolate is a much healthier alternate source of antioxidants! When comparing the antixodidant value (ORAC value) of foods you may actually be eating on a regular basis, another consideration is antioxidant value per calorie. What foods provide a healthy source of antioxidants without also providing too many calories from carbs and fats? Dark chocolate, in spite of the sweetener added to overcome the bitterness of raw cocoa, is actually one of the better providers of antioxidants per calorie! One hundred grams of healthy dark chocolate (more than you would normally eat) provides 13,120 ORAC units of antioxidants and 552 calories of energy - which works out to 24 ORAC units per calorie. That gives dark chocolate a better ORAC/calorie ratio than brussels sprouts (23), beets (20), plums (17), oranges (16), cauliflower (15), cherries (13), onions (12), cabbage (12), red grapes (10), tomato (9), head lettuce (9), string beans (6), potato (5), frozen peas (5), corn (5), carrot (5), apple (4), tofu (3), baked beans (3), pear (2), banana (2), or lima beans (1). In other words, if you are looking to increase your antioxidant intake from natural fruits and vegetables while consuming the least calories, eating a healthy dark chocolate is actually a lower-calorie source than all the common foods in this list! And the ORAC per calorie ratio for dark chocolate (24) is about the SAME as two of the top antioxidant fruits - prunes (24) and raspberries (25). So it's not necessary to worry about getting too many calories when consuming healthy dark chocolate as`a supplemental source of antioxidants, because you don't need to eat very much dark chocolate`to absorb more antioxidants than you would get from many common fruits`and vegetables! Prunes or chocolate? You can choose the chocolate! Methylxanthines in Cocoa: Theobromine and Caffeine Cocoa/cacao can substantially increase a person's energy level, since it contains two stimulating methylxanthines - a significant amount of theobromine and a small amount of caffeine. Theobromine in Cocoa and Chocolate Theobromine comprises between 1% and 2% of the cocoa bean. Its properties are: stimulating the central nervous system, relaxing smooth muscles, and dilating blood vessels. Compared to the other methylxanthine molecule, caffeine, the theobromine has about one-quarter the stimulating power. Theobromine also acts as a mild diuretic (increases the rate of urination) and has been used as a medical drug in cases where a heart attack had resulted in too high an accumulation of body fluid. Theobromine is also a cardiac stimulant and has been used to treat high blood pressure. One of the reasons why dogs should not eat cocoa or chocolate is because this food can cause cardiac arrest in dogs, since they simply lack the enzymes necessary to metabolize quantities of theobromine in excess of 100 to 150 mg per kilogram of the dog's body weight. The smaller the dog, the less cocoa or chocolate it would take to cause death. Dogs LIKE to eat chocolate and will gorge themselves on all the chocolate they find, so do NOT leave chocolate candies or baking chocolate or chocolate chips where your pet dog can get at them! And do not feed chocolate candies to your dog, which just trains your dog to like the food that can kill your pet! Even the type of garden mulch which is made from shredded cocoa hulls (and can attract some dogs who will eat it) could contain enough theobromine to harm or kill a dog. Caffeine in Cocoa and Chocolate It generally agreed that cocoa and chocolate are poor sources of caffeine, though estimates of how much caffeine is present in cocoa may differ, depending on the source of the opinion. (Note that cocoa made from cacao beans which had the surrounding membrane removed before processing will contain almost no caffeine.) Various researchers have made the following estimates of the caffeine content in cocoa and chocolate... • A cup of hot chocolate usually contains about 4 to 5 milligrams of caffeine, which is about 5% of the caffeine found in a cup of regular perked coffee. Some types of high-quality organic cocoa powder which have the outer membrane removed from the bean will contain almost no caffeine, for most of the caffeine is found in this membrane (which is usually ground up with the whole bean to make a cheaper form of cocoa powder). • A cup of coffee may contain 50 to 175 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of tea may contain 25 to 100 milligrams, and a cup of cocoa beverage may contain zero to 25 milligrams of caffeine. • A 1.4 ounce piece of chocolate (40 grams) contains about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee. • 800 grams of milk chocolate (a lot of chocolate!) contains the equivalent amount of caffeine found in a cup of regular coffee. • A 50 gram piece of dark chocolate (the size of an average chocolate bar) will yield between 10 and 60 milligrams of caffeine; while an average 5-ounce cup of coffee can yield up to 175 milligrams of caffeine. (According to the Chocolate Information Center.) An interesting experiment in the medical field of Homeopathy showed that a decoction of ground, roasted cocoa beans in boiling water produced an excitement of the nervous system similar to that caused by black coffee, and an excited state of circulation, demonstrated by an accelerated pulse. Yet when the same decoction was made with unroasted cocoa beans, neither effect was noticeable. Can Chocolate Help You Be Happy? We have all heard how chocolate can be a "comfort food" to help us cope with stress and depression and general unhappiness. There might actually be some connection between chocolate and happiness, when we look at certain chemicals which are found naturally in the cocoa/cacao bean and which can affect parts of the brain. Phenylethylamine (PEA) in Cocoa PEA is a chemical found in cocoa/cacao beans which increases the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in certain areas of the brain which control the ability to focus attention and stay alert. Elevated PEA levels occur naturally when we are captivated by a movie or good book, or are wholly focused on a project or task - when we lose track of time and are not consciously unaware of what is happening around us. PEA is found in higher levels in the brains of happy people. Cocoa or dark chocolate has been found to contain up to 2.2 percent PEA (phenylethylamine). Anandamide (The Bliss Chemical) in Cocoa Anandamide (or n-arachidonoylethanolamine) is a neurotransmitter which has been isolated in cocoa in quantities which are significant enough to affect the brain. Anandamide is a cannabinoid naturally found in the human brain. Anandamide is a lipid (a fat) known as "the bliss chemical" because it is released when we are feeling good. (Anandamide is the English spelling; anandamine is the French spelling.) It is true that anandamide has a similar effect to the compound THC in cannabis (marijuana), but it acts in a different way; acts only on certain groups of brain cells and not the whole brain; and thus creates blissful feelings with much less intensity. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) in Cocoa/Cacao These rare MAO inhibitors actually produce favorable results when consumed, by allowing more serotonin and other neurotransmitters such as anandamide, dopamine and others to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate anti-aging and rejuvenation. MAO inhibitors make one feel younger when they allow more neurotransmitters to remain in the bloodstream. A primary phenomenon that differentiates children from adults is the level of neurotransmitters in the blood and bodies of children. In general, as one lives longer and longer the level of neurotransmitters decreases. This leads to less creativity, less joy, more physical rigidity - and more rapid aging! Cocoa, with its supply of MAO inhibitors, helps keep plenty of neurotransmitters in circulation, and thus helps prevent this unhappy phenomenon from occurring. "Think young - you'll have more fun!" Now that you have learned how cocoa contains PEA, Anandamide, and MAO Inhibitors, and learned about the happy effects these chemicals can produce, can you see how real chocolate might deserve to be called "the happiest food"? Chocolate Myths "Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine." - Geronimo Piperni Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac The peoples of Central American in the pre-Columbian era often spoke in metaphors composed of words or phrases which had a hidden meaning when uttered in sequence. This is common in many languages, including English. One of these ancient metaphors was yollotl, eztli, meaning "heart, blood," - a phrase which referred to cocoa. Chocolate is the heart's "blood" due to its magnesium, antioxidants, love chemicals and esoteric properties. Chocolate truly is "food for the heart". Chocolate is a symbol of sensuality, pleasure, and sexuality. Some writers have claimed that 50 per cent of women actually prefer chocolate to sex! That percentage might even rise if the women were offered real chocolate in the form of organic cocoa! Chocolate is a favorite gift from a lover to the beloved one. Chocolates are always given as love offerings. A box of chocolates is one of the most popular gifts for Valentine's Day. Cocoa, because it is natural and unadulterated, has an even stronger love energy than manufactured chocolate candy. In ancient Aztec wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom would exchange five cacao beans with each other. Chocolate Misconceptions and Misinformation Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) of 3,000 ORAC from fruits and vegetables. Yet few North Americans ever eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables to obtain even the recommended minimum daily amount of antioxidants because they eat far too many processed foods. The daily diet of the average North American only scores 1,000 to 1,500 on the ORAC scale. People have achieved rapid weight loss by eating the cacao 20 minutes before a meal as it appetite.