I may have found my favourite.
You probably have read that Chocolate is good for you. Every few months I see another study on why its okay to break out a bar every once in awhile. And the studies are right…kind of. The main component of chocolate, cocoa is okay for you. It’s flavanoids have some antioxidants, and might help lower cholesterol. But what researchers are typically studying is the purest form of cocoa, which closely resembles CACAO, or the raw form of COcoa.
The difference between cacao and cocoa is more than just spelling. Cacao refers to any food product originating from the cacao beans; cacao butter, nibs, paste, and of course, cacao powder.
Anything COcoa is a processed (roasted) version of CAcao, which is the raw, cold pressed, fermented fruit of the Cacao plant. (Still with me?) And it is actually CAcao that has the most health benefits.
So why would raw be better?
Well, whenever you roast anything at a high temperature you begin to change the chemical compound of the substance. Sometimes this can create carcinogenic substances, such as in the case of heating olive oil to high temps. Or you lose some of the key vitamins and minerals. And while they aren’t completely sure, there have been studies showing the raw version, CAcao, has higher antioxidant compounds than the roasted version, COcoa.
Health Benefits of CACAO
Cacao has nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate and 20X more than blueberries. These antioxidants flush out and protect against free radicals in the body.
Cacao contains anandamide, or the “bliss molecule” which can create a euphoric feeling and improve your mood. (I mean, OBVS.)
Cacao is an aphrodisiac- it contains PEA or phenethylamine which triggers the release of endorphins that naturally release during sexual activity. These chemicals also improve libido. Perhaps why its tradition to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day? hmm…
Cacao boosts serotonin, the feel good molecule, which is why women typically turn to chocolate during PMS as serotonin levels fall at this time.
Cacao thins the blood, prevents premature aging and has even been linked to shedding fat due to its MAO inhibitors which help shrink appetite!
The component theobromine (cacao butter) has been shown to halt coughs better than codeine without the scary side effects.
The flavanols help improve microcirculation, oxygen saturation and skin hydration, all which improve the skin and its texture.
Resets metabolism, reduce insulin resistance and lowers blood pressure naturally.
The sulfur content improves the hair, nails, and supports liver and pancreatic function.
So how do you include Cacao in your diet?
Basically you can replace anything that calls for cocoa with cacao. In baking or cooking. You can also sub chocolate chips for cacao nibs, which are cut up pieces of the fermented fruit. The fermentation process they naturally go through causes them to take on a rich coffee and berry notes we have associated with chocolate for so long, (warning they are naturally bitter- do not expect to be eating chocolate chips. These have not been sweetened!)
So throw them on your oatmeal, add it to baking, or throw them in a smoothie.
My favourite way has been adding a tablespoon to my morning latte along with maca.
What exactly is maca? Maca is an ancient Peruvian crop belonging to the radish family and has been consumed for thousands of years. Recently it has been used as an incredible superfood!
It is naturally high in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. It is also linked to helping fertility as it balances hormones, in both females and males and many people take it to increase libido. Along with balancing hormones it also evens out mood, so its beneficial for people suffering from anxiety or depression, or mood swings.
And one of the biggest reasons I add this to my morning brew is for its ability to increase alertness and endurance, because I. Am. Exhausted.
Growing a baby is no joke, and with two others to care for during the day I am absolutely beat. For 16 weeks I have crawled to the kitchen with my lips to make the kids breakfast and then have had to have a lie down. And the exhaustion was just not letting up, even with daily 2 hour naps and doing the bare minimum. In fact, I needed the bloody nap just to make it to bedtime. Two weeks ago I was feeling rather defeated because all I have done for 16 weeks to that point was exist, and I decided to give it a go.
Like all of these super foods , I start small and rotate which ones I use, but in this past week I’ve noticed a huge pick up in energy. In fact, I’ve only had one nap this week and it was because I was up at 5 and then was out cooking in the sun until after lunch. And aside from a growing belly, I’m feeling pretty good (finally) at 18 weeks. So while of course it could just be my body finally getting its life together, or the maca, I’ll take it.
(I was unable to find much information in regards to Maca and pregnancy (lets be honest, sort of like everything) but it is consumed in high amounts in Peru, for thousands of years, with no ill side effects. So I feel a tsp every few days is completely okay. Like always, start small, rotate, and ask your doctor.)
Like CAcao, it can be used in smoothies, morning lattes, soup or in pretty much anything, or taken as a supplement. I didn’t find it altered the taste at all.
So here is my
Morning Maca Mocha Latte
1 tbsp cacao
1 tsp maca powder
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 shot of espresso (1/2 cup of regular coffee)
1 1/2 C coconut milk, steamed (or boil on the stove)
I add the coffee to the cacao, maca, and coconut sugar and mix well to dissolve the powders. Then steam my milk and add it to the brew. It tastes like hot chocolate, and makes me feel good both inside and out.
I got all my super foods from Amazon by the way. (I was only able to find maca in caplet form local to me)
Hope you enjoyed this rather long post. Happy brewing!