Superfoods: Cacao

by Mark James Gordon

Cacao is commonly known as cocoa here in the west, or better yet chocolate. It’s one of the most consumed beans in the world but few have really enjoyed it in it’s simplest and most powerful form.

Nicknamed “black gold” by the Spanish, the raw beans contain over 300 chemical compounds. Beware that many of these properties are destroyed by cooking and processing.

Raw cacao beans are truly a superfood. They are the most magnesium rich whole food on the planet, and this is good news because magnesium deficiency is the number one deficiency in the U.S. They also contain high amounts of chromium which is the number one trace mineral deficiency.

Anti-oxidants fight free-radicals which speed up the aging process and break down the body. Few know it, but raw cacao has the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) rating of all foods. But you must make sure it’s raw because heating and processing destroys many of the nutritional constituents of the bean. It has 15 times the anti-oxidants of blueberry, 20 times that of  red wine, and 30 times that of green tea.

Chocolate is widely know (especially among women) to be the “feel good” food. Got the PMS blues, grab some chocolate. Most of us know this, but there is science behind it. Raw cacao contains powerful neurotransmitters or “bliss” chemicals that really do promote a sense of well-being. Included are Serotonin a powerful mood lifter. Phenylethylamine (PEAs) the “love chemical” that is released by the brain when we are in love. Anandamide known as the “bliss” chemical. Naturally released when we are happy. Endorphins which produce an overall feeling of pleasure.

Most health food stores carry cacao as whole beans, nibs (small pieces of the bean), or powder. Just make sure it raw, unprocessed, and preferably organic. Cacao is great for making raw deserts or blending them in your favorite drink or elixir.