What is it?
Cocoa is simply a slightly processed cacao bean. The Theobroma cacao tree was named by the Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753; the name is Latin for “food of the Gods”. Cacao beans and nibs have a long and colourful history, beginning in Central and South America around 1400 BC. The entire cacao fruit was used medicinally by the Mayan, Olmec and Aztec civilizations. Unbelievably, these early civilizations discovered that a little honey added to slightly processed cacao beans would make a special drink, one of the most popular beverages today; chocolate. The Mayan and Aztecs believed cacao was a “gift from the gods”. After the Spanish conquest of the 1500’s, cacao & its derivative cocoa spread quickly through Europe and then worldwide. Nutritionally, the main difference between Cacao and Cocoa is that to improve the taste, cacao is subject to a higher temperature than cacao during processing, which alkalizes the cacao to remove the bitterness. The bitterness is from the polyphenols (antioxidants) so some get destroyed, but a significantly large amount are retained. They are excellent for your heart, skin, blood pressure and even your stress levels, which makes Cocoa a Superfood and the base for one of the most popular foods in the world, chocolate.
Cocoa, the Super-food Benefits:
Significantly lower rates of:
- All-cause mortality
- Cardiac death
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart failure
- Myocardial infarction
- Platelet function
- May Prevent Atherosclerosis
- Improves Cognitive function in elderly people with mildly cognitive impairment
- Cocoa (dark chocolate) consumption has many cardiovascular benefits
- May inhibit development of Alzheimer Disease
- Improves blood flow to the brain
- Dark chocolate consumption for just one month improves vascular function in young, healthy subjects
- Improves Endothelial Function
- Improves Oxidative Stress in Overweight People
- Improves Skin Condition
- Good Source of Fiber and Benefits Gastrointestinal Health
- Good source of calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and potassium, in addition to vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5 C & E
- Contains more magnesium than any other food
- Good source of sulphur
- Great all around for Heart Health, Reducing Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- Reverses Vascular Dysfunction in Diabetic Patients
- Chocolate makes you Smarter, A New Harvard Study
- May prevent degenerative diseases, including cancer
Did You Know?
- Because cocoa beans were so highly valued for their medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, they were traded as currency among ancient South American civilizations.
- Apparently Casanova was very fond of them.
- In Aztec times, the common currency was of course trade and bartering. The two most common ways the Aztecs bartered was through the use of cocoa beans made into chocolate and cotton. The word chocolate actually came from the Nahtul language xocolati.
- An archeological dig in Colha, Belize discovered spouted vessels (“chocolate pots”) containing residue of a cocoa drink predates earlier estimates; they appear to be from 600 B.C. to A.D. 250.13
Is All Chocolate Good For You?
No. Lower grade chocolate, often called “candy”, has additives like high-fructose corn syrup, sugar and partially hydrogenated oils, which limit the amount of actual cocoa. Dairy products block the absorption of antioxidants, so chocolate “bars” do not deliver anywhere near the health benefits of cocoa. Always read the ingredients and know your chocolate supplier. Sam’s cocoa powder is raw and the “chocolatiest” cocoa this writer has tried. Mixed with a little pure maple syrup I also add Matcha, almond milk & other herbs like the chalky-tasting Boswellia and suddenly all you taste is chocolate, much like the healthiest chocolate shake you could have!!
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- 2 medium size ripe avocados
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup organic cocoa powder
- 2 Tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 - 1 cup almond milk (for a sweeter taste, use vanilla or chocolate flavoured)
- Add ingredients to a blender or food processor in this order: oil, honey, vanilla, half your almond milk, avocados, cocoa powder.
- Blend for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Pour in additional almond milk a little at a time until the pudding is the consistency you want. Remember it will thicken after chilling in the refrigerator.
- Spoon the pudding into bowls, cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.