We mostly associate chocolate with indulgent confections and decadent desserts. While chocolate is indeed a popular treat, many are surprised to know that it has historically been consumed for its ability to heal.
Chocolate is created from the Theobroma cacao tree, and humans have been consuming food made from cacao beans since 460 AD. Research shows that cacao and chocolate were used as remedies for other medicines in Mesoamerica, a practice that travelled to Europe in the mid 16th century. Since then, hundreds of medical uses for cacao and chocolate have been documented.
The studies that boast of chocolate’s amazing health benefits are not referring to your average store-bought chocolate bar, which likely contains high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, and artificial flavorings and preservatives. The chocolate that they’re referring to is raw cacao.
Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter).
Cocoa, on the other hand, is the term used to refer to raw cacao that has been heated at high temperatures. This is the stuff that you likely grew up purchasing, and while it does have health benefits, the heat reduces the enzyme content and decreases the overall nutritional value of the powder.
Cacao, at its origin, has one of the highest sources of iron in the plant kingdom. It contains 7.3mg of iron per 100 grams. To aid iron absorption, pair cacao with foods that are rich in Vitamin C.
Raw cacao is also abundant in magnesium , which has hundreds of functions in the human body. Magnesium helps support glutathione production, relax muscles, improve brain function and also assists in metabolizing glucose. It’s little surprise cacao is one of the preferred treats of many athletes!
Raw cacao aids in mood regulation and promotes focus by influencing neurotransmitter function. The mighty cacao bean contains phenylethylamine (also known as PEA), an adrenal-related chemical that’s naturally produced when we get excited and improves mood and focus.
Recent studies show that regular consumption of cacao can help to boost cognitive function , improve metabolism, and control blood pressure in elderly patients. These benefits are believed to have happened due to the naturally high flavonol content of cacao. Flavonols are active antioxidants and are extremely powerful fighters of damage caused by free radicals.
Unfortunately, processing, storage and preparation of many chocolates can greatly lessen all of these benefits, including iron, magnesium and flavonol content. That’s why we’ve got a healthy homemade chocolate recipe by Elisa Haggarty to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you all the healing benefits that chocolate has to offer.
Aditi is a digital marketing consultant based in New York City, specializing in brand engagement, content creation and digital strategy. She has worked with a number of luxury fashion, healthcare, and wellness companies to develop campaigns that help brands forge lasting connections with their communities. Outside of office hours, Aditi is all about food and yoga, and teaches classes around the city.