Colombian Cacao Fruit (taken at Vegfest 2013)

Colombian Cacao Fruit (taken at Vegfest 2013)

I’m sure that you are all familiar with the argument that chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which grow on trees. This makes chocolate a plant and therefore counts as a fruit / vegetable!!! Ha ha, if only!!

Without a doubt, chocolate is a favourite of most people, but sadly it has not yet reached the heady heights of becoming a separate food group!! I enjoy a nice piece of dark chocolate, now and again. The only problem is that the again can, if I’m not careful, occur quite frequently!! Thankfully over the last year or so, I have explored the world of raw chocolate, which means I can indulge without sabotaging my quest for great health.

It’s not surprising that we all love it, as the cacao bean, from which all chocolate is made, contains natural feel-good chemicals. The only problem is that most commercial chocolate also includes unnatural not-so-good-for-you refined sugar, dairy and various additives.

Cacao’s Latin name is “Theobroma cacao” which literally means “Cacao, food of the Gods”. It contains good levels of various minerals including iron, magnesium and zinc as well as antioxidants including Vitamin C. In its A-list ingredients you’ll also find anandamide (aka the “bliss chemical”), PEA (which helps focus and alertness) and tryptophan (precursor of feel-good serotonin).

So now you’re wondering why chocolate is so bad for you……

Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans. This means that all the nutritional goodness is retained. Yay!!

Cocoa, which forms the basis of commercial everyday chocolate, is the result of roasting raw cacao at very high temperatures (ouch!), thus destroying a lot of its health benefits. Add refined sugar, dairy and chemicals and hey presto, it’s a very sorry reflection of its former self. (The opposite of Yay.)

When I have time, I enjoy experimenting with making raw chocolates (it’s very much a work in progress, but thankfully I have a hubby who seems to enjoy eating the successes and disasters in almost equal measure). I also occasionally use raw cacao powder in green smoothies and other breakfasts, as well as an afternoon pick-me-up of raw cacao hemp milk shake (hemp milk, banana, dates and raw cacao).

It’s worth dipping into the world of raw chocolate. You can make your own, but not everyone has the time to turn alchemist in their own kitchen. For those with limited time, the good news is that raw chocolate is becoming more commonplace in health and other shops. It can have a slightly different texture and flavour from “normal” chocolate but is delish!! Like good quality chocolate it may seem a little expensive but a little goes a long way, and what you are buying is usually a high quality, lovingly made, delicious batch of goodness.

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