I'll never forget the day my first acupuncturist told me it was good for me to eat chocolate. What a genius she was! So astute, so well educated, and clearly not to be doubted. She believes there is a reason why some people's bodies crave chocolate; that somehow, something in the chocolate helps your body toward it's goal of being balanced. In the years since, there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not she is right.
In the raw foods community many people believe in raw cacao, or raw chocolate (not the roasted, processed cousin known as cocoa) as a superfood for health and vitality. Nobody is claiming that the sugar and various other ingredients that usually accompany chocolate are also good for you, but what about the raw cacao, raw chocolate bean itself?
Nutritional Value and Reputed Benefits of Raw Chocolate in Raw Culture
The much touted nutritional benefits or raw cacao range from reducing cataracts to improving heart function to alleviating stress. The theobromine naturally found in raw cacao is a mild, non-addictive stimulant that some believe can treat depression. It may cause the brain to produce more of a neurotransmitter called anandamide which would account for the euphoric sensation some feel when indulging in chocolate. Not much is known about how the ancient civilizations of the Americas used chocolate, but it was certainly treasured by them for medicinal purposes. Nowadays we know that raw cacao is certainly very high in antioxidant flavanoids, sulfur and magnesium. The essential fatty acids found in chocolate may help the body to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
Amongst the loftiest claims in raw food culture is that raw cacao (without added sugar or dairy products) will reduce your risk of cancer as the high levels of antioxidants reduce the amount of free radicals in the body.
Can You Trust the Hype About Raw Cacao?
Raw cacao is just like most things in the world of health and nutrition- the information changes fast. You need to keep on top of the news. There are many that believe that chocolate, even in it's purest form of raw cacao, is still not very good for you, perhaps even toxic. The stimulant quality may agitate kidney and liver functioning. Some tests find it to be addictive, leading to mood swings and other withdrawal symptoms when not consumed regularly. Sexual dysfunction has also been listed as a possible side effect of chocolate intake- yikes! Certainly you must never blindly trust the information given to you by someone who is selling the product. Conduct your own research and see what the experts are saying.
Though chocolate may not be the knight in shining armor that so many of us wish it was, when eaten in moderation, it doesn't seem to be causing too much harm either. To play it safe, consume chocolate on special occasions and look for your magnesium and antioxidants elsewhere.
Nutritional Information for Raw Cacao/Raw ChocolateThe following nutritional data for raw chocolate comes from the comprehensive nutrition database at Caloriecount.about.com.
One ounce organic raw cacao powder contains:
Calories: 120, Calories from Fat: 23
Total Fat: 2.5g, 4% Recommended daily value
Saturated Fat: 1.5g, 7%
Sodium: 20mg, 1%
Total Carbohydrates: 19.0g, 6%
Dietary Fiber: 7.0g, 28%
Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 0%, Calcium 4%, Iron 16%