It’s always interesting how the media take a truth, and gradually distort is beyond recognition.
This happens frequently in the diet world, and is one reason why you should be very wary of where you get your health advice.
Take chocolate, for example.
I’ve heard well-meaning radio and TV presenters glorifying the health benefits of chocolate. And, while that may be somewhat true, not all chocolate is created equal.
To make a blanket statement, like “chocolate is good for you,” is misleading. Yet, this is the sort of hogwash we hear on a regular basis.
In truth, most of the chocolate you find on supermarket shelves, and even health food stores, isn’t that great.
I’m not saying you should never eat this type of chocolate. But, it’s important not to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating something “healthy,” if it clearly isn’t.
You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate, which is true, sort of!
However, most dark chocolate is also highly processed, which means much of its nutrient and antioxidant strength has been lost, giving you little more than an excess of calories.
So, how can you know for sure if the chocolate you are eating is healthy?
Most of the benefits found in chocolate are related to its antioxidant content. Because of this, we can use something called the ORAC score to give us a guideline for the antioxidant content in particular foods.
Here are the ORAC scores for some of the chocolate-related foods, per 100 grams:
- Raw cocoa powder* 95,500
- Cocoa powder, unsweetened 80,933
- Raw cacao nibs* 62,100
- Baking chocolate, unsweetened 49,926
- Chocolate, dutch processed 40,200
- Cocoa powder, roasted 26,000
- Chocolate, dark 20,823
- Chocolate, milk 7,528
As you can see, chocolate loses much of its antioxidant content when it is more heavily processed. This is why raw chocolate is the healthiest option in the above list.
What Is Raw Chocolate?
Cacao (ka·cow) is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. It is actually a fruit, and these untreated seeds (cacao beans) are what contain the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
After harvesting, the pods are opened, the seeds are removed, and they undergo a natural fermentation and drying process. This takes up to two weeks, and leaves behind the raw cacao beans.
To make commercial chocolate, the cacao beans are roasted to form cocoa, and sugar and fats are then added.
Raw Chocolates Health Benefits
The nutrients found in raw chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits.
These include lower blood pressure, improved circulation (due to flavonoids), and it is said to help boost mood (due to serotonin).
Raw cacao is also thought to decrease appetite, in some people, making it an interesting addition to a weight loss plan.
As you probably know, the most profound health benefits come from eating chocolate where the cocoa content is at least 70 percent. It should also be low in sugar, and without artificial sweeteners.
But, if you are looking for chocolate that is truly high in antioxidants, go for raw, i.e. chocolate that has not been roasted.
Raw Chocolate: What To Look For
Raw cacao can be purchased in a few different forms.
You can find these in most health food stores, or you can buy them online, which is what I usually do for foods like this.
1. Cacao Beans
Are whole beans, which may be peeled or unpeeled.
2. Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and crushed.
3. Cacao Powder
Cacao powder is made from peeled and cold-pressed cacao beans.
What To Do With Raw Chocolate
Because raw chocolate isn’t paired with sugars, and fats, the taste is bitter and pretty different to the chocolately taste most of us are familiar with. In fact, raw chocolate can be difficult for some to enjoy — at least straight!
There are, however, lots of ways you can use raw chocolate in your cooking. Here are a few simple suggestions:
- If you’re really hard-core, try snacking on whole cacao beans.
- Crush the whole beans into nibs (or buy them already “nibbed”), then add them to snacks like nuts and seeds, granola, or on top of fruit and yogurt.
- Grind the beans into cacao powder (or buy the powder) and add to smoothies or oatmeal.
- Use cacao nibs to replace chocolate chips in baking, such as cakes, muffins, cookies, and even frozen yogurt.
- Make a chocolate smoothie with milk, a frozen banana and cacao nibs or powder.
- Freeze cacao nibs with honey, then eat as a cool snack straight from the freezer.
- Combine powdered cacao with coconut oil to make chocolate sauce for desserts.
For recipe substitution:
Substituting raw cacao into your regular recipes may take some trial and error, but as a guideline, 1 oz of chocolate can be replaced with 3 tbsp of powdered cacao, 2 tbsp of honey, and 1 tbsp of unrefined coconut oil.
To be clear, although I am saying raw chocolate is a good alternative to highly processed chocolate, I’m not saying you should eat it in excess. As with all things in your diet, moderation should still be exercised.
Raw Chocolate Recipe
Here is my version of raw dietitian, Lauri Boone’s, raw chocolate recipe, which I’m going to try out when my cacao nibs arrive later in the week.
2 cups nut butter (16oz jar), such as almond (raw if you can get it)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (raw cacao powder, if possible)
1/2 cup honey
1 heaped tbsp coconut butter/oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
- Combine all of the ingredients, stirring well.
- Line a square baking pan with parchment paper and spoon in the mixture. Flatten the surface with a spoon, cover with parchment, and place in the freezer to chill.
- Remove from pan after an hour, cut into squares, and store in the freezer until ready to eat.
For another gorgeous raw chocolate recipe, check out the link to raw brownies, from My New Roots.
Do you have a raw chocolate recipe to share? I’d love to hear your suggestions…