As soon as I heard this month’s theme of ‘MoreGoodness’, I immediately thought ‘chocolate’, because frankly it is just so darn good, and who doesn’t love to indulge with a bit of the good stuff? And why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we treat ourselves, or be ‘good’ to ourselves? Nourishing ourselves and doing things that make us happy and feel good, like having a bit of what we fancy and enjoying it, is super important and totally allowed, especially when it comes with a whole bunch of health benefits to boot! But I’m not talking about any old chocolate, I’m talking up pure, unadulterated, raw, organic cacao, the proper proper good stuff!
So what makes cacao so special, and why is it different from cocoa?
Organic, raw cacao is completely natural and comes from the seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree, and is often dubbed a superfood because of the rich variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants that it contains, with reports of its use as a remedy for various health conditions dating back thousands of years.
Even though cocoa can still be highly nutritious, it does not contain the same level of nutrients and antioxidants as raw cacao does, and has often undergone various types of processing, including the addition of sugar, in its manufacturing. Cacao is a much purer form of chocolate, is raw, and has undergone far less processing in its production, which means it retains far more of its unique nutritional properties, including high amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, natural carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Rather than being roasted at high temperatures, it is made by cold-pressing, which keeps all of cacao’s health promoting enzymes in tact.
Cocoa is essentially cacao that has been heated at high temperatures during its manufacturing process, which is the product we see in most chocolate bars and cocoa powder in supermarkets today. When something is heated, some of the nutritional value begins to drop, and the product can no longer be classified as raw. Cocoa can still provide nutritional benefits, but you just need to be aware of what you are buying by checking out the ingredients – going for plain or dark cocoa is a much better option, as it tends to contain less sugar and less additives.
Here are just some of the health benefits of raw cacao
Raw cacao has super SUPER antioxidant power – 40 times that of blueberries! – helping to scavenge and fight free radicals that can cause damage to the body. Studies have shown that this high antioxidant content may positively affect cardiovascular health, and help to improve insulin resistance http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/10/1433
ENHANCES AND LIFTS MOOD
It can help to enhance and lift mood by stimulating the brain to release certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, tryptophan, and phenylethylamine, that are associated with feelings of happiness, positivity, and increased well-being.
RICH IN FIBRE
Pure raw cacao is very rich in fibre, which can help to keep you regular, and potentially provide relief from constipation, as well as helping to keep you fuller for longer, which may help to contribute to healthy weight loss https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3369210/
NOTE: this applies to raw cacao only and not to standard choccy bars found in the shops!)
RICH IN MAGNESIUM
It is one of the richest plant-based sources of magnesium, a super important mineral that is essential for healthy nerve and muscle function, including the heart, sleep, and for turning glucose into energy.
HIGH IN IRON
Cacao is packed to the brim with iron, and so could be a very useful addition to your diet, especially if you are vegetarian, vegan, or iron deficient, as it contains an almighty 7.3mg per 100g! However, because iron in cacao is non-heme, as it is plant-based, it is not as readily absorbed by the body as heme iron (found in animal sources), so to get maximum benefit it is advisable to combine it with some vitamin C READ MORE HERE
Chocolate avocado mousse
Who doesn’t love a creamy, rich, seriously decadent, chocolate mousse?? This recipe from Hemsley + Hemsley is great for vegans and for anyone who is dairy-free, and is abundant in all of the wonderful nutrients cacao has to offer (plus a few more!) – so be ‘good’ to yourself and indulge in this guilt-free delight of a dessert!
1 frozen ripe banana, peeled 3 tbsp cacao powder
1 chilled avocado 2 tbsp raw honey (can be substituted for maple syrup for vegan option)
1 tsp lemon juice 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chilled water A tiny pinch of sea salt
Cacao powder or nibs to decorate (optional)
Blend all the mousse ingredients together in your food processor until smooth. Add the cacao powder first and, as you blend, have all the ingredients to hand in order to adjust the ratios slightly as the size of avocados and bananas varies so much. The perfect ratio in order to avoid the dish tasting too much of either is to use equal amounts of both.
Taste and add a few drops of stevia if you feel you need more sweetness.
Fill little cups or shot glasses with the mousse, sprinkle with the cacao powder or nibs and serve.