Many of you may not know that I used to own a chocolate company. I traveled all over the United States and even Australia offering sacred cacao ceremonies to groups and individuals. I lead 5 Element cacao meditations. Yes, that’s right, chocolate and meditation together, there is nothing better! I would create magical pieces of chocolate infused with essential oils, super foods, flower essences, and even vibrations from singing bowls and tuning forks to enhance the therapeutic experience. Although I no longer own that company, I still share individualized cacao ceremonies and 5 Element chocolate with my VIP patients and groups at various retreats.
I love chocolate so I wanted to share some of my decadent knowledge with you.
Many of my patients eat chocolate and always ask if it’s healthy. I help people change their nutritional plans to meet their health goals and find vibrant health and without fail I am asked “Can I still eat chocolate?”
The answer is Yes and No. Let me explain why.
The scientific name for chocolate is Theobroma cacao. This tree has been cultivated for several thousand years in South and Central America and later introduced to Africa. It has been used as currency for trading, in sacred ceremonies, and made into a drink. It was the Aztecs that introduced it to the Europeans.
Cacao and Cocoa are not the same! Cacao is the unheated, mostly unprocessed chocolate, which keeps the beneficial enzymes alive. Cocoa has been roasted at high temperatures and lacks many of its counterpart’s health benefits. So stick with Raw and Organic Cacao, not Cocoa (like nestle chocolate milk powder).
There are different varieties of chocolate trees that create different flavors of chocolate. These flavors are subtle accents, similar to a fine wine. For example, chocolate from Ecuador tastes different from that of Peru, Costa Rica, or Hawaii.
Chocolate is made from the seed of the cacao tree. There is a beautiful large fruit that grows on this tree and the seeds are inside, often referred to as cacao beans but they aren’t really legumes. The fruit can measure between 10-30 cm. There are approximately 40 seeds in one fruit which can produce about 50g of 70% dark chocolate.
There are pros and cons to consuming chocolate, and I believe you should be an informed consumer so please read on for more facts. Some of the health benefits are as follows:
A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains (1) –
- 11 grams of fiber
- 67% of the RDI for iron
- 58% of the RDI for magnesium
- 89% of the RDI for copper
- 98% of the RDI for manganese
- It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium
(RDI = Recommended Daily Intake)
Now, 100 grams of chocolate shouldn’t be consumed a day – that is far too much. Cacao contains a caffeine-like chemical called theobromine. This mild stimulant is what can kill your dog so Do Not give your dog chocolate!
Theobromine is a bitter tasting plant alkaloid and a known vasodilator, which means it widens your blood vessels. (2) It has been shown to decrease blood pressure and even act as an anti-inflammatory. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has sited many clinical antioxidant health benefits of cacao. (3) Cacao could improve your brain function as well. There is also evidence that it’s good for your skin, protecting it from UV light. (4) There is evidence that it raises your HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lowers your LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) too.
Antioxidant capacity is measured in “oxygen radical absorbance capacity,” (ORAC). In one study, cacao powder was found to contain more antioxidants like polyphenols and tannins, than any other touted super fruit or fruit powder. (5) It’s known as a “super food” because it contains many other nutrients such as flavonoid compounds (particularly procyanidins and epicatechin). These help with circulation, improve blood sugar metabolism, and support endothelial cell health (the cells that line your cardiovascular system and even lymphatic vessels.) To give you perspective, 100g of raw cacao powder has an ORAC of 95,500 μ mol TE/100g, while an orange has 2,103 μ mol TE/100g.
There are other effects from cacao, although less scientific. The Aztecs and the emperor Montezuma spoke about the libido stimulating properties of chocolate long ago. Scientists have found a few chemicals that may impact this. Phenylethylamine is a stimulant found in cacao, it’s related to amphetamine and is associated with the feeling of falling in love. Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. And another chemical, phenylethylamine, is a stimulant related to amphetamine, which is released in the brain when people fall in love.
In my next blog I will go into the Dangers of Chocolate and my recommendations for staying healthy with raw cacao, so check back soon!
Blessings of Vibrant Health,
Kristin Grayce McGary
Health & Lifestyle Alchemist