Issue 30

Raw Chocolate

Raw Chocolate

In honor of the Great Omaha Chocolate Festival coming up on September 30th, I’ve decided to tell y’all a little about raw chocolate and why it’s almost as good as a Hershey’s bar (albeit not available in bulk candy form). I’ll admit it, I’ve become a bit of a food snob as a result of my occupation and the knowledge I’ve acquired along with it.

My work at Jane’s Health Market, training as a raw food chef, and enrollment in the Health Education program at UNO has required me to learn how different foods and their nutritional components affect your body. I’ve spoken to a lot of customers about their particular conditions and ailments, and most of the time, all they need to do is tweak their eating habits and maybe take an herbal supplement or vitamin to drastically improve their condition. The positive feedback that my coworkers and I get back lets us know that we’re doing something right.

What is raw chocolate?

Raw chocolate, or cacao, is minimally processed; generally cold pressed or simply ground whole cacao bean. The lack of manipulation allows the products made from cacao to retain all of the beneficial properties of the original bean. Foods in their raw state contain enzymes. Your body needs enzymes to catalyze digestion and they improve your metabolism. Without enzymes, your body cannot utilize any of the foods you ingest. Since raw chocolate maintains its enzymes, it can be digested easily and converted into energy. The heat used in conventional cocoa processing destroys most the enzymes and leaves you with a sluggish digestive system.

The main thing in chocolate that gives you energy is the alkaloid theobromine. Theobromine is a non-addictive, mild stimulant that is primarily found in chocolate products, though it can also be found in smaller doses in green tea and the kola nut. In fact, Theobromine derives its name from the genus cacao and belongs to Theobroma, which means “food of the gods”. Theobromine is believed to act as an anti-depressant and can cause an increase in the neurotransmitter, anandamide, which could explain that happy feeling you get when you gorge yourself on chocolate. All chocolate contains this substance, but its levels are highest in the raw variety.

Raw cacao is touted as a superfood and was believed to have medicinal properties by ancient civilizations. In addition to the enzymes and alkaloids, cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants known to man. Antioxidants reduce the number of free radicals in your system, counteracting the physiological process of oxidation. Free radicals are highly unstable atoms or molecular fragments that go around your body stealing atoms from your DNA, cells and proteins causing damage. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, giving then no charge and thus, no reason to damage other cells. Antioxidants are said to be great at reducing the effects of aging. A recent study by Cornell University concluded that raw chocolate has almost twice the antioxidants found in red wine.

Raw chocolate contains high levels of magnesium. Extreme farming practices have resulted in soil depletion and consequently have resulted in a magnesium deficiency in most people. Magnesium is an essential vitamin and electrolyte that maintains a steady heartbeat, keeps your bones strong, improves immune function, maintains normal muscle and nerve function, and is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body. It is also vital in regulating blood sugar levels and normal blood pressure. Magnesium is often used to calm the nerves and help people relax, this goes to show how the magnesium benefits are vast and can help many people with their ailments and health.

Generally, made with better ingredients and less sweeteners than traditional chocolate treats, products made with raw cacao don’t contain as much fat and sugars. The sugars that usually appear in raw cacao products are agave or an unprocessed natural sugar which doesn’t cause the same spike in blood sugar that white sugar or corn syrup cause. The fats used in raw chocolate are usually cacao butter or coconut butter and contain no cholesterol.

Preparing foods with raw cacao is generally simple. You don’t have to worry about burning it and the only appliance you really need is a food processor or blender. Making chocolate bars is as easy as blending cacao, agave, and coconut oil until you get to your preferred consistency and sweetness, spreading the mixture into a pan, and cooling it until it’s hard. The same recipe can be used to make a healthy version of the magic shell for ice cream. The coconut oil facilitates the quick hardening of the chocolate.

There are many delicious ways to prepare foods with raw cacao and I encourage you to get creative. I love adding lavender, raisins, and almond to a basic chocolate bar, it creates something lovely and really special.


Tags assigned to this article:
ChocolateRaw Food

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