Chocolate? Cocoa? Cacao?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate comes from the tropics, mostly South & Central
America, West Africa, and the South Pacific.  It is harvested from the fruit of cacao trees, where the cacao beans sit inside a pod of fruity white pulp.  The beans are dried and can be kept raw, or roasted and ground,  and then cracked open to reveal what is called cacao nibs. The nibs are then pressed, to separate into 2 forms - the cacao butter, which contains most of the fat, and the remaining powder which is often referred to as "cocoa".   

So chocolate is a seed, a natural food filled with vitamins and nutrients, and also one of the healthiest foods in the world.  Here's a few reasons why real, pure chocolate/cacao is considered a superfood:

  • Chocolate is the #1 food source of magnesium, which is important for muscle function.
  • Chocolate is extremely high in flavanols - an antioxidant that increases the flexibility in veins and arteries.  This will increase blood flow throughout the body, helping all your organs and bodily functions work better.
  • Chocolate is extremely healthy for the heart: Long-term studies in Sweden, Germany, and Australia, all showed that eating dark chocolate daily lowered blood pressure and cut risk for heart failure.
  • Chocolate can also improve brain function, due to increased blood flow to the brain.  Research shows it could improve performance and alertness in both the short and long term.
  • Chocolate can help prevent strokes.  A long term study showed a 14% reduction in stroke risk from consuming 50 grams of chocolate weekly.
  • Chocolate is also helpful with Diabetes (as long as it's not mixed with sugar).  Flavanols increase the production of nitric oxide, which helps lower insulin sensitivity.
  • Chocolate is great for stress. Swiss scientists noted a reduction in stress among anxious people, after eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for 2 weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced.  
  • A study in Finland showed that babies born to pregnant women who ate chocolate everyday smiled more than those that didn't get that chocolatey love in the womb.
  • Chocolate is also helpful for weight-loss (as long as you watch your portions and eat the good quality kind).   Dark chocolate is very filling, so if you have a little bit every day of the healthier kind, you'll be less likely to indulge in the bad foods.