June 26, 2010

It's NOT Your Mother's Chocolate!

With all the AMAZING benefits I’ve had with superfood eating the past year, I wanted to relay some highlights about chocolate! Chocolate meaning RAW cacao; this superfood is unbelievable, and as I’m devouring David Wolfe’s book Naked Chocolate for the second time, I must relay some highlights so that you understand how crucial raw chocolate is for your diet as a mom, a wife, female and human being.
That being said, get David Wolfe’s book, read it yourself, and consider checking out some other references as I have… you can actually find the studies he refers to, and if you are a real nerd like I am, you’ll want to see the science yourself, ha! =) Here are some of the highlights from David’s book and cross research I’ve done, that I think is so important, and why raw cacao is a daily part of my diet.


The main difference between raw chocolate and the bars you buy at the grocery store, such as milk chocolate etc., is that raw chocolate is in its most natural form, unprocessed without any additives. Processed chocolate is what causes many of the allergies that people have (mainly from the addition of pasteurized milk –which is what those “allergic” to chocolate are actually reacting to) and unnecessary cravings for more sugar. So, we know that cacao and dark chocolate boost antioxidants, however the addition of the dairy milk completely cancels out the effects of these antioxidants; studies have indicated that the addition of dairy products specifically block the absorption of all the great antioxidants in chocolate. Some studies you can check out to back up this statement are:

-“Plasma Antioxidants From Chocolate” Mauro Serafini, Rossana Bugianesi, Giuseppe Maiani, Silvia Valtuena, Simone De Santis & Alan Crozier
(The highlight of this study I think is that the effects of the antioxidants are markedly reduced when chocolate is consumed with milk or if milk is incorporated as milk chocolate. Milk may interfere with the absorption of the antioxidants and therefore negate the potential health benefits from consuming chocolate in the first place.)
-“Nutrition: Milk and Absorption of Dietary Flavanols” December 18, 2003 Nature 426, 788 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426788a MauroSerafini and Alan Crozier
(The highlight of this study I would say is that pasteurized milk is the NUMBER ONE FOOD that CAUSES ALLERGIES)
-US Naval Academy concluded that there is NO evidence that chocolate causes or exacerbates acne, Acne is likely triggered by the refined sugars added to chocolates; refined sugar can cause hypoglycemia, hormone fluctuations, moodiness and skin outbreaks.

(Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate -I love to start my day with this tasty drink! See recipe at bottom of blog)

“In raw cacao, one essential component is magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most important of all the minerals in the world, and to our bodies. More than 80% of the US population is deficient in magnesium. What magnesium is responsible (of of the many things), is activating the enzyme D6D that converts omega 3 fatty acids into DHA. Deficiencies in DHA have been linked with many neurological disorders including ADD and ADHD, post partum depression, Alzheimer’s and more.
Magnesium and vitamin B deficiencies cause our levels of dopamine to tank. However, “Active vitamin B6 increases the cellular absorption of magnesium and therefore works in concert to increase the production of dopamine. Natural B6 (found in high concentrations in spirulina, goji berries, bee pollen) increases the cellular absorption of magnesium and therefore works in concert to increase the production of dopamine.” Magnesium is crucial to the pituitary gland, which is responsible for transmitting chemical messengers to hormones –hormones which directly influence the production of additional vital hormones. Cacao’s high magnesium levels thus have an amazing effect in supporting BALANCED HORMONE LEVELS. When the pituitary gland lacks magnesium, it causes the adrenal glands to overproduce, thus increasing the heart rate, causing excitability and an inability to cope comfortably with daily challenges, inevitably this leads to psychological, social, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stress.”
Some other things magnesium is responsible for and helps with:
-Natural laxative
-Sooths menstruation
-Muscle relaxer
-Builds strong bones (Professor L. Kervan, in his book Biological Transmutations)

According to research cited in The New York Times, raw cacao beans are super-rich in antioxidant flavonols. Cacao beans contain 10,000 mg per 100 grams of flavonol antioxidants. This is 10% antioxidant concentration level, making cacao one of the RICHEST sources of antioxidants of any food! Cornell University food scientists found that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea, for example (you can check this out in the article “Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Highter Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine” found in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).
Other important components of raw cacao are:
Methylxanthines: Theobromine & Caffeine
-“Cacao increases your energy intensely. Theobromine and caffeine are very different in their raw forms vs. cooked. Their effects are much milder. Theobromine is milder than caffeine and has about a quarter of the stimulating power of caffeine. Theobromine gently stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes smooth muscles and dilates blood vessels. Theobromine is also a mild diuretic, a cardiac stimulant (in a GOOD way!) and has been used to treat high blood pressure.
As far as caffeine, a 1.4oz serving of chocolate contains the same amount of caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee, approx 5mg.”
Phenylethylamine (PEA)
-The “love” chemical! When we fall in love our PEA levels rise and we become HAPPY and optimistic. PEA is noticeably abundant in the brains of happy people. Those suffering from depression have markedly lower levels of PEA. Raw cacao seems to keep our PEA levels high no matter what is happening around us. From a scientific perspective, PEA is the structural molecule behind catecholamine neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). “PEA increases the activity of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in parts of the brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert. When the brain is flooded with PEA, the presynaptic vesicles will pull in PEA in preference to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is then blocked from being deactivated and dopamine levels rise. Elevated dopamine levels are associated with increasing mental concentration and a positive attitude. PEA also increases the effectiveness of norepinephrine, which increases feelings of JOY. PEA is found pre-made in abundance in RAW CACAO and BLUE-GREEN ALGEA. These two foods can elevate the presence of PEA in our brain. Blue-green algae works with cacao to help us focus, staying the moment and pay attention even if you suffer from ADD. These foods also help us to be more absorbed by whatever we are doing, and thus is suspected this si part of what makes these foods an excellent appetite suppressant.”
-“Once in our bodies, tryptophan reacts with vitamins B6 and B3, in the presence of magnesium, to produce serotonin; serotonin function diminishes anxiety and increases our ability to fend off stress. Tryptophan also helps produce melatonin and dimethltryptamine, both associated with sleep (raw cacao typically does not cause insomnia and can be taken in the evening).
So we see that cacao is “one of nature’s richest sources of magnesium, the brain mineral. Cacao is also a great source of serotonin, dopamine and PEA, three well-studied neurotransmitters which help alleviate depression and are associated with feelings of well-being. Cacao contains nutrients and types of neurotransmitter modulating agents which allow serotonin and dopamine to remain in the bloodstream longer without being broken down. This increases feelings of well-being and helps one become younger. Cacao contains anadamide which delivers blissful feelings and anadamide inhibitors which keep the bliss chemical from being prematurely broken down. Cacao also contains a host of B vitamins which are associated with brain health. All this makes cacao a natural Prozac!” Who wouldn’t want to have this product as a part of their daily diet?! I sure do, and it is!
“Chocolate is a perfect food as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power, but its quality must be good, and it must be carefully prepared. It is highly nourishing and easily digested, and it is fitted to repair wasted strength, preserve health, and prolong life. It agrees with dry temperaments and convalescents; with mothers who nurse their children; with those whose occupations oblige them to undergo severe mental strains; with public speakers, and with all those who give to work a portion of the time needed for sleep. It soothes both stomach and brain, and for this reason , as well as others, it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” –German chemist Baron von Liebig (as quoted by the American Walter Baker & Company in the mid-nineteenth century).

(Mini Dark Chocolate Squares with Raw Cacao)

Now for you pregnant gals, go for it! Finnish research indicates that “eating chocolate is good for the baby. Scientists at the University of Helsinki, who asked 300 pregnant women to record their chocolate consumption and stress levels, found that daily chocolate treats had a positive impact on the unborn baby’s behavior. Six months after the infants were born the mothers who had eaten chocolate reported more reactions such as smiling and laughter in their offspring” (my daughter Mia first started smiling at 2 days old; I ate raw cacao throughout my pregnancy on a daily basis, and have continued eating it daily as I am nursing, and she is now 18 weeks and the happiest, smiling, giggling baby I’ve met).
“And the babies of stressed women who had regularly consumed chocolate showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed women who had abstained,” reported New Science magazine. Katri Raikkanen and her colleagues who conducted the research speculate that the effects they observed could result from chemicals in chocolate associated with positive moods being passed on to the baby in the womb. Nevertheless, high doses of chocolate (i.e. binge eating) should be avoided whild pregnant based on research done on reproductive and developmental risks introduced by caffeine.”
And for us yogi’s (especially Bikram practitioners like myself):
“The magnesium and the MAO inhibitors increase physical flexibility and the methylxanthine stimulants add several hours of additional power and strength (to your yoga practice). Cacao drinks allow the digestive system to relax and the entire body becomes more flexible.”
So there you have it ladies… a million and one reasons to start adding raw cacao to your daily diet!!! I love the benefits and see the results on a daily basis, especially in the sweet and joyful temperament of my daughter (still exclusively breastfed).
You can find raw cacao powder, nibs and beans in many health food stores, including Whole Foods. Or you can order directly from two of my favorite companies, www.NavitasNaturals.com and www.UltimateSuperfoods.com. Navitas Naturals, along with David Wolfe’s books “Naked Chocolate” and “Superfoods” have tons of great recipes for adding cacao into your diet. And once again, I’ve barely chipped the iceberg of information about raw cacao/chocolate… I strongly encourage you to purchase David Wolfe’s book ‘Naked Chocolate’, ‘Superfoods’ and ‘Eating for Beauty’. =)

Recipe: Incan Warrior "Hot Chocolate"

1 Cup Almond Milk (I love the Silk brand, but Almond Breeze is good, any brand you prefer)
1 Cup Yerba Mate Tea, brewed 4 minutes (for lactating Mama's, sub Tazo Decaf Chai Tea)
1 Dropperful Stevia (more to taste)
1 Scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Green Powder
1-2 Scoops Raw Cacao Powder (to personal preference, I use 2)
1-2 Scoops Raw Maca Powder
1/2 tsp Organic Gluten Free Vanilla

Pour all ingredients into blender, blend, pour, enjoy! (If you'd like to heat the beverage slightly, you may do so in a saucepan on low heat... if you over heat/bring to a boil, you are losing out on the raw benefits of the superfoods).

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