Sunday, 10 May 2015

Cacao a guilt free treat

Hot cacao is a great way to consume something nutritious while feeling decadent. But you should buy cacao in its raw form, rather than the highly processed, low-grade hot chocolates that contain nothing but empty kilojoules and little in the way of true cacao.

The pros

Naturopath Aimee Robbins says raw, powdered cacao is full of flavonoids, which act as natural antioxidants. "Antioxidants protect the body from ageing and disease caused by free radicals. Raw cacao contains up to four times the antioxidants of traditional cacao powder, and has the highest antioxidant value of all the natural foods in the world." Scientists from Cornell University in the US recently discovered that raw cacao contains nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidant content of green tea.
The cacao bean is also rich in magnesium, an energy mineral and vital electrolyte. This super-food is also a good source of sulfur. Sulfur is associated with strong nails, shiny hair and a healthy liver and pancreas. Medical herbalist Dominique Finney says the flavonoids in cacao prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidising and clogging the arteries. "Cacao has also been found to help regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol while building the immune system."
Drinking a cup of hot cacao before meals can diminish your appetite by helping the body tune in to its natural appetite. According to Dr Gabriel Cousens, this is due to cacao's monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). This is why it is often added to weight-loss supplements.

The cons

You can have too much of a good thing. Cacao is very powerful on the central nervous system and over-indulging can interfere with calcium retention. Don't consume more than 40 grams (or four to six heaped teaspoons) of raw cacao a day.

How to eat it

The best way to make sure you're getting the real deal is to start with quality raw cacao powder available in good supermarkets and health food shops. The best powder is dark brown and will taste bitter. You can make your own hot beverage by mixing the powder with hot water or milk. Some research has found that mixing dairy with cacao inhibits the absorption of the nutrients. So to get the most health benefits from your cup of cacao, try using a milk substitute such as coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or just plain water.
If you have a sweet tooth, add sugar, honey or agave nectar. Drinking hot cocoa will give you more antioxidants than simply eating chocolate, because the heat releases more antioxidants. That said, Melbourne chocolatier Kirsten Tibballs recommends eating 60 grams of good-quality dark chocolate every day for a healthy body. "There is also a new chocolate called Acticoa that has nine times the antioxidants of red wine and five times more than green tea."

Mood enhancer

Raw cocoa is an aphrodisiac because it contains anandamide, a substance that induces euphoria. It also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a mood enhancer. While this super-molecule exists naturally in the brain, the only other food that contains PEA is blue-green algae.


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