So much so that it is a joy both to give and receive fine chocolate as a gift.
Chocolate – cacao in its natural state – was so highly valued in its native South America that it was used as a currency, before the discovery of America by Europeans.
The wonderful taste of chocolate may be a key to its immense nutritive value. It is, after all, used as survival rations and it’s no coincidence that bushwalkers wouldn’t be without a block of this amazing superfood in their backpacks.
So What Makes Chocolate so Special?
First of all we are talking here of pure chocolate, which comes from Cacao beans. These are seeds of the fruit of the Cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, to give it its botanical name. Interestingly Theobroma translates from the Greek as “Food of the Gods”!
- Cacao beans are an extremely rich source of antioxidants. The best way to use raw cacao beans is to grind them up and add them to food and drinks. However, cacao beans are most often roasted, and in this process they lose some of their nutrients. This processed form is called Cocoa.
- Both Cacao and Cocoa are high in antioxidants, but cooking destroys these valuable substances and adding milk inhibits their absorption.
- Cacao/Cocoa contains Theobromine, which is a bitter alkaloid that is similar to caffeine. Theobromine helps to dilate blood vessels and is a natural circulatory stimulant encouraging the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body including the brain, which helps mental clarity and memory. Theobromine is not addictive.
- Theobromine also helps to relax smooth muscles, can reduce the symptoms of Asthma and lower Blood Pressure. A study published in April 2007 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (US) shows that cocoa is more effective at lowering blood pressure than green and black tea.
- The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off Panama, consume large amounts of cacao/cocoa and, according to studies by Harvard Medical School, show significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer than those living on the mainland who consume far less.
- Chocolate and Magnesium
Many people today are deficient in Magnesium, a mineral that plays a vital role in bone health, heart health and is essential for over 280 biochemical reactions that take place in your body. Being deficient in magnesium can increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, type II diabetes, and osteoporosis. However, one of nature’s richest sources of magnesium is, yes that’s right, cacao. 100 grams of cacao contains about 550 mg of magnesium. Could this explain our cravings I wonder?
Is Cacao a Stimulant or Superfood?
Although cacao has more antioxidants than blueberries it also contains caffeine which blueberries don’t. Caffeine is a stimulant and can create a high and then a low in energy. In comparison to coffee Cacao is not as simulating. The average size dark chocolate bar contains between 10 and 60mg of caffeine. A normal cup of coffee has 175mg.
Commercial chocolate bars often contain many additives including sugar and milk and it may be these things that give chocolate a bad name in terms of weight gain and diabetes. Do check labels and remember that the best nutrients come from the least processed form.
Enjoy the Best Chocolate: Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Anytime!!
So make sure you only give really good quality dark chocolate. Preferably Organic and at least 70% cacao/cocoa and that way you’ll know that as well as delighting their tastebuds and satisfying their cravings you’ll be giving your loved ones a valuable source of nutrients!
Chocolate Lovers Gift ideas:
Chocolate Lovers Loving Earth Gift Packs here