This post is all about why I love Cacao and why you should too!
Especially at this time of year as we approach Easter as chocolate is in all the shops and on our minds.
Now what do you think of when I say the word CHOCOLATE?
For many people, what they know as 'chocolate' should not even be called by that name. It's usually a sugar and milk sweetened affair that does not have enough Cacao to be classified as proper chocolate. I'm pretty sure that is where the term 'Death by Chocolate' comes from ;)
That's why this post is called 'Life by Chocolate' as we are going to explore healthy chocolate!
REAL chocolate is not only delicious but is actually what I would class as a 'health' food! Yep! :)
INTERESTING CHOCOLATE FACTS
- Cacao, Cocoa, Chocolate = it's all the same thing! Due to a misspell back in England when it was first being imported, it is more commonly known as cocoa because the first 'a' was read as an 'o'! But because we know better now, we will be referring to it as Cacao!
- Cacao is used to describe both the unprocessed beans that are used to make chocolate and the tree they come from. The word "cacao" comes from the Olmec civilization that preceded the Mayans in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
- The Theobroma cacao tree is found in the Amazon forests and in other tropical regions. It produces 3 types of beans, called the Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario bean. All are used to create chocolate and all have amazing health benefits.
- The health properties of cacao are found in the raw version and most 'chocolate' you buy in stores have had the cacoa roasted and so the health benefits are pretty much nil.
- The Theobroma cacao tree's fruit is known as a cacao pod. When ripe, they are yellow or orange and weigh about 500 gr. Each contains many seeds referred to as cacao beans. These seeds can be extracted and made into cacao butter
- The nib is found at the centre of the bean. This is what is used to make cacao paste and powder.
- The Aztecs were the first to use Cacao, they used it to prepare Xocolatl, a drink served at weddings and religious ceremonies. Cacao beans were valued so highly by the Aztecs, they were used as currency and were more valuable than gold to them.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAW CACAO
Cacao is rich in antioxidants as well as good fats and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium. It has a by product similar to caffeine and produce a natural MAO inhibitor that can suppress an overactive appetite. It is known to improve digestion by stimulating kidney and bowel function.
Cacao has been known to help these conditions - anemia, fatigue, fever, low sex drive, respiratory troubles, poor appetite and low breast milk production Cacao oil/butter was used in the treatment of skin problems including eczema, psoriasis and burns In its raw form, cacao contains anandamide (a euphoric substance), the amino acid, arginine (a natural aphrodisiac), neurotransmitters that stimulate and balance brain activity, tryptophan (an anti-depressant) and antioxidants which help with scavenging free radical damage in the body and which is why it is known as an anti-aging food!
Due to cacao being high in magnesium, it helps with bone strength, relaxing muscles and the nervous system and lowering blood pressure. Cacao is a good source of sulphur, responsible for healthy skin, nails and hair as well as liver health. Cacao beans contain 10 grams per 100 grams of flavonol antioxidants. This is a whopping 10% antioxidant concentration level!
DOWN TO BUSINESS OR HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN RAW CHOCOLATE
This is a recipe from Maretai Organics but I have substituted maple syrup instead of agave.
What You Will Need
1-2 steel mixing bowls 1-2 glass bowsl hot water from the tap a glass measure jar scales, sifter and silicone chocolate moulds
Cacao butter - 250gr
Cacao paste - 400gr
Cacao Powder - 50gr
Maple Syrup - 300gr
Melt the cacao butter by placing it in a steel mixing bowl that is in contact with warm water. This may take a little time depending on where you live and the room temperature, but remember, we are just melting the chocolate, not cooking it, as this is a raw recipe. Obviously, the smaller the pieces you cut it up to initially, the quicker the melting time.
Once melted, add the syrup slowly. Sift in the cacao powder mixing slowly at the same time. Melt the cacao paste in a similar way - you can be doing both at the same time if you have 2 steel bowls and 2 glass bowls!
They will end up as very smooth and glossy mixtures, no lumps at all, if still lumpy, add more hot water to the steel bowls until completely melted into liquid.
Add melted cacao paste to the cacao butter, maple syrup and cacao powder. Mix and stir until combined well.
Use a pyrex glass jug (or similar) to fill moulds, place moulds in freezer until solid (about 20 minutes)
HINTS AND TIPS!
Pop the plate that you are wanting to display chocolate on in the freezer so when it comes time to popping the chocolates out serving dish, they won't smear.
This recipe makes so much so you can easily halve the quantity and still have heaps! I made 2 batches and am storing in glass containers between sheets of baking paper.
These choccies will need to be kept in the fridge or they will melt. They can store for a long time (if they make it that long) You may get some white discolouration after a few days but this does not affect the chocolate's taste or health properties!
This chocolate is so rich and satisfying that you only need a small amount. You will be amazed but because the ingredients are so nutrient dense that a small amount will leave your body satisfied and not craving more and more like the other refined sugar and milk laden 'chocolate' does.
Additions There are many things you can add to jazz up your chocolate even though it's delicious as it is! If adding any of the following, just pop in or on the chocolate moulds before setting in freezer: - nuts like hazelnuts, cashew, brazil, macadamia or almond chips -drops of food grade essential oils like peppermint - orange, lime or lemon zest - berries such as blueberries, goji berries, raspberries etc. There really is no limit with what you want to do with your home made chocolate. Just be cautious of adding any more liquid type ingredients as this will change the consistency and powders will make the chocolate a little gritty and not as smooth but whatever floats your boat!
Cacao harvesting has to be done by hand, not machine, and unfortunately there are unfair work practices in the regions that grow cacao due to the fact that most cacao is grown in poorer countries that do not have the laws and regulations of first world countries. The cacao farms often use child labour. These children are ages that would horrify you. They are kept from schooling and they are made to work under pretty harsh conditions from dawn until dusk. There are many fair trade chocolate companies around now so you can help by choosing fair trade chocolate and believe me, when it comes to buying, the people have the power. We only keep farms and companies in business by buying their products.
To read more about child labour on cacao farms, click here.
A Few More Chocolate Tips...
There is a lot to look out for when reading chocolate ingredients such as palm oil (big no-no, read about that HERE) and high amounts of refined sugar, dairy if you have dairy intolerant people to think about, traces of nuts if you have nut allergy people to buy for.....so if wanting to avoid all of that, you can buy your own fair trade chocolate ingredients and make your own from the above recipe! Plus you will have all the health benefits of RAW chocolate!
The ingredients I used to make my own raw chocolate are from Maretai Organics and you can also buy them by Loving Earth. Check out your healthfood stores or buy online. If you want MORE amazing healthier Easter chocolate recipes, you can not go past this blog by Natural New Age Mum!
Oh and pre-made raw chocolate that tastes divine and is also fair trade - Pana chocolate and my fave cooked chocolate has to be Alter Eco (both these brands also available from healthfood stores and online)
Yours in Health,