Cacao: Introducing the Everyday Kind of Chocolate
Some might think it odd that each morning, without fail, before leaving my apartment, I grab a homemade chocolate truffle, perfectly chilled, from the top shelf of my fridge. Dark chocolate one day, peppermint-chip the next. Perhaps it would also seem indulgent to some, if I were seen cozy in bed at night, a bowl of soft chocolate batter in one hand and a glass of fresh, raw milk in the other.
I’m writing today to defend myself, to argue that there is, in fact, nothing odd, nothing indulgent about these practices. I’d like to propose, on the other hand, that these practices are preferable and suggest that they become an ordinary part of our days.
Chocolate is a fascination of mine, perhaps of yours as well. Unfortunately it has gotten a bad rap over the years, having been classified as nothing more than a “guilty pleasure.” Once treasured as the “food of the gods”, cherished for its medicinal powers, chocolate is now taken for granted as just another sweet treat, found on the shelves of any convenience store, and bought thoughtlessly with pocket change. Chocolate, whose origin lies in the seed of the fruit of the cacao tree, has been processed and preserved for our convenience and has, over time, lost its original magic.
The cacao bean, the dried and fermented seed of the cacao fruit, is far from a guilty pleasure and in fact an incredible food, one with the ability to make us strong, make us healthy, and make us oh, so happy. Of its many nutritional benefits, cacao has been found most recently to have antioxidant levels nearly twice that of red wine and up to three times that of green tea. Research is increasingly showing the capacity of these antioxidant compounds to clean up free radicals, which have been associated with heart disease and cancer. Studies have also shown of cacao’s ability to make blood vessels more flexible, decreasing the risk of hardened arteries. Perhaps this will help us to understand why the Mayans and Aztecs referred to chocolate as “heart blood.” Furthermore, raw cacao has the one of the highest percentages of magnesium of any other food! Our typical Western diets leave us highly deficient in magnesium, a mineral essential for hundreds of essential bodily functions. Beyond the support to our physical body, certain chemicals found in cacao can also support and heighten our mental state. These chemicals, phenylethylamine and anandamide have become commonly known as the “love chemical” and the “bliss chemical”, both found naturally in very few foods.
I could go on, telling of the magic of cacao, but instead will leave you with this brief introduction, ask that you trust me when I tell you of its innate wonders and remind you that when tampered with, highly heated and processed, the wonder significantly fades. Eating raw, organic chocolate, as close to its source as possible, is the only way to reap the benefits of this ancient fruit. Raw chocolate can lighten the darkest of days and can turn a typical day into one of bliss. So go ahead, follow in my footsteps and create your own chocolate rituals to be followed morning, day, and night.
Have you ever eaten raw chocolate? Do you like it?
Photo Credit: Jody Grimm
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