The buzz around dark chocolate being nutritional can be deceiving; so don't be fooled by a label just because it says "dark chocolate." It's only nutritional in its most natural form. What this means is consumers need to make a mental shift from sweet chocolate, which is a confectioner's candy, to the fact that chocolate is naturally bitter.
The bitter cacao obtained from the seeds in the large fruit pod of the cacao tree is nutritional. These seeds range in colour from dark purple to whitish pink - this is where the nutrients are. So, consuming cacao or cocoa as beans, nibs, or cold-pressed powder is really the true healthy dark chocolate that can be used as a dietary supplement. It's not the bars laced with sugar and fillers.
Raw cocoa beans have a nut-like consistency and are somewhat bitter. The cold-processed cacao powder is simply one more spice to use in smoothies, on oatmeal, or even to jazz up chili.
This food source finds its origins in South America. Here, the cacao bean was used in a bitter drink. European explorers brought it back to their culture, and because their palate was accustomed to sweets, they altered the natural cacao and created the sweetened bonbons that are so prolific today. Like many things in North American culture, the challenge is to avoid the processing and manoeuvre through the forest of fillers and sweeteners to find the real deal. So, with boomers seeking healthier alternatives, cacao is one to add to the list.
Here are some pure cacao facts: The nutritional value of 2 Tbsp of a quality cold-pressed cacao or cocoa powder is 6% fat, 12% protein, 38% fibre plus iron, magnesium and some calcium. The cold pressed process is crucial in maintaining the nutrients.
The beans themselves have a much higher fat content of 55% (good fat), 12% protein, 9% fibre, 7% starch, 6% polyphenols, 5% water, 3% acid, 2% theobromin, 1% sugar, and a host of vitamins and minerals.
Another fact is the benefits. According to Dr. Steven Warren, MD, with extensive experience in gerontology, pure cacao acts as an anti-inflammatory, a mood elevator, and can lower the risks of heart disease and cancer.
Cacao is also rich in antioxidants, which are known to stop the harmful effects of oxidization in the body. Many books have been written on antioxidants and their effects, but to summarize: antioxidants stop free radicals (unattached molecules within the body) from doing damage. So, consuming antioxidant rich foods, like pure cacao, is like squeezing lemon juice on an apple to stop it from going brown. By turning back to natural plant-based nutrients high in antioxidants, people fight fatigue and build up resistance to disease.
The weaning process from sweet to bitter may be a challenge. It's an acquired taste over time, like becoming a connoisseur of fine red wine.
Surprisingly, the powder with its strong chocolate aroma is quite satisfying in naturally raw fruit sweetener shakes. It may be a pleasant surprise, in a cacao smoothie or breakfast shake. Try mixing cocoa power in with honey-sweetened oatmeal and almond milk, or spice up chili. Cacao can be a marvellous addition to an anti-aging regime when used in purer forms giving consumers control on its use. Search the Internet for more ideas; experiment and have fun.
Here are a few easy recipes to get started:
Tropical Chocolate Breakfast Shake 1
- 1/2 Banana
- 1/2 c Freshly sliced pineapple
- 1/2 c Orange juice or water
- 1/4 c powdered cacao
- Unflavoured protein powder
- Powdered probiotics
- Feel free to add supplements from a current health regime.
- Using a blender, blend until smooth. Enjoy!
* Substitute the pineapple with blueberries to increase the antioxidant factor.
* Try strawberries and bananas. They go so well with chocolate.
Basic Chocolate Chili
Using a Dutch oven on the stovetop add -
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) water
- 1/2 lb. (.25 Kg) bison (more for meat lovers or firm tofu for vegetarians)
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) finely chopped fresh celery leaves
- Dash or 2 of ground cayenne pepper
- Brown meat mixture over a medium heat, stirring frequently.
NOTE: Bison (a lean meat) does not require draining and the water gives enough moisture to prevent overcooking.
To this browned mixture, add:
- 1 large can (796-28oz.) diced tomatoes
- 2 cans (398-14oz.) drained kidney beans (OR if preferred 3 1/2 cups pre-cooked beans).
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) chili powder (or adjust to taste)
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) organic raw cocoa or cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) fresh mushrooms (sliced or diced)
Add green or red peppers, or a carrot, if sweetness desirable.
With the lid on, simmer for 1 hour. Taste and add more chili powder or cacao, if desired. Turn to low heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. If a thicker chili is desired, remove the lid for 30 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. Stir frequently. Allow people salt to taste when served. (Note: There is salt in the canned tomatoes.)
Makes - 4 to 6 servings.
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SEPTEMBER 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
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