What better way to consume your antioxidants than in the form of chocolate! But hold on a second I’m not talking about the conventional chocolate you buy in the shops, I’m talking about RAW chocolate. So what’s the difference I hear you ask? Well raw chocolate has gone through minimal processing to retain the high content of antioxidants and nutrients that are found in abundance in the raw cacao (pronounced cac-caw) bean. Cocoa powder has been roasted or heat treated at high temperatures which destroys up to 90% of the naturally occuring flavonols and antioxidants.
Raw cacao powder is very high in antioxidants which are important for protecting the cells of your body (including your skin) from the dangerous and damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidants help to maintain the youthful appearance of the skin by preventing the cell membranes from oxidising, it’s free radical damage to the skin cells that cause the skin to prematurely wrinkle. Cells within the body are constantly under attack from free radical damage so it’s vital that we keep our antioxidant consumption high so that the DNA within our cells can be repaired, otherwise we will start to see the signs of this damage through the early visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. Raw cacao has been reported in various studies to contain more of these powerful antioxidants than green tea, blueberries and red wine. It also contains iron, calcium, chromium, B vitamins and vitamin E and is one of the highest sources of magnesium which plays a major role in keeping the heart healthy by regulating blood pressure and maintaining normal steady function. Magnesium is also used by the body for muscle relaxation (could be one reason why some women crave chocolate at that time of the month), normal nerve function, bone formation and over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Raw cacao is also high in the mineral sulphur which has a reputation for being the ‘beauty mineral’ as it’s needed for strong and healthy hair, skin and nail growth. There are also naturally occurring chemicals in raw cacao that are involved in uplifting your mood and making you ‘feel good’ which could be one reason why some people turn to chocolate when they are feeling down. It also has a stimulating effect which can increase your energy so it’s probably not a good idea to eat raw chocolate too late at night.
Raw cacao butter is solid (until melted by heat), it makes chocolate firm so it can hold its shape and it’s what gives chocolate that lovely intense aroma, it’s rich in monounsaturated fat and oleic acid which is also contained in other plant foods such as olive oil and avocados. Cacao butter makes a good nourishing moisturiser when applied externally to the skin, you can either chip off a piece from the block of butter or buy it in the form of a butter bar (look like a block of soap). The heat of your hand will melt the butter which you then massage into the skin. Chocolate body wraps and face masks have recently become a favourite it beauty salons and spas for the relaxing and nourish effect chocolate can bring.
You’ve probably already heard before that dark chocolate is good for you, well that’s nothing compared to the wide spectrum of health benefits that RAW chocolate has to offer. It’s dairy-free, refined sugar free and if you make it at home then you can add as many super foods into the chocolate as you like. Conventional shop bought chocolate (especially milk and white chocolate) is loaded with unhealthy ingredients like refined sugar and dairy (dairy blocks the absorption of nutrients), the high cocoa dark chocolate is a better choice over milk chocolate but most of the nutrition and goodness is lost through the heat processing so the benefits are quite low. Consider making your own or buying raw chocolate when you can from some of the larger health food stores such as Whole Foods, bear in mind though that the calories are still the same as regular chocolate so a few squares should be enough to give you the healthful benefits but too much could lead to weight gain like any high fat food. If you are worried about the calories then just stick to the raw cacao powder which you can use in raw deserts and drinks and avoid the cacao butter. Raw chocolate is the only healthy chocolate and without doubt deserves its place as one of natures finest beauty foods!
Recipes using raw cacao: