Cacao has a very important place in Central and South American culture which is associated with many rituals, stories, and myths. Its value was reflected in the fact that cacao beans were also considered as currency for payment.
Raw organic cacao, also called the food of the gods (''Theobroma''), is a nutritionally potent food as well. It has a wide range of positive effects on our body - from feeling better, rising energy, better focus to better skin.
What does it contain?
Magnesium - a mineral that soothes us, relaxes the muscles and nerves and therefore we associate it with better sleep and coping with stress. It is important in maintaining steady heart rhythm, building strong bones, improving digestion, and raising energy levels in our cells.
Chromium - helps detox the liver and naturally regulates blood sugar. It prevents hunger rush and sugar cravings, so it is advisable to maintain optimal values in order to lower your body weight.
Iron - prevents anemia and fatigue. In order to improve its absorption, it is important that we simultaneously also take vitamin C.
Zinc - regulates our hormones and raises our immune system.
Calcium, manganese, copper.
2. Antioxidants - polyphenols, flavonoids (procyanidins, catechins, epicatechins) which:
protect us against free radicals and reduce the inflammation in our bodies,
have a positive effect on microflora and stimulate beneficial intestinal bacteria,
improve the blood flow, blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke,
lower the cholesterol levels (LDL),
improve problems with insulin resistance and diabetes,
improve muscle composition,
protect the nervous system against injury and inflammation,
improve our cognitive skills, learning capabilities, and memory,
improve our skin - visibly reduce the effects of photoaging due to improper exposure to the sun, as they build a stronger cell wall and retain moisture in the skin.
3. Substances of happiness that reduce anxiety, depression, and increase our level of well-being:
Feniletilamin (PEA) - a substance of ''being in love'' that has a positive effect on our neurotransmitters and hormones, so we feel comfort and relief. At the same time, it improves our focus.
Anandamide - our body secrets it after physical activity, better known as ''the molecule of bliss''.
Tryptophan - an amino acid that is the precursor of serotonin (hormone of happiness) and melatonin (sleep hormone).
Theobromine - a stimulant that, compared to caffeine, has a minor and more prolonged effect on alertness and better mood. It promotes circulation, decreases blood pressure, and improves respiratory problems (popular with asthmatics).
Whole cacao beans are a rich source of healthy fiber that helps our body in controlling blood sugar levels, keeps a longer sense of satiety, and improves digestion.
Everybody with the below-mentioned problems should avoid using higher quantities:
metabolizing protein because cacao contains tannins - antioxidants which are also anti-nutrients,
being overweight as it is a food that, in addition to high nutritional values, has high energy values (calories),
having a drained adrenal gland. Those should at least temporarily avoid all stimulants.
The majority of the industrially-processed cacao products in the form of powders, syrups, and chocolates do not contain a high value of real cacao, but many of the ingredients that are not health-friendly. To ensure the above mentioned positive effects, it is important to buy 100% raw and organic cacao beans, cacao butter, or cacao powder; and not to expose them to high temperatures (above 48°C) because certain active agents are heat sensitive. With a few extra ingredients we can make delicious home-made chocolate or truffles, we treat ourselves to a cacao drink with plant-based milk or a pudding. But even if you do not have time for ''cooking'', you may find more and more fair-trade chocolates on the market with high levels of cacao in which you can indulge without any guilty conscience.
Patel, et. al. Dark chocolate: Consumption for human health. (2019).
Shahanas, et. al. Health Benefits of Bioactive Compounds from Cacao (Theobroma cacao). (2019).