We all know how great Dark Chocolate can be. Not only does it taste good, but it is healthy, and makes you feel great. But commercial chocolate can have a number of hidden dangers, so a much better option is preparing your own home-made cocoa drink. In this post you will see what the benefits and hazards of chocolate are, and why raw cocoa powder is a much better alternative. That is, if you want to rip the health benefits without the adverse effects that often originate from various additives or toxin contamination.
There seems to be a consensus among the scientists that dark chocolate is healthy – at least the recent studies show that (1, 2). And, of course, the health benefits of dark chocolate can be traced back to its high amounts of cacao. Natural cacao contains a lot of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that are great for the cardiovascular system, weight management, as well as for more than 40 other health related issues (1).
In this post we will see how we can prepare our own cacao based drink to maximize the benefits of this powerful nutrient. But first, some definitions:
- Cacao is the name of the plant with Latin name Theobroma cacao. It is cultivated because of its “cacao beans” or “cocoa beans”.
- Cocoa: The name is used to denote the powder (free of most of the fat content) made by roasting, and grounding cacao beans after removing the husk.
- Cocoa butter: The fat contained in the cacao beans.
- Chocolate: This one needs no special explaining. It is made from roasted cacao seeds, while in the case of raw chocolate, raw cacao beans are used. Both versions have some fat in it (not necessarily cocoa butter), and are typically sweetened.
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The Types of Chocolate
It is worth mentioning that the darker the chocolate, the more health benefits it has. Milk chocolate, however, contains much less cacao and is hardly beneficial at all. In fact, if you think you will improve your health by eating the average milk chocolate out there, you will just be fooling yourself.
Many people think they crave for chocolate, while, in fact, they crave for the sugar added to the majority of the chocolate bars.
But there are some brands of dark chocolate that are powerful antioxidant-rich foods, much like raw cocoa powder. They will help your reduce the amount of inflammation in your body.
What Makes Cocoa Powder and Dark Chocolate Anti-inflammatory
Recent research (3,4,5) gives plenty of insight into the powers of cocoa powder. The key ingredients in cocoa responsible for this action are the polyphenols. Because of their large molecular size, the polyphenols are not really digested by your digestive system.
But, they are processed by the beneficial bacteria in your gut. These bacteria feast on cocoa, and they are able to break down the polyphenols to smaller molecules. The result of their action is a bunch of anti-inflammatory components and short chain fatty acids that are extremely beneficial for your body. Therefore, cocoa powder essentially acts like a probiotic and supports the gut biome in a great way.
The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder Drinks
Raw, unprocessed cacao helps reduce the risks for a number of issues (6, 7, 8, 9), including:
- heart diseases,
- elevated triglycerides levels,
- metabolic syndrome,
- high cholesterol levels
Raw cocoa reduces the risks of heart attack because it naturally reduces the blood vessel clotting. In addition, the polyphenols in cocoa protect the blood vessel lining from oxidative damage.
Cocoa contains other compounds than antioxidants, though. For example, the anandamides in raw cocoa block the sensations of anxiety and pain. Theobromine and caffeine increase mental alertness and physical energy.
The additional health benefits of cocoa include:
- improved gut flora,
- improved endurance,
- improved liver function,
- improved endothelial function,
- expanded lifespan,
- reduced inflammation,
- reduced risks of cancer,
- reduced levels of stress hormones,
- reduced risks of Alzheimer.
However, it may be pretty tricky if you rely on dark chocolate to get the full spectrum of health benefits. Dark chocolate is a mixture of cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, and cocoa butter, so the end result may differ from one type to another (cocoa butter, for example, contains no bio-flavonoids).
As a general rule, the closer you are to raw cacao powder, the better the nutritional value.
The next important point is to buy organic cacao powder varieties in order to avoid contamination with heavy metals or other toxins. That way you will also avoid the genetically modified cacao beans, and be assured that most chocolate today, even dark chocolate, is made from genetically engineered beans (16).
Ideally, your cocoa powder will be RAW, and you will consume it RAW.
Cacao is somewhat bitter, but this is a good thing. The bitterness comes from cacao’s flavonoids – the compounds responsible for many of its health benefits. Many chocolate producers either remove the bitter compounds or counteract them with sugar, fructose or corn syrup, honey, or artificial sweeteners. All of these practices are just plain wrong if you really care about your health.
For example, fructose is extremely harmful as boosts up the production of uric acid in your body, which in turn increases blood pressure. It also promotes insulin resistance, which is at the core of many modern chronic diseases.
Cocoa butter is the right kind of fat that should be used alongside raw cocoa powder, or in dark chocolate for that matter. About 60% in cocoa butter is saturated fat, with almost all of the remaining 40% in a form of monounsaturated fat. The main component of the saturated fat in cocoa is stearic acid, which adversely affects the bad LDL cholesterol, while favorably affecting the good HDL cholesterol.
Unfortunately, many chocolate manufacturers instead of the healthy cocoa butter add vegetable oils like soybean oil, which are of polyunsaturated type and, in fact, not healthy at all.
The careful selection of cocoa powder is also important because cacao and chocolate is a high risk type of food for mycotoxins.
Here is How You Could Prepare a Healthy Cocoa Drink
Raw organic cocoa brand. 100% truly raw pure cocoa powder from unroasted raw cacao beans. Country of origin: Ecuador. As it is unroasted, there are high levels of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins in it. The cocoa powder is fine milled after grounding and butter extraction. The temperature never exceeds 45°C to prevent loss or damage of the nutrients.
Raw cocoa butter is 100% pure and cold processed to ensure great quality. The country of origin is Indonesia, obtained with an on site self developed pressing system.
Small amounts of powdered milk. You may add some small amounts of powdered milk just to sweeten the drink a little bit at first. The intent is to get used to the somewhat bitter taste of cocoa and to avoid adding any milk after a couple of days.
Mix the 2-3 teaspoons of cocoa powder with a small chunk of butter. Add quarter of a teaspoon of powdered milk if you have to, and pour hot water (ideally between 75 and 85 °C). Steer and drink. Cheers!