Cacao; Friend or Foe?

cacaoI had planned to write this article earlier in the week about the difference between cacao and cocoa but after doing a little research to ensure that I did indeed have my facts straight, I came across a few articles that made me stop and think.

These articles were quite clear in their proclamation that cacao, raw or not, is toxic to our body; that we are being misled about it’s health benefits.

I felt uncomfortable reading this information.  I have always believed that raw cacao is extremely beneficial to our body.  I was not sure if I could talk about cacao and it’s ‘dangers’.

I want to make it clear that we are talking about pure cacao, not a chocolate candy bar from the corner store.

Pure raw cacao that is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans is said to have the following benefits:

  • high in antioxidants
  • lowers insulin resistance
  • protects the nervous system
  • protects nerve cells from damage
  • reduces blood pressure
  • boosts your mood
  • is rich in minerals
  • high in dietary fibre

I got thinking about one particular article and how it mentioned that animals in nature will not eat cacao unless the animal is tricked with sugar and milk, and how native people did not eat cacao as a food or supplement but only used it for sacred uses.

The article also mentioned that cacao is said to be:

  • highly addictive
  • toxic to the liver
  • a stimulant
  • aggravating to the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • a cause of insomnia
  • in large amounts, a hallucinogen

I really was thinking now.  I thought about how much I love using raw cacao powder in my smoothies, how I add it to my energy bars and mix it with cocoa butter to make chocolate.  I also use cacao nibs to add to various treats.  I eat the stuff regularly.

I continued to think and realized that there actually are moments when I need to remind myself that maybe I should go a few days without this food; that I am feeling a bit wound up, a bit agitated.  I intuitively seem to know that I have had enough chocolate.  My body says stop. (Mostly)

I clearly remember an incident when I was about 7 months pregnant with our youngest.  I secretly indulged in a large, organic, 60% cacao bar in the evening.  I meant to eat just one square but ended up finishing off the 100g.  Oops.  What happened after that was crazy.  I was wide, wide awake.  I talked a mile a minute on the phone, for hours, to a friend who eventually had to remind me that it was 1 am and she had to get up for work in the morning.  I was still wide awake and so was my baby.  She was kicking up a storm for hours.  Eventually I fell asleep, exhausted and depleted.  Interesting right?  (Coffee has an even greater effect on me)

This does not happen to me when I eat cucumbers or kale or carrots or quinoa or sunflower seeds or blueberries or apples.

Maybe there is something to this ‘aggravation’ that cacao can cause our bodies to feel.  For me that chocolate bar definitely was highly stimulating.  I definitely over-did it.

All things in moderation‘, is what my mother always says.  (I mostly agree with that.  Some people could get carried away with the word ‘all’. )

But for this subject, as much as cacao has wonderful nutritional properties, I believe that it is a food that must be respected.  It is certainly not a cure-all supplement.  It is not something that must be added to our daily diet and overused just because it is full of antioxidants and minerals.  It is for occasional enjoyment and in small amounts.  Listen to your body.

When cacao was first discovered by the Aztecs, they used it for ceremonial purposes only.  It was regarded as a sacred food.

Chocolate is for special moments.

Now we all have a different opinion on what is special, don’t we?

p.s Remember to choose a good quality product that is organic and fair trade.

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