7 Powerful Health Benefits of Raw Cacao
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? When I was a kid, I probably would have said chocolate, but as time went on and I began to understand what actually went into those sickly sweet bars, I couldn’t think of anything worse. But recently I was talking to my good friend Ocean Robbins about nature’s best alternative, raw cacao, and it’s impressive nutrition profile (you can tune into his free Food Revolution Summit here). It definitely tastes more bitter (aka medicinal!) than your traditional bar from the candy store, but in the right proportions, it can make a recipe sing!! Here are 7 powerful health benefits of raw cacao that you won’t be able to resist.
1. Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Lately at Food Matters we’ve been diving deeper into the topic of inflammation, how it manifests in the body, the implications of chronic inflammation, and natural pathways to reducing it in the body. One of the most powerful ways we’ve found to reduce chronic inflammation is through the foods we eat. Certain foods, often rich in antioxidants or other vital compounds, help to reduce inflammation throughout the body when worked into the diet. And one of the most powerful foods? Raw cacao! This is because of the flavonoids found in cacao, which have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. So next time you’re thinking about ibuprofen, consider a cacao drink instead!
2. Rich Source of Essential Iron (The Best Plant-Based Source)
Most people who have tried a vegan diet will have had the dreaded iron question at some point. And truth be told, it’s a hard job to make sure you’re getting all of the right nutrients with a vegan diet, but there are some powerful foods that can help to make the shift all the more easier. Raw cacao is believed to be the best plant-based source of iron, an essential mineral involved in blood production in the body, and therefore nutrient transfer. Raw cacao holds an incredible 7.3mg of iron per 100g, whereas beef and lamb sit at roughly 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg. However, 100g of raw cacao is a lot to eat! But you can work it into your daily diet as a way of enhancing iron uptake.
It’s also worth noting that iron from cacao is non-haem iron, as in all plant-based sources, meaning it needs to be consumed with Vitamin C to be easily absorbed. But that’s another good excuse to have more of our favorite immune-supporting vitamin!
3. Contains More Calcium Than Traditional Dairy Options
We’re often told that dairy is the be-all and end-all of calcium sources. There may be some truth to that, but we also know that dairy-derived calcium is often more difficult for the body to absorb. Enter raw cacao, our favorite superfood of 2021, with 160mg per 100g compared to only 125mg per 100ml of milk. And while again, 100g of raw cacao is a lot to consume, it’s a quick way to enhance your uptake throughout the day.
Like iron, calcium requires a vitamin component for uptake. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, but did you know one of the best sources is unadulterated sunlight? If that’s not an excuse for some raw chocolate in the sunshine, then I don’t know what is...
In Vanuatu, where Laurentine and I live with our family, they grow raw on the outer islands and it is an amazing delicacy! I like adding it to smoothies, sprinkling it on top of smoothie bowls, and eating high quality dark chocolate.
4. Houses Magnesium for Healthy Hearts, Blood & Brains
Magnesium is another essential mineral that is easy to develop deficiencies in. It’s hard to simplify the role of magnesium in the body, as it is involved in over 300 complex enzymatic reactions - highlighting just how essential it is. Some of the major functions include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is important for a healthy heart and helps turn glucose into energy enabling your brain to work with laser-sharp clarity and focus.
Did you know that magnesium is actually the most deficient mineral in the Western diet? The reasons are unclear, ranging from poor soil quality to inhibited uptake, but regardless, it sounds like it’s time to add a teaspoon to your morning smoothie.
5. May Help Reduce Diabetes Risk
If you tuned into the incredible conversation with Robby and Cyrus from Mastering Diabetes during the Total Wellness Summit, you’ll have an understanding of how much diabetes is impacting our society. Even if you missed it, you’ll likely know someone who has been impacted by this disease! It’s one of the leading burdens on our health system and it brings a whole raft of potentially detrimental health implications. Thankfully, we now know that the foods we eat have a significant impact on our risk of diabetes, or our chance of reducing that risk. Raw cacao is one of the most powerful foods you can consume due to the flavonoids potentially increasing insulin sensitivity,
6. Promotes Healthy Digestion & Relief From IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
For food so nutrient-rich, raw cacao has an impressive dietary fiber content. Many following a Standard American Diet (SAD) are typically fiber-deficient. Fiber is best described as the parts of food that our body can’t absorb but is essential all the same for digestive health. Fiber serves to help pass wastes through our body and eliminate them through the lower end of our gastrointestinal tract. In other words, a healthy intake of fiber supports healthy poop! This is an important step to reduce both the risks and symptoms of IBS, an often-debilitating digestive condition.
7. A Natural Mood Lifter & Anti-Depressant
You know that feel-good rush after a square of chocolate? Sure, part of that can be attributed to a sugar hit, but a lot of it actually stems from raw cacaos ability to act as a natural mood lifter and anti-depressant. This is because it is a source of our bliss chemicals; serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylethylamine; the neurotransmitters are associated with cozy feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and can even alleviate depressive states.
Recently, we took the opportunity to travel to the outer islands and go hunting for raw cacao ourselves. It's a delicious way to get back to nature with the whole family.
My good friend Ocean Robbins is a huge fan of raw cacao for the anti-inflammatory benefits (he recently told me during an interview for our Total Wellness Summit that it was his number one)! Ocean and his father John have decades of experience in the nutrition industry, and I’ve long been an admirer of their work at Food Revolution. They truly are leaders in this movement!
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