The earliest records of raw cacao consumption appear around 4,000 years ago. The trees from which the beans are harvested were first domesticated by the Central American Mokaya and Olmec peoples.
It was probably the Olmecs who passed the knowledge of how to cultivate it. It was the Mayans who used various drinkable forms of cacao in their religious and shamanistic practices.
However, it was not a privilege reserved for only the rich and powerful of Mayan culture – it was to be enjoyed by everyone, often as a condiment mixed with chili and also today as a substitute to coffee which can have some side-effects.
There is some debate as to the date by which it made its way to Europe, however historical records indicated that it was being enjoyed by royalty by 1500.
It’s popularity quickly spread, fueled in part by the invention of dutch processing which resulted in the substance that could be easily mixed with water.
These two innovations increased the supply of cocoa-related products and reduced prices. It soon became a favorite of the masses.
We still enjoy refined cocoa when it appears in chocolate confectionery – but the market for fresh powder has exploded in recent years. The fresh substance is not refined in any way – and research seems to indicate that consumption of it can have some very real health benefits.
Raw cacao benefits
First it contains extremely high levels of magnesium. Studies have shown that maintaining a sufficient level of magnesium can directly influence enhances the cognitive process and has also been implicated in improving mood. Magnesium can also boost the immune system and help to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Stress is a major issue affecting much of the world’s population. Often the preferred approach of western medicine has been to treat stress with potentially habit-forming man-made chemicals.
However, it may help people deal with stress. It contains an amino acid – tryptophan. Tryptophan has been identified as enhancing cognition, helping those with sleep disorders and boosting feelings of well-being.
It also contains an incredible concentration of antioxidants. These allow the body to regenerate skin effectively. The use of the substance by those wishing to enjoy more youthful-looking skin has skyrocketed.
Those high levels of antioxidants can also help lower inflammation, reducing redness. However, this powerful anti-inflammatory action can also help those suffering from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and even sportsmen and women recovering from injury.
It is this incredibly high level of antioxidants that has led the substance to be labeled as one of nature’s superfoods. It outperforms even the much-respected blueberry, the product has 40 times as many antioxidants as the smoothie favorite.
However, the levels of antioxidants have also fueled research into the fact that these antioxidants may hold the secret to fighting cancer effectively. Antioxidants help the body fight the effects of ‘free radicals’.
Free radicals are caused by sub-par environmental conditions, such as pollution, but are also part of the body’s natural aging process.
By helping the body fight these free radicals the high levels of antioxidants in the products can boost health and fight the signs of aging.
It is also incredibly rich in flavanols, compounds found in plants. Research indicates that if high levels of flavanols make their way to the hippocampus of the brain the result is improved cognitive function.
Flavanols can be extremely important. There is evidence to support the fact that they help to maintain the elasticity of veins. This, in turn, has a direct impact on blood circulation. The most important flavanol in cardiovascular health is called epicatechin.
Some studies have suggested that the flavanols in the substance may help in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.
Testing is ongoing but the initial results seem to indicate that flavanols can stimulate the muscles to take in more sugar, removing it from the bloodstream.
These studies also showed that the flavanols also stimulate the body’s production of insulin.
Those contemplating making flavanol-rich cacao into their diet need to be extremely careful what they are in fact purchasing. Heating and processing destroy many of the health-giving compounds contained in it.
Organic raw cacao powder
Make sure that the product that you are purchasing has not been processed in any way. Organic and raw will retain the maximum amount of flavinols and minimal impurities.
It is also an excellent source of calcium. Maintaining healthy bones as we age can be a challenge. Consuming it may help to maintain a healthy skeletal structure.
It is also not only a rich source of iron, it is in fact the richest plant-based source of essential iron. For meat-eaters maintaining high enough levels of iron is not usually a challenge, but for those who choose a vegan lifestyle, this challenge can seem overwhelming.
Fortunately it can be a delicious addition to many beverages and other preparations and may help to overcome that challenging iron deficit. However, vegans need to know that releasing plant-based iron requires the addition of vitamin C.
Interestingly the product could help regulate blood pressure in another way. It’s extremely rich in Nitric Oxide.
A study conducted on societies of people off the coast of South America showed that the inhabitants of the islands had much lower blood pressure levels than mainlanders.
The Nitric Oxide in substance reduces blood pressure, but also reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol, in the blood – that’s the ‘bad’ cholesterol. It also thins the blood. The effect is reduced incidence of stroke and heart attacks.
When one takes into account the potential health benefits of adding the product into a healthy lifestyle simply makes sense. these of course also the fact that it makes for a great ingredient in a variety of healthy meal options such as smoothies and fresh fruit.
Are cacao nibs raw?
Yes, most are raw but they can also be roasted. Nibs have many uses, we’ll share our favorites with you!
It’s a raw nibs explosion! They are appearing everywhere– baked in high-end restaurant desserts, folded into ice cream, and lining the shelves of the average grocery store. There seems to still be some confusion as to their exact origin and nature.
Nibs are bits of raw beans that have been peeled and crumbled from the actual bean. They’re essentially nature’s chocolate chip! They’re extremely good for you, have an intense chocolatey taste, but don’t have the overpowering sweetness that processed chocolate has. Nibs are delicious.
The texture is unique– crunchy and tender…much like our Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts, with the complexity and bitterness of cacao. If you are already a chocolate lover, the chances are that you’ll be into nibs.
Recipe with nibs:
Chia Tapioca Pudding with Nibs
Delicious and nutritious chocolate pudding with chia. Chia is the Mayan word for strength.
Chia is incredibly hydrating for your colon, capable of expanding 14x its size, together with the omega 3 oils and antioxidants, it can really beautify your skin! Also, Chia is pure protein power!
Soak a ratio of 1/3 cup of chia seeds per 1 cup of water. Scale up proportions as desired. Stir.
Put half the contents in a Vita Mix or Nutri-Bullet and add:
1/2 of a Lover’s Bar
2 Tbs Nibs
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp Vanilla
Dash of Himalayan Sea Salt
Pinch of Cinnamon, Cardamom & Clove
1-3 tbsp of honey, sweeten to taste.
Blend thoroughly, several cycles of 7-10 seconds until smooth.
Pour contents of blender into a bowl. Add the unblended portion of the soaked Chia on TOP of the pudding. Stir.
Garnish with Lover’s bar chocolate shavings and/or nibs
Put into the fridge to gel up.
High in protein, low in calories and sugars. This pudding will keep you feeling full until lunch while also giving you all of the amazing benefits of raw powder.
- Give Texture to Smoothies! Use nibs as a topping to Cacao Elixir!
- Add raw nibs to your cereals!
- Add nibs to your yogurts!
- Mix with coconut oil, Cacao Elixir, honey & butter for a chocolate frosting!
If you prefer to stick with the sweeter dishes, however, there are plenty of options that are sweet ways to put cacao nibs into your food! Remember that the less processed cacao is, the more antioxidants it contains and the bigger the health benefits.
Our Lover’s Bar is a good choice for healthy chocolate and it’s also quite tasty! Sprinkle raw nibs on salad (as you would nuts or seeds) of arugula or other greens.
You can add one or a combination of the following: currants, shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, Niçoise olives.
DId you know cacao may help with Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a damaging, chronic skin and autoimmune disease that speeds up growth of skin cells.
The condition causes patches of thick red skin and scaling. It is known as one of the more prevalent autoimmune diseases in the United States– affecting app. 7.5 million Americans. Studies now show that metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors are more common among those affected with psoriasis than those who do not have the chronic condition.
Psoriasis– a higher risk for heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease?
Studies from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine were done to investigate a correlation of the severity of psoriasis and high blood pressure among patients affected with both condition.
There were 1,322 patients in the study, who had both psoriasis and high blood pressure, plus 11,977 controls who had high blood pressure but no psoriasis.
Study results show that the more severe a person’s psoriasis is, the more likely they are to have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Are there natural remedies for psoriasis?
Well, thankfully, yes. The Mucuna Pruierns plant is extremely effective in managing psoriasis– along with a host of other chronic skin/autoimmune conditions.
It has an incredible amount of amazing antioxidants and this is what makes cacao beans contribute to superior skin.
The natural flavonoids found in cacao beans are a natural antioxidant and helps to protect collagen in the skin, slowing down the aging process.
These same flavonoids are extremely beneficial to those suffering from psoriasis, rosacea, and a host of other chronic skin conditions. At Medicinal Foods, we believe in the powerful natural healing elements of cacao!
We eat it and here’s why you should too
We eat cacao every day, up to 40 grams. Each person is different and can tolerate a different amount.
It is a potent, medicinal food, that should be respected and enjoyed. When we talk about chocolate at Medicinal Foods, it’s probably not what most people think about.
The word chocolate usually conjures images of sugary sweet confections, cakes candies that can be very unhealthy and acid causing in the body.
When we talk about chocolate at Medicinal Foods, we are going to the source, to the pure, organic cacao, the natural part that all those chocolates are made from, the basic component that comes directly from the earth, before undergoing all the processing and additives, sweeteners, milk, texturizes, emulsifiers, and conservatives alike.
How to eat cacao powder
You can incorporate Cacao into your Nutritional Plan. Here are 5 delicious ways:
How we have for you to get more chocolate into your diet– without the guilt!
- Sprinkled Over Fruit
- Granola Bars
- Fudge And Brownies
- Amaze-Balls (Healthier Truffles!)
- Bonus! Cacao Elixir or other all-natural Medicinal Foods Products
Who wants to go without chocolate every single day? No one.
I can’t remember the last time I went an entire day without consuming cacao!
Whether it’s in a smoothie, or the raw powder I sprinkle over frozen banana slices for a sweet mid-day snack, it is making its way into my system one way or another.
Bit of an addict here, but it’s not a health concern as long as you consume it the healthy way!
At Medicinal-Foods, we spend a lot of time talking about the health benefits.
It is naturally packed with amazing antioxidants. These antioxidants combat free radicals—the chemicals in our environment that accelerate aging, inflammation, and increase the potential for a range of chronic diseases.
It’s been proven that eating even just a little bit of pure, dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
It can even improve blood pressure, as well as blood vessel health…and even improve your HDL cholesterol.
Sure, there’s plenty of studies hailing the facts behind how great raw chocolate is, but that doesn’t mean you should start eating 5 candy bars a day, cocoa should be used with respect, like any medicinal food, and it should be consumed in its pure form, not refined into candy.
The benefits are there naturally, in its unrefined form… these benefits are often outweighed by the fats and refined sugars that we add during the manufacturing process. Here are some healthy ways to add the powder into your diet.
Homemade is always best, as you know the quality of ingredients that you add to your preparations, there’s nothing more assuring.
Who ever told you that you can’t have chocolate pudding for breakfast?! You can.
Here’s an amazing recipe for Chocolate Chia Tapioca Pudding:
Chia is the Mayan word for strength. Chia is incredibly hydrating for your colon, capable of expanding 14x its size, together with the omega 3 oils and antioxidants, it can really beautify your skin!
Also, Chia is pure protein power!
Here’s how to make pudding with our cacao powder:
- Soak a ratio of 1/3 cup of chia per 1 cup of water. Scale up proportions as desired. Stir.
- Put half the contents in a Vita Mix or Nutri-Bullet and add:
- 1/2 of a Lover’s Bar or 3 Tbs of Cacao Elixir
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- Dash of Himalayan Sea Salt
- Pinch of Cinnamon, Cardamom & Clove
- 1-3 tbsp of honey, sweeten to taste.
- Blend mix thoroughly, using several cycles of 7-10 seconds until creamy and smooth.
- Pour contents of blender into a bowl. Add the unblended portion of the soaked Chia on TOP of the pudding. Stir.
- Garnish with Lover’s bar chocolate shavings.
- Put into the fridge to gel up.
Candida Sensitive Variations:
- Use Cacao powder, with coconut oil and Stevia (fat free and no sugar)
- Cacao powder, no coconut oil, honey sweetened (allowing for better absorption of sugar without the presence of fat.)
- Cacao powder, cacao butter, coconut oil, and Stevia (good fats without the presence of sugar), high in protein, low in calories and sugars.
This pudding will keep you feeling full until lunch while also giving you all of the amazing benefits of cacao powder.
2. Sprinkled Cacao Over any Fruit
One of the best things ever is a cup of frozen banana slices with cacao powder sprinkled all over. It’s like a chocolate-covered banana or a cold banana truffle, it’s one of my best ideas for satisfying a sweet craving. You can take this snack a step further by adding the frozen slices to a food processor or blender and blending until smooth for a vegan chocolate ice cream! Some other really great fruits: Mango, Strawberry, Jack Fruit, Dorian, Coconut, Soursop (Graviola)
3. Granola Bars
These are super easy to make– it may surprise you! There’s a million recipes out there, however, the simplest and healthiest that I’ve found is a recipe for a five ingredient granola bar.
Just add in your cacao to the mix, adjust the moist ingredients as needed to make sure your mix isn’t too dry, such as adding more coconut oil or cacao butter.
Try adding nibs to your mixture. Raw nibs are just cocoa powder before the cocoa has been ground down.
It provides the same health benefits and adds just a little crunch by using the nibs instead of the powder.
4. Cacao in Fudge and of course Brownies
Healthy fudge and brownies?! Heck yeah! Ones that provide all the benefits of cacao without adding in all of the unhealthy stuff that’s usually in these baked goodies? Even better.
5. Cacao Energy-Balls (Better than Truffles!)
I do not know a single person who does not love a chocolate powder covered truffle. Generally, these truffles are made with dates, figs, or nut butter and have coconut and other goodies mixed in. They’re then finished off with by coating in chocolate. Yum!