Cacao: The Food Of The Gods
The ancients knew much about what we savor as chocolate today. For most, the mere thought of creamy, delicious, decadent, luscious chocolate is heavenly bliss. The rewards that we may gain from this treasure of goodness reach far beyond our imagination. The Aztecs and Mayans knew that Cacao was something special. They actually traded in Cacao beans rather than gold. Gold was used for aesthetic purposes while the Cacao bean was the prized coin of trade.
Upon Cortez’s discovery of these most interesting people, Cortez became enamored with the Cacao bean and the many uses displayed to him of this treasure. Cortez once wrote “The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” “A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day with no food.” He was he first to introduce Cacao to Europe, making it only available to royalty. In 1753, Carl Linnaeus, who was a scientist, writer, educator and botanist, named this tree Theobromo Cacao. The Cacao bean is the seed of the Theobromo Cacao pod, which is the fruit of the tree. Cacao beans and cacao nibs (cacao beans that have been separated from their husks, roasted and crushed into bits) are the jewels of nutrition. Many of his students brought him specimens from around the world from their extensive travels with the likes of Captain Cook. He believed the Theobromo Cacao to have many medicinal properties. It was not until the early 1800s that a process was developed to produce cocoa in mass, making it available to all of Europe.
A chemist named Coenrad Johannes Van Houten patented a process to extract the oils that we know as cocoa butter. This process reduced the fat content to approximately 27% by hydraulically pressing the beans. The remaining cocoa was formed into powder cakes which could then be ground into cocoa powder to make drinks and delicacies. The rest of the world would have to wait until two men, Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter, developed milk chocolate. Henri Nestle created a process to produce powdered milk by way of evaporation and Daniel Peter was a chocolate manufacturer from Switzerland. Thus the first milk chocolate bar was created in 1879, introducing this delicious treat to the world.
We now have many types of chocolate to choose from due to world exchanges. There are two classifications of Cacao Beans 1. The most widely produced is the bulk bean. It is grown mostly in Africa which supplies the world with approximately 90% of all Cacao beans. 2. The second type of Cacao bean is the flavor bean.
The list below, propagated by Scharffen Berger, gives a very good idea of where Cacao beans come from and the flavor of the specific bean.
– Madagascar: Bright acidity. Light citrus flavors reminiscent of tangerines.
– Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire: Deep, classic cocoa flavors. Lends balance to more complex beans.
– São Tomé: Bold, upfront chocolate notes with underlying roasted coffee tones.
Mexico and Central Americas:
– Mexico: Bright acidity.
– Costa Rica: Fruity with a balanced cocoa flavor.
– Panama: Classic cocoa flavor highlighted by subtle fruit and roasted nut flavors.
– Colombia: Deep cocoa flavor with moderate fruitiness. Slightly bitter.
– Ecuador: Known best for the Arriba bean. Well-balanced floral (jasmine) and fruit notes with herbal tones.
– Brazil: Bright acidity. Well-balanced cocoa flavors, often with subtle fruity notes.
– Venezuela: Complex fruit flavors. Evokes flavors of ripe red plums and dark cherries. Very well-balanced.
– Dominican Republic (also identified on bars as Santo Domingo): Deep earthy flavor. Fragrant tobacco notes. Some beans have delicate red wine and spice notes.
– Trinidad and Tobago: Complex fruitiness with appealing spiciness such as cinnamon. Very well-balanced.
– Jamaica: Bright and fruity, with appealing aromas. Complex and well-balanced. Often recalls subtle flavors of pineapples.
– Indonesia (also identified on bars as Java): Well-balanced. Appealing acidity balanced with clean cocoa flavors.
The list was principally developed by the respected artisanal chocolate company, Scharffen Berger. As we now know, Cacao is an antioxidant and supports a healthy heart. We were not the first to discover this valuable piece of information. The Aztecs called Cacao, yollotl eztli, which means “heart blood.” Cacao supports the heart literally, spiritually and metaphysically. The raw bean is one of nature’s most fantastic Superfoods. It has such a wide array of properties but like most foods, when cooked it will lose some of the valuable nutrients and unique benefits that the “food of the Gods” have to offer.
By weight Cacao has more antioxidants than any Superfood and has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. Cornell researchers, led by Chang Y. Lee, chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., say that the reason cocoa leads the other drinks is its high content of antioxidant compounds called phenolic phytochemicals, or flavonoids. They discovered 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE) in a single serving of cocoa. Examining a glass of red wine, the researchers found 340 milligrams of GAE and 163 milligrams of ECE. In a cup of green tea, they found 165 milligrams of GAE and 47 milligrams of ECE. Antioxidant ORAC levels are measured per 100 grams. The ORAC test examines the antioxidant levels of various foods. The higher the ORAC score, the higher the level of antioxidants present in the food.
|Raw dark chocolate||13,120|
Source: US Department of Agriculture / Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The nutrients listed below will indicate the significant changes we can alter in our body by consuming Cacao beans.
Magnesium: Cacao beans are the number one source of magnesium of any food that has been identified to date. Magnesium is the most deficient major mineral in the American diet today; over 80% are thought to have this deficiency. Magnesium keeps the brain chemically in balance, assists in building strong bones and is associated with the euphoric feeling of happiness. It is thought that women crave chocolate during menstruation due to the imbalance or lack of Magnesium in the body.
Sulfur: This is thought to be the beauty mineral. Sulfur is responsible for building strong nails, shiny hair and skin. It detoxifies the liver and supports pancreatic function. Detoxification of mercury can occur anecdotally due to the high sulfur content in the Cacao bean.
PEA (Phenylethylamine) — The Love Chemical: PEA is an adrenal related chemical formed in the brain and released when we feel the euphoric high of being in love. Thus the reason chocolate is associated with the love factor. PEA has a role in focus and alertness. Sip a cup of Cacao not Joe in the AM to be off to a good start for the day.
Anandamide — The Bliss Chemical: The only known food to offer this in consumption is Cacao. After exercise we experience a feeling of “natural high” also called the “runners high.” The hormone released is called anandamide and it is naturally produced in the brain. Anandamide can stay in the system longer and make us feel pleasant longer due to the enzyme inhibitors that assist in the body’s ability to decrease the breakdown of this chemical when we consume Cacao.
MAO Inhibitors: The rare MAOs (monoamine oxidase) enzyme inhibitors are far different than the digestive enzymes inhibitors found in most nuts and seeds. MAO inhibitors make possible youth and rejuvenation and they allow more serotonin to flow in the brain and diminish appetite.
Cacao is the latest Superfood available today. There is no other food like it and Cacao is by far the most nutrient dense food we know of today. The consumption of raw Cacao beans or nibs is the most nutritious way to capture all that nature has to offer in this bounty of goodness. Heating, processing, roasting will break down some of the vital nutrients present.
How much to consume and ways to consume cacao:
1. Cacao Beans have a strong dark bitter chocolate flavor. You can eat them whole: plain or dipped into raw honey or almond butter. They can be ground into a rich dark powder using a coffee grinder to make raw desserts of all kinds. Blend them into your favorite smoothies or add them to a trail/snack mix with Goji berries and raisins. The skins are edible so you don’t need to peel them first. The recommended daily intake is 5 to 20 whole beans.
2. Cacao Nibs have a strong dark bitter chocolate flavor. Sprinkle them over your morning breakfast for a taste and health boost. The recommended daily intake is 5 to 20 grams or a small handful.
3. Cacao Powder has a strong, rich, dark bitter chocolate flavor, perfect to make raw chocolate desserts of all kinds. Blend into your favorite smoothies for a taste and health boost. Make your own healthy chocolates at home! The recommended daily intake is 5 to 20 grams.
The nutrition values presented below are based on review of a selection of brands. Variations outside the given ranges can be expected. Numbers are % by weight, not % of daily value.
|Ingredient||Cocoa – low fat (European type)||Unsweetened chocolate|
|Calories per oz||ca 60||140-150|
|Calories per 100 g||ca 200||470-500|
|Ingredient||Bittersweet chocolate||Semisweet chocolate|
|Calories per oz||150-160||130-160|
|Calories per 100g||500-550||450-550|
It is recommended to eat the fermented cacao beans and nibs; without fermentation the flavors we savor would not be present. The fermentation process usually takes anywhere from 2 days to no longer than 7 days. The length of time depends on the richness and aroma the growers are looking for. Then the beans are sun-dried for 1-2 weeks. To maximize the benefit of the cacao it is extremely important to consume beans from certified growers and farmers.
Quick facts about cacao:
1. Naturally has the highest primary source of Magnesium.
2. Twenty times the antioxidant of red wine and thirty times the level of green tea
3. Nurtures the intellect and attracts richness
4. Moderate appetite and assists in weight loss.
5. Enhance sensuality and beauty.
6. Assist in healing and opening the heart.
Mrs. Athena Bell, Exec VP IFPA