For the Love of Chocolate

Don’t worry, be happy — and healthy

By Karen Frye

Good news, chocolate lovers — chocolate is one of the best superfoods there is!

The raw cacao bean (the source of all chocolate) is abundant in minerals, trace minerals, vitamins A, C, B, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, copper, omega 6, and loaded with antioxidants that protect your cells from premature aging, especially the skin. The polyphenols in the cacao help create good bacteria in the digestive tract, increasing circulation throughout the body and hydration for more youthful and radiant skin.

If you crave chocolate when you are stressed out, there is science-based research that confirms the anandamide (bliss molecule) in cacao feeds the cannabinoid receptors from head to toe, making you feel better.

Many studies on chocolate conclude the same thing: There is something in chocolate that is really good for us.

The cacao bean has always been nature’s best weight-loss and high-energy food. Penylethylamine (PEA) is an organic compound found abundantly in cacao. The process of heating cacao will destroy the PEAs, so you must consume the raw cacao to get the benefit. The PEA molecules increase in our bodies when we fall in love — one reason why love and chocolate have such a timeless connection. The concentration of PEAs with the high content of magnesium in cacao is a natural appetite suppressant, making it a great weight-loss food.

Contrary to popular belief, cacao contains low amounts of caffeine. It is one of the richest sources of an interesting substance called theobromine, a relative to caffeine, but not a stimulant. It’s an effective antibacterial substance that kills the organism that causes cavities. It’s also good for the cardiovascular system.

You can add cacao to your diet in many ways — add the powder to smoothies, hot chocolate, baked goods, or even sprinkle on top of fruit. The cacao nibs (start with the sweet ones) are great for cookies, energy bars and nut mixes.

Here are a couple of recipes using the raw cacao nibs, the healthiest of all chocolates. It is a different taste, but delicious in recipes. Look for a chocolate bar that’s organic and fair trade, with the high amounts of cacao, over 60 percent. Share the health benefits of chocolate this February with a delicious treat that will bring about a feeling of love and well-being.

Cacao Cookie Dough Balls

2/3 cup cashews (or other nuts)

1/3 cup oatmeal

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup cacao sweet nibs

Combine nuts, oats and salt in a food processor and grind until fine.

Add vanilla and honey or maple syrup, and process to combine.

Pulse in the cacao nibs. Roll into balls. Chill on parchment paper.

Superfood Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

1/2 cup crushed walnuts

1 tablespoon cacao sweet nibs

1/2 teaspoon cacao powder

1 tablespoon maple syrup or more to taste

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup milk of choice

2-3 cups water

2 tablespoons shredded coconut

Rinse the oats thoroughly. Lightly toast the walnuts.

Combine all the ingredients with 1 cup milk and 1 cup water.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally.

Continue to cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, adding more if needed to desired consistency.

Garnish with shredded coconut.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

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