From ceremonial use to safeword, we have been turning to the chocolate stuff for centuries as a means to satiate our collective sweet tooth. Considered sacred by both Aztec and Mayan cultures, cacao was consumed back then as a health elixir and in medicinal rituals by royalty. Today, chocolate is found everywhere and available to everyone as a tasty indulgence, but many of the “superpowers” that had been the lure of the beans has been lost as commercialization of the cacao bean has lead to cocoa. Cacao is the raw bean of the Theobroma cacao tree, while the cocoa found in the chocolate bars we grew up with is roasted and chemically processed—and may also contain genetically modified ingredients—in its transition from the tree to packaged good, losing 60 to 90% of its natural magic from all the processing it goes through along the way. If you want to know why companies like Aloha have been looking to raw cacao to help fortify their products with properties to benefit your entire body from the inside out, read on to learn about some of the health benefits of the bean. Clearly the ancients were onto something.
Mega Magnesium Source
In addition to supporting a healthy heart and nervous system; helping to build strong bones, muscles, and teeth; aiding in elimination; and increasing brain power; magnesium, as found in cacao, one of the highest plant-based sources of the mineral, is essential for energy production. Studies have shown that magnesium may also support healthy blood pressure. And ladies, if you’ve ever wondered why you might naturally gravitate to chocolate while you’re on your moon, foods high in magnesium have been linked with reducing PMS symptoms. Just one of the many superpowers of this superfood, so know that your craving is totally valid—and is a totally yummy, natural way to self-medicate at that time of the month.
Up the Anti
Antioxidants occur naturally in plant-based foods and are necessary to help prevent or stop damage created by oxidants—free radicals found in the environment around us—but that are also produced naturally in the body. The body creates oxidants as a byproduct of metabolism to help fight off viruses, but if we have too many they could contribute to bigger illnesses like cancer and heart disease. We need a balance of oxidants and antioxidants, and raw cacao contains 20 to 30 times the amount of antioxidants found in red wine or green tea, and about 40 times the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries or goji berries. And while all those antioxidants help keep the body in check of free radicals, they also have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation that can contribute to arthritis and other diseases.
What we put into our bodies affects not only the functions of our inner organs, but the outer one as well. Most of us forget that our skin is considered an organ; it acts as a barrier and protectant for all the magic that happens beneath the surface. So we should be just as mindful to eat foods that support the health of our outer shell in order to best take care of the inner workings of the body. In 2006, the Journal of Nutrition found that women who drank cacao with at least 326 mg of flavonols a day had better skin texture, improved microcirculation, increased oxygen saturation, and improved skin hydration than those didn’t. Another study conducted by London scientists found participants who ate 20 grams of cacao for 12 weeks were able to stay in the sun for twice as long as those who didn’t, without getting sunburned; German researchers also found that participants who consumed flavonoid-rich cacao on a regular basis had similar findings, suggesting that a diet high in cacao could naturally help fight against skin cancer. We can’t help but wonder if perhaps cacao-infused sunscreen might one day be a thing…
PEA, or phenylethylamine, is a chemical found naturally in the body, as well as in cacao. A powerful stimulant, it can help boost your energy, elevate your mood, and help you stay focused. A natural anti-depressant, PEA also is responsible for releasing dopamine into the bloodstream, which is associated with that trance-like state we feel when we first fall in love. There’s also a compound called theobromine in cacao that assists in that caffeinated sensation, minus the jitters. With promises of increased energy, better ability to pay attention, and that special mood-enhancing love feeling, why are you still reading this? Go get that cacao fix, stat!