Cacao: Pure Chocolate

Contributed by Dori Cranmore All About Herbs, Wasilla
By Dr. Mercola

Botanical name: Theobroma cacao

Cacao is the tree; what’s made from it is cocoa. Raw cacao powder has nearly four times the antioxidant power of regular dark chocolate, and contains protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, and sulfur. These properties can be destroyed by high heat, so it’s important to know just what type of processes your cocoa powder and baking chocolate have undergone.

Because cocoa beans were prized for their medicinal and aphrodisiac properties, they were traded just like currency among ancient South American civilizations. The earliest known evidence that cacao was processed for ingestion goes back to 1400 B.C.

Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate - more than 20 times than that of blueberries.

The precise blend of all these elements combined serve to kick in naturally occurring phytochemicals that have incredible benefits throughout the body, such as lowered LDL cholesterol, improved heart function, and reduced cancer risk.

Phenethylamine is one of them. Large doses of this compound are said to be released into the brain when we’re attracted to someone, but natural pain- and stress-relieving chemicals known as neurotransmitters stimulate the secretion of endorphins to help us stay alert and focused.

Studies have shown that chocolate affects your emotions and mood by raising serotonin levels, which explains why chocolate is often craved when gloominess looms.

Also to the rescue is a neurotransmitter called theobromine, a mild stimulant sometimes used as a treatment for depression. It releases the compound anandamide, which produces uniquely euphoric feelings of relaxation and contentment.

For those who think chocolate must be bad for you (it has to be if it tastes so good, right?), rest assured: there’s only one gram of sugar in a half-cup serving of raw cacao. It’s what’s done with it that makes the difference.

Unfortunately, high heat from processing and refining to produce different types of cocoa or chocolate, damages the cocoa bean’s micronutrients, along with the health benefits.

Studies suggest that cacao is more beneficial to health than teas and red wine.

All this satisfying goodness comes from a frothy mug of hot cocoa or a creamy bar of unadulterated chocolate.

From Dr. Mercola (

Information provided for educational purposes by Dori Cranmore RN, holistic health practitioner and owner of All About herbs, Inc. For more information call 376-8327.