Food of the Gods
Cacao (pure chocolate) can elevate states of happiness and joy, help you look and feel wonderful, all the while protecting you against ageing and disease. Oh, and it tastes delicious. No wonder it’s been called the Food of the Gods!
The Cacao nut is a rain forest nut indigenous to South and Central America. The first cacao trees are thought to have grown wild in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins over 4,000 years ago and their benefits have been explored and utilised by natives for thousands of years.
Cacao beans contain over 300 chemically identifiable compounds making them one of the most complex foods on Earth. These include antioxidants, numerous substances that effect brain chemistry (such as the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, the anti-depressant tryptophan, nature’s viagra arginine, stimulating theobromine and the ‘bliss’ and ‘love’ chemicals anandamide and phenylethylamine), beautifying sulphur, heaps of magnesium, and other goodies.
The treasure vaults of Montezuma, emperor of the Aztecs, were filled, not with gold, but with cacao beans, his cacao warehouse holding a reported 40,000 loads – the equivalent of 960,000,000 beans!
You can now easily purchase PURE cacao in health food shops and online, often available as ‘cacao nibs’ – chips of raw cacao beans you can eat directly (these are quite potent so go easy) or add to recipes.
Raw cacao is worlds apart from any commercial chocolate products. Organic, untreated and unheated cacao not only provides unrivaled antioxidant power and a full range of nutrients and biochemical substances, it also contains none of the detriments of processed commercial chocolate, such as sugar, hydrogenated fats, milk, additives, agro-chemicals, hexane and solvents.
“The beverage of the gods was Ambrosia; that of man is chocolate. Both increase the length of life in a prodigious manner.” – Louis Lewin, M.D., Phantastica
The ORAC Score (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is the rating scale developed by the US Department of Agriculture to measure the total antioxidant ability of a given food, i.e. its effectiveness in quenching the free radicals that damage cells and lead to aging and disease. Dark cocoa powder ranks the highest ORAC measurement of all foods at 26,000 units. That’s ten times more than the prestigious blueberry (2,200 units), and greater even than the antioxidant king of fruits the goji berry, which has a whopping score of 18,500. Pure chocolate reigns supreme.
Harvard doctors have found that the antioxidant flavanoids in pure chocolate can help the body produce nitric oxide, another compound essential for heart health. Italian researchers at the University of L’Aquila revealed that eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day for 15 days lowered blood pressure as well as improved the body’s ability to metabolise sugar.
Raw Versus Cooked
Cooking cacao above 114 F diminishes the antioxidant potency significantly, and destroys many of the nut’s unique properties. Though pure best quality cacao powder from roasted beans already has a super high ORAC score of 26,000 units (that surpasses all fruits and vegetables), raw cacao exceeds this amount by 367 per cent with an unbelievable ORAC score of 95,500 units!
This score was measured at the Brunswick Laboratories, Massachusetts, the world leading pioneers in antioxidant research testing.
Cacao appears to be the number 1 food source of magnesium. Magnesium not only has a relaxing, calming effect on the emotions and nervous system, balances brain-chemistry and promotes strong bones, it is essential to the cardiovascular system, with a concentration in the heart muscle 18 times greater than in the bloodstream. Magnesium strengthens the heart, decreases blood coagulation and lowers blood pressure. Heart problems are associated with a deficiency of this mineral.
Cacao contains sulfur, a beautifying mineral that fosters healthy glowing skin and lustrous strong hair and nails. Sulfur is an essential component of connective tissue and found in collagen, cartilage and keratin. It also supports liver and pancreas function and plays a role in the removal of toxins from the body.
The appetite suppressant properties of cacao are likely due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). These allow more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain that induce the feelings of satiation experienced after eating. Dr. Gabriel Cousens, author of Spiritual Nutrition And The Rainbow Diet, claims that MAO inhibitors also promote youth and rejuvenation.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) – The “Love Chemical”
Phenylethylamine (PEA), known as the “love chemical”, releases dopamine in the pleasure-centres of the brain and peaks during orgasm. PEA is said to induce feelings of excitement, attraction, and euphoria. This chemical is created and released by the brain when we experience being in love – no doubt one reason chocolate has always been a favourable gift on Valentines Day. PEA is also said to enhance mental alertness and focus. Anandamide
The neurotransmitter anandamide, also produced naturally, is a feel-good cannabinoid that mimics the effects of marijuana in the brain and has recently been attributed to the ‘runner’s high’ experienced by athletes. The enzyme inhibitors in cacao decrease our body’s ability to break down this chemical, increasing the time it remains in the body allowing us to feel fabulous for longer.
As well as mood-enhancing psychoactives PEA, anandamide and tryptophan, all conducive to arousal, cacao contains the amino acid arginine – ‘Nature’s Viagra’ that enhances sensation and arousal in men and women.
Arginine is converted into nitric oxide in the body, directly increasing its levels. In response to sexual stimulation, your body releases nitric oxide in your genitals which causes muscles to relax and increased blood flow. Arginine is also an immune system enhancer and growth hormone stimulant and can aid circulation and wound healing.
As well as PEA and anandamide, cacao contains tryptophan that increases levels of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin, as well as stacks of magnesium known for its calming, sedative qualities. MAO inhibitors increase the longevity of both serotonin and dopamine in the blood stream, extending their benevolent effects on mental and emotional states.
The mood-enhancing abilities of chocolate were explored by British psychologist Dr. David Benton at the University of Wales in Swansea. After playing sad music which sank the moods of his students he found that those who ate chocolate as opposed to a carob alternative experienced a rise in mood. He also observed a greater desire for chocolate the more moods fell.
Stimulating Properties – Caffeine & Theobromine
Chocolate actually contains minimal caffeine. Though reports of the amount of caffeine in cacao differ from one source to another, perhaps also due to the type and quality of cacao assessed, it is estimated that where a cup of coffee contains roughly between 50 and 175 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of regular cocoa contains 0 – 25 milligrams.
Chocolate also contains the compound theobromine that relaxes smooth muscles, dilates blood vessels and stimulates the central nervous system. This chemical is just 1 – 2 per cent of the cacao bean, and is around ¾ milder than caffeine. It is a cardiac stimulant that has been used to treat high blood pressure and also possesses slight diuretic properties.
References for the above post are available at this link.
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