I am obsessed with dark chocolate, the darker the better. But it was only recently that I started eating raw cacao, the purest form of this heavenly ambrosia. Not only does raw cacao taste spectacular, it is also crammed full of incredible nutrients that really can be massively beneficial to our brains and frames.
I had read so much on how chocolate was supposed to be ‘good for you’ – however, after thorough research, I must emphasise that, yes it is indeed ‘good for you’, but only in its purest, natural form. The ‘healthy’ aspect is the actual raw cacao itself, not when chocolate processed with tons of cane sugar and the lipid soya lethicin: eating chocolate with 85% cocoa solids is definitely better than a bar of Dairy Milk.
I am so often asked what the difference is between raw cacao and cocoa, and why is the former so much more expensive than the latter and seems to be marketed as the ultimate superfood? So, the difference is that raw cacao powder is made through a process of cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans – the reason this is so effective is that this particular process retains the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter). Yet cocoa – although it looks the same – is raw cacao that has been roasted at a higher temperature. This is cheaper and removes many of the living enzymes. Hence why raw cacao is sold at high prices in health food stores, and cocoa powder is found in every supermarket as a powder to be used for hot chocolate.
But really, what’s all the fuss about? First, natural raw cacao contains a host of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, calcium, vitamins E and B, essential healthy fats, as well as protein and fiber. It is also an amazing antioxidant – one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidant flavanols. Cacao also contains a stimulant called theobromine, which – unlike caffeine – does not have an affect on our nervous system but creates a slow release of energy throughout the day, and also supports heart health. Cacao is also full of a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which acts as a stimulant and blocks feelings of depression. It even contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the chemical in the brain that is triggered when we experience pleasure – and the reason why cacao is so often referred to as a natural aphrodisiac.
So what can I do with raw cacao? There are so many interesting & delicious ways of incorporating raw cacao into your diet. I love to start the day with a hot chocolate ‘shot’ – just a simple blend of warm water and 1 teaspoon of my favourite Choc Chick product, which is just pure raw cacao and powdered cinnamon. Or of course, you can bake with it :)
Here are some of my favourite recipes that use raw cacao powder:
And just for good measure, here’s a new recipe I recently developed that can be whipped up in minutes. Packed full of goodness, beetroot brings a unique flavour to these simple, nutritious cookies. Perfectly paired with energising raw cacao, they make a delicious portable snack. This recipe yields about 16 small cookies.
Beetroot & Cacao Cookies
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup desiccated coconut
2 small beets (cooked and pureed)
1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
½ tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup of coconut oil (melted)
¼ cup of coconut sugar
¼ cup of pure maple syrup
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the beat puree, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and vanilla extract until well combined.
3. Stir in the cacao powder, coconut flour, baking powder and desiccated coconut. The mixture will seem quite soft and crumbly, but don’t worry!
4. Roll into balls, place on the baking sheet and press down on each cookie with the back of a spoon to flatten it out a little.
5. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies have hardened and are starting to turn slightly golden.
6. If you aren’t going to eat them straight away, do leave them to cool for at least 10 minutes before moving them, as they are quite crumbly when warm.
NB. These will keep fresh in an airtight container for 3 days.