Cacao originates from Central America and has been consumed as medicine and for spiritual purposes for centuries by the indigenous people of the area. Traces of Theobromine, an alkaloid found in raw cacao that gives this blissful substance it's superfood quality, have been found in bowls dating as far back as 1900 -1500 BC in Chiapas Mexico.
The Greek prefix, "Theo" refers to the "study of God" and "Bromine" originates from the Greek word "broma". According to my archeologist friend Jay, author of the blog Not the Discovery Channel, who loves research more than anyone I have met and has taken on to researching food topics for me ;-), broma means "oats". But I prefer, the Natural News' article translation of broma: "food". Because this means that, theobromine, can translate to Food of the Gods, instead of Oats of the Gods. Actually...come to think of it, I like the idea that the divine equivalent of morning oatmeal would be chocolate ;-)
it is believed that it is the high amounts of antioxidants, theobromine and other alkaloids in heirloom raw cacao that positively effect your brain chemistry, and make you feel good. It is no wonder the Mayans would use chocolate as a means to enlightenment and "gain insight into the universe around them", hence the name Food (or oats) of the Gods. Jay would want me to mention we shouldn't believe in cacao's spiritual powers just because of the Mayans since chocolate was used solely by the elites to demonstrate power and who been known cut off parts of their bodies. You can read more about The History of Cacao in Jay's article.
Nonetheless, my own experience of Raw Organic Heirloom Chocolate Ganache Cake from Organic Lives in Vancouver, is enough to convince me that the Mayan elites were onto something in their quest for enlightenment. This civilization has inspired me to incorporate raw chocolate as part of my daily spiritual practice. Ok...so I won't be giving up yoga and meditation just yet, but still, every bit counts! ;-)
Cacao in its raw natural state has benefits beyond enlightenment. This bliss promoting substance has been shown to lower blood pressure, and is highly concentrated with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals (aka toxins that damage cause premature aging and disease) and help to preserve skin cells to give your skin a natural glow.
Conventional Chocolate Bars VS The Real Stuff
Unfortunately, it is not easy to get the real good-for-you stuff. Otherwise, there would surely be world peace from mass enlightenment ;-) The "chocolate" found in candy bars are a far stretch from the cacao consumed by Central American cultures. The cacao in conventional chocolate comes from a "genetically divergent" plant meant to replace cacao called CCN- 51 (probably to increase yields), whose potency of alkaloids and antioxidants is diluted. Not to mention the high heat processing of conventional chocolate that destroys the minimal healthful compounds in the plant. Plus all the milk and soy based additives, preservatives and refined sugars that none of us need.
Natural News says there are only 10 places in the US that carry the real raw heirloom chocolate. Apparently at a value of $83.80, you can order organic raw cacao in its purest form from the best trees straight from Ecuador via the Natural News store. While I am not ready to spend this amount of $$ on cacao, (yet!) the author suggests that eating this quality of cacao is so incredible that it is one of those things to add to your to-do before you diet list. Done!
If you are like me and want to benefit from cacao's healthful substances without the $80 investment, your next best option is raw organic cacao, preferably heirloom. My favourite buy in Vancouver is raw organic heirloom cacao from Organic Lives. Also, Navitas produces high quality raw organic chocolate products, although at a higher price.
The Beginning of a Chocolate Adventure
Since it's February, I have decided to dedicate my culinary explorations this month to raw organic chocolate. I am exploring new ways to incorporate this superfood a la vegan delicious using ingredients from my Everyday Pantry Shopping List, so that I can enjoy chocolate more on the affordable end of the spectrum. And of course, as always, in a way that is practical a quick and easy. Although I may make a few exceptions for chocolate ;-)
To inspire the beginning of my chocolate journey, I attended a raw chocolate class taught by Janice Skoreyko, founder of the Raw Foundation and loved it! I learned a ton from her class, so much it is worthy of a second blog posting. I used her raw chocolate drink recipe "Heat of the Moment" as a source of inspiration for the ultimate chocolate sports drink.
My goal was to create a potion made with ingredients from my Everyday Pantry Shopping List (so it's convenient), quick to make, somewhat affordable (raw chocolate is more $$ so this was a hard one), and of course made delish by applying the laws of flavour pairing. And since it's V-Day, I wanted to include as many make-you-feel good ingredients as possible. Recipe to follow in next posting;-)
of Everyday Healthy and Get the GLOW!