Welcome my Guest Blogger today Sara Ouellette owner of Beyond Vitality!
As some of you may know, I have been living abroad discovering the world’s natural health products and superfoods. For three years I traveled back and forth between Canada and the beautiful exotic country of Venezuela, finally moving there permanently this past September. I loved discovering all the local superfoods, those that we up in Canada (no we don’t live in igloos), cherish so much!
I could go on forever about all the wonderful and nourishing treats from nature that Venezuela has to offer! The many landscapes of this tropical warm country have everything including wild aloe vera plants, coconut, cacti, noni, papaya, sea weed, pineapple, pumalaca, cacao and much more!
Chocoholics…this is for you…so listen up! The one superfood I want to talk to you about is real chocolate. I’m excited to tell you that real RAW chocolate is indeed a superfood! You can turn cravings for cooked, processed chocolate into super-nutrition instead. All chocolate is made from the cacao fruit. Inside the cacao fruit are beans. These cacao beans are used to make RAW, organic chocolate!
I was fortunate to have seen the process in which cacao is produced. I visited my friend’s organic cacao farm in the lush rainforest of Los Altos, Venezuela. How amazing is it that they produce their OWN chocolate! Yummy! Venezuelan cacao is the finest, rarest, most expensive cacao in the world. The beans have a unique flavor. In case you are wondering, cacao tastes similar to, yet BETTER than, Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate. A natural sweetener can often be used in conjunction with your raw treat ingredients, such as raw honey, stevia, coconut sugar, agave nectar, banana or pure maple syrup.
The cacao beans are grown in the mountains using no pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals of any type. The trees in which the cacao fruit grows are irrigated by the fresh water that runs down from the clouds in the forest-topped mountains. Once the beans have been harvested they are sun dried right on the small property in the mountains, and hand packaged for local consumption.
When looking for cacao or raw chocolate in health food stores, it’s very important to look for fair trade and organic varieties that support small, indigenous farmers in Central/South America and the West Indies.
So why is it ok to LOVE raw chocolate? Well, first off, it tastes divine. And second, it’s good for you. The cacao bean contains a wide array of amazing nutritional properties. It is filled with antioxidants and alkalizing minerals, including high levels of magnesium and sulfur. Back in high school, I used to crave EVERYTHING chocolate uncontrollably…mostly processed chocolate (aka Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Nutella). Processed chocolate is NOT the same as good quality raw chocolate! When cacao is cooked, most of its nutritional properties are completely destroyed. Chocolate cravings often indicate a magnesium deficiency because your body is craving the magnesium from the cacao. Processed chocolate never satisfies your body because it has close to NO minerals and it’s filled with refined sugar, which is acidifying in the blood and actually leaches out minerals from our bones and tissues! Since I started consuming quality raw cacao, I haven’t yet had another “processed” chocolate craving. Really…it’s been over two years now!
A study by the Center for Health and Nutrition
Elaborates the following findings: “Analysis of the fruit powders demonstrated that the antioxidant capacity of cocoa powder was significantly greater than blueberry, cranberry and pomegranate powder on a per gram basis. The total polyphenol content of cocoa powder appeared to be greater than acai, blueberry and cranberry powder; however these differences did not reach statistical significance. The total flavanol content of cocoa powder was significantly greater than all of the other fruit powders tested.”
Not only is it high in antioxidants and minerals, cacao may also increase your focus and alertness, making it a good healthy alternative to your morning coffee. I love adding cacao to my breakfast shake. Who would have thought chocolate would be “healthy” option for breaky!
Cacao also contains plenty of nutrients that keep you happy J Chocolate is often associated to love and seduction. This is all because cacao contains phenylethylamine. Also, your brain produces a neurotransmitter called Anandamide when you’re feeling GREAT. Eating cacao makes this neurotransmitter stick around longer thus increasing your happiness. Raw cacao beans, nibs or powder can be used in a variety of ways. I like adding it in baked goods, oatmeal, shakes. and to make a cup of hot chocolate to warm up on a chilly day.
Try out my favorite morning shake that uses cacao as your wake-me-up “stimulant” instead of coffee. It’ll start you out on a positive vibe and leave you full of happy energy!
Cacao-Banana Dream Shake (aka the “Happy Shake”)
1 scoop sprouted vegan protein (or 100% natural whey protein isolate)
2 tbsp of ground flaxseed
1 tsp raw cacao powder [makes you happy]
½ medium banana [increases serotonin to give you a natural “high”]
½ cup organic almond milk (or hemp milk)
¼ tsp natural vanilla extract (optional)
Blend all ingredients while adding water and ice as needed. Serve fresh. ENJOY!