The chocolate making process begins with a tree called the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). This tree grows in equatorial regions, especially in places such as South America, Africa and Indonesia. Raw chocolate is the unprocessed cacao bean or nib, which has been dried. It can be used for many different purposes, and is one of the top antioxidant sources available on the modern market.
Raw chocolate contains approximately 380 known chemicals, many of them that are extremely beneficial to the body. Dr. Drewnowski from the University of Michigan found that chocolate triggers the production of opiods. Opioids are chemicals, such as those found in opium, that produce a feeling of well-being and euphoria. Dr. Drewnowski found that eating chocolate causes the brain to produce natural opiates, which dull pain and increase a feeling of well-being.
An interesting fact from clinical research: if the receptors in the brain that signal the presence of opioids were blocked, chocolate cravings decreased. So, this leads one to ask the question: Does chocolate affect the brain in the same way that substances like opium do, without the negative side effects ?
There are also chemicals in chocolate that act like the THC found in marijuana and result in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. There is no THC in chocolate, but there are chemicals that act in very similar ways. One of the compounds in chocolate is anandamide, which is already produced in your brain. Once produced, anandamide is broken down quickly, meaning we do not feel the relaxing effects of it all of the time.
But now science has proven that chocolate may extend feelings of well being by extending the time that anandamide actually stays in our blood stream without the side effects caused by illegal or prescription drugs!
Raw chocolate is chocolate that has not been over-processed, just roasted. This means that all of its powerful, medicinal components – the incredible flavonoids, the anandamides, the polyphenols are all fully present and unadulterated! Just chew raw chocolate nibs when you want and energy boost, melt slightly to add to desserts, or grind in to a powder and add to coffee.
Raw chocolate doesn’t just make your mind feel good, either. It is an incredibly good source of magnesium, as well! Dr. Bernard Jensen’s research on the heart indicates that this organ requires two minerals more than any other, magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is concentrated eighteen times greater in the heart muscle than in the bloodstream. Magnesium is the primarily mineral missing when heart problems occur. Magnesium increases the overall vigor of the heart muscle. This mineral also decreases blood coagulation thus lowering blood pressure and helping the heart pump more effectively.
According to research cited in The New York Times, fresh cacao beans are also super-rich in antioxidant flavonols. Cacao beans contain 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) per 100 grams of flavonol antioxidants. This is a whopping 10% antioxidant concentration! This makes cacao one of the richest sources of antioxidants of any food. Compare the cacao bean to processed cocoa powder (defatted, roasted cacao treated with potassium carbonate) and chocolates which range in flavonol content from the more common concentration of 500 milligrams per 100 grams in normal chocolate bars to 5,000 milligrams in Mars Corporation’s special Cocoapro cocoa powder.
Research has demonstrated that the antioxidants in cacao are highly stable and easily available to the human metabolism. Cornell University food scientists found that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea. Their findings were published in an article entitled “Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine,” found in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication. Scientists had known prior to this study that cocoa contains significant quantities of antioxidants, but no one knew just how rich it was in comparison to red wine and green tea!
Following is a discussion of all of the different health and mind supporting substances that are found in chocolate, particularly raw chocolate.
PEA is a chemical in cacao that increases the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in parts of the brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert. Elevated PEA levels occur when we are captivated by a good book, movie, or project; this happens specifically during those moments when we are so focused that we lose all track of time, food, and the outside world. PEA is noticeably abundant in the brains of happy people.
Anandamide (The Bliss Chemical)
A neurotransmitter called anandamide (n-arachidonoylethanolamine), has been isolated in cacao in quantities significant enough to affect the brain. Anandamide is a cannabinoid naturally found in the human brain. Anandamide is a lipid (fat) known as “the bliss chemical” because it is released while we are feeling great.
These rare MAO inhibitors produce favorable results when consumed by allowing more serotonin and other neurotransmitters such as anandamide, dopamine, etc. to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate rejuvenation.
MAO inhibitors may make one’s mind healthier as they allow more neurotransmitters to remain in the bloodstream. A primary phenomenon that separates children from adults is the level of neurotransmitters in the blood and bodies of children. Generally, as one remains on the planet longer and longer, the level of neurotransmitter in the brain decreases. This creates physical rigidity, less creativity, less joy, and aging! Cacao, being an MAO inhibitor, keeps plenty of neurotransmitters in circulation and thus prevent this phenomenon from occurring.
Chocolate the Aphrodisiac
As with all languages, the peoples of pre-Columbian Central America often spoke in metaphors composed of words or phrases which, when uttered in sequence, had a hidden meaning. One of these metaphors was yollotl, eztli, “heart, blood,” which referred to cacao. Chocolate truly is food for the heart – it is the heart’s “blood,” due to its magnesium, antioxidants, love chemicals and esoteric properties. Chocolate, as we know it, is known for it ability to create a sensual love vibration. Chocolate is the symbol of sensuality, pleasure, and sexuality. Some writers have claimed that 50% of women prefer chocolate to sex!
We have often heard that “chocolate opens the heart” – which is actually true. Chocolate is the gift of lovers, and are often given as offerings of love. A box of fine chocolates is one of the most common gifts for Valentine’s Day.
Cacao is also a great source of serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine, three well-studied neurotransmitters which help to alleviate depression and are associated with feelings of well being. Cacao contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) that improve our mood because they allow serotonin and dopamine to remain in the bloodstream longer without being broken down, as was discussed earlier. Cacao contains anandamide which delivers blissful feelings. Cacao also contains B vitamins, which are associated with brain health. All this makes raw chocolate a natural, side-effect free anti-depressant!
The truth about the health-benefits of raw chocolate is finally reaching the general public consciousness. However, the whole truth needs to be told to everyone. Chocolate is healthy if it is dark with no added dairy products/milk or refined sugar. Even better is raw chocolate, the “food of the gods” which possess all the magical properties of chocolate without any adulteration or processing! Add real chocolate chips (crushed cacao beans) to your favorite dessert and watch all heaven break loose! Experiment with, eat, and enjoy real organic raw cacao beans and you will know why the Mayans and Aztecs used cacao interchangeably with gold as a form of money!