All Hail to the Amazonian Antioxidant King!

I’m talkin’ cacao—the source of the chocolate we love so much. The science keeps pouring in on this food. If you’re not including raw cacao in its various versions in your diet, then consider doing so. Here’s why:

Nicknamed the “Amazonian Antioxidant King,” cacao is somewhat different from the common "cocoa" most of us grew up with. Normal cocoa powder and chocolate have been chemically processed and roasted, which destroys a large amount of the antioxidants and flavanols (the things that keep you young and healthy).

A recent study suggested that between 60% and 90% of the original antioxidants in cacao are lost through processing. Dutch and other processing methods were originally developed in the early 19th Century to reduce the bitterness, darken the color, and create a more mellow flavor, but unfortunately the process also eliminated much of the benefits.

Here’s a short list of cacao’s health benefits (plus a terrific smoothie recipe) that I found on a great site,

1. 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. Its ORAC score is an amazing 98,000 per 100g, vs blueberries at a mere 2,400. (ORAC scores measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals that come from pollution and toxins in our environment, which cause cell and tissue damage and can lead to diseases such as cancer.)

2. Highest plant-based source of iron, at a whopping 7.3mg per 100g. This compares to beef and lamb at 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg. Note the iron in cacao is non-heme (as is all plant-based iron), so to get the maximum benefits you'll want to combine it with vitamin C foods such as oranges or kiwi. To get you started, here’s a yummy smoothie recipe:


1 orange (plus some grated rind if you like)

1-2 tablespoons raw cacao powder (2 tablespoons for a richer, more chocolatey taste)

1/2 frozen banana

¼ cup cashews (pre-soaked for 4 hours and rinsed, to remove phytates)

2 medjool dates, pit removed

¼ cup water

1-2 cups ice

1 tablespoon chia seeds (or flax or hemp seeds)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy. NOTES: The seeds are optional, but are a big nutrition boost. Walnuts or almonds easily substitute for cashews. But it’s always best to used soaked nuts to be sure the phytates are removed. This is also good frozen and eaten as an ice cream.

3. Full of magnesium. Raw cacao is also one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium, the most deficient mineral in the Western world. Magnesium is important for a healthy heart, and helps turn glucose into energy, enabling your brain to work with laser-sharp clarity and focus.

4. More calcium than cow's milk, at 160mg per 100g vs only 125mg per 100ml of milk. 5. A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant

5. Great source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals - serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters promote feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and can even alleviate depression.

Besides including cacao in your daily smoothie, there are other ways to use raw cacao. It’s delicious added to milk (hot or cold). I combine 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder to 1 cup of warmed milk; I sweeten it with 2 teaspoons of raw honey.

You can also use it in your brownie recipe. I substitute it straight across for the amount of cocoa my recipe calls for.

And finally, keep a few cacao bars around. Just break it into squares, and serve with some organic nuts, mandarin orange slices, herbal tea, and a whole lot of love.


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author!

blog comments powered by Disqus