In honor of International Day of Chocolate on September 13th.
Theobroma cacao, Cacao, Chocolate, sweet luscious tastiness: All I have to say is “THANK YOU”. Thank you for existing, thank you for picking me up when I’m feeling down, thank you for keeping me up when I’m feeling great, thank you for being a staple of holidays, birthday parties, break-up recoveries & pinata stuffing world-wide. Thank you, chocolate, for being delicious time after time and thank you, thank you for being a true natural miracle. Did you know that raw cacao beans were once SO highly valued, that the Mayan and Aztec civilizations used the beans as a means of currency. Now that’s rich!
Of course, we’re talking the puro here baby. Nobody could ever actually convince the world that Snickers bars are good for your health. The benefits described below are based upon cacao in the purest form possible which can be found as powder, whole roasted or raw beans and nibs in any major supermarket, health food store, OR for those of us in Puerto Viejo – right in our own backyards! If you can’t find a bean banquet near you, look for chocolate bars promoting the highest percent of cacao (the darker the chocolate, the better!).
So have at it; as if you needed an excuse to chow down on cacao…but just in case, here ya go:
1.) Get things movin’. Raw Cacao is Natures #1 weight loss & high-energy food!! Yep, you heard right.
2.) Heart Support. Aztecs called cacao yollotl eztli, meaning “heart blood”. Not only does it give you the warm fuzzies and open the Heart Chakra, but it literally supports cardiovascular system health as well. Food or medicine? You decide.
3.) Makes ya smarter. Yup, indeedy! True story: Cacao increases blood flow to the brain and enhances overall brain function. Gotta lend it to the cocoa flavonols for making brain health improvement so tasty.
4.) Antioxidant overload! You into diet trends? Even if you’re not, there’s no way to avoid the coverage these days of these beneficial beasts in our food. Antioxidants protect us from free-radical damage. Translated to layman’s terms: these magic little beans slow the aging process! Whoopee! Cacao gives us higher levels of antioxidants by weight than red wine, acai, pomegranates, goji berries and blueberries combined!
5.) Feel gooooood. Like, reaaaaalllly goood. Wanna know what chocolate and yoga have in common? Both are proven to raise levels of serotonin in the body. You know, that feel good-smiley-maybe a lil’ natural high-all is well in the world, chemical? Yeah, that one. Cacao also contains significant amounts of Tryptophan, yet another mood-enhancing nutrient.
6.) Make like Popeye. Maybe instead of canned spinach, Olive Oil should’ve been packing ol’ Popeye some cacao pods in his lunch pail. The fruit packs an iron punch which helps in oxygen transport, energy production and immune strengthening. In addition, just 1 oz. of cacao can give you as much as 314% the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. Next time you’re fighting a headcold maybe reach for some raw cacao and pass on the vick’s vitamin c drops…
7.) Simmer down. Dark and raw chocolate are proven to help lower high blood pressure (yet another benefit Chocolate and Yoga share).
8.) Boost yourself. Chocolate can aid in fighting off chronic fatigue and offers an alternative (and healthier) pick-me-up to an afternoon cup of dark roast or espresso.
9.) Spice it up! Get into the mood with an aphrodisiac dose of dark chocolate. Chocolate contains flavonoids which boost circulation to your naughty bits (and all other areas of course), in addition you’ll find phenylethylamine, which increases dopamine levels (stimulating pleasure centers) and anandamide, the euphoria chemical. Call it the love drug trifecta.
10.) Put your best face forward. Those rascally flavonoids are at it again – this time improving skin quality! Over time flavonoids help to absorb UV light and aid in improving skin moisture, smoothness, blemishes and lessen reddening.
Looking for places in Costa Rica to sample the quality cacao? Check out the project and process at CariBeans in Cocles, Puerto Viejo; a local business working to promote sustainable agriculture, support small farmers, go organic AND provide some of the most delicious coffee and chocolate on the planet. All locally harvested and produced, of course. In addition to a spicy Three Kings blend, a zingy Espresso Chocolate, Ginger, Orange and Mint variations, the owners, Paul & Jeanne, have recently started offering a raw chocolate choice to their mix. A cause (and taste) worthy of supporting! Check out their Chocolate Forest Tour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. CariBeans products can be found at the Saturday farmer’s market in town center Puerto Viejo, here at OM in Cocles and at La Botanica Organica in Playa Chiquita.
After visiting the Chocolate Forest pop over to Bread & Chocolate for lunch, or brunch or dessert, or a little taste test of it all! Sample some of the best chocolate-centric desserts in all of Costa Rica. Truffles, cakes, turtles and peanut butter cups, oh my! Check out the purest chocolate options: vegan Chocolate cake or a bittersweet Chocolate tart. The ingredients are ALWAYS fresh and if it’s on your plate, it’s homemade. What else could you ask for? I assure you (as a 6 year patron), every bit of sweetness offered up is worth trying. In addition, owner Tom supports the community volunteering to coach basketball weekly in a town with few recreational options and always hiring locally.
Capture some Chocolatey goodness TODAY!
Special thanks to:
CNN.com, David Wolfe Superfoods, webmd.com, msnbc.com and CariBeans and Bread & Chocolate for existing. Oh yeah, thanks too, to nature for creating the Cacao pod.
This article originally published and written by Kristin Gilbert Ramirez of OM Puerto Viejo