What comes to mind when you think of chocolate? If you would have asked me that question a few years ago, I would have said “weight gain”. But what I’ve realized in my own personal life, is that chocolate is not the culprit of weight gain that I thought it was. How I think about chocolate is so different because eating chocolate occasionally is really about the quality and the quantity I’m consuming.
All chocolate is made from Cacao Beans (also known as Cocoa Beans). And although all chocolate is made from cacao, all chocolate is not created equal. Growing up during the holidays, there were always bags of Hershey’s or some other milk chocolate in bowls on our coffee table and I was happy to eat it!
What I’ve learned is when I nourish my body with foods that not only are nutritious and also taste good, there is no guilt. Cacao comes from a small tropical tree, the Theobroma cacao, (Theobroma is Greek for “food of the gods.”). Cacao is native to Central and South America, but is grown commercially throughout the tropics. Cacao contains many nutrients as well as phytochemicals.
Here are a few reasons why adding just a small amount of chocolate occasionally to your diet especially during Valentine’s Day make’s that time with your loved one so much sweeter.
Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested, including blueberries, red wine and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Antioxidants are phenomenal at protecting our cells from free radical damage. Once we’ve consumed antioxidants mostly through the foods we eat, it slows down, or even prevents, the oxidation of other molecules. When molecules in the body oxidize, they can create free-radicals. It is very normal to have these free-radicals in the body, but in excess, they can wreak havoc on our cellular structures. When it comes to antioxidants, think of them as your best friend that wants to protect you at all cost.
Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese. All of these minerals are essential to great health, but what really gets me excited is that cacao is high in the “beauty mineral” sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports a healthy pancreas. I could go on and on about the many benefits of cacao, but I want to leave you with this recipe that is super delicious and easy to make.
I hope you share this recipe with the one you love!
Chocolate Love Cookies
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ½ cup raw cacao powder
- 2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- ½ cup agave nectar
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly and scoop out mixture with measuring teaspoon.
Roll into small balls and flatten with your fingers. Every so often wet your finger tips with a few drops of water to prevent cookies from sticking to your hands when flattening them. Place on unbleached parchment paper in Pyrex dish and place in the freezer for a couple of hours to maintain proper texture and consistency or if dehydrating place at 115 degrees Fahrenheit and place on texflex sheet for about 4 hours and then place directly on dehydrator sheets and finish dehydrating overnight. Store cookies in the refrigerator.
Tracy Neely is the founder and owner of Nourish & Flourish Healthy Living, a holistic nutrition and wellness consulting practice located in Orlando Florida.