All things chocolate are bad for you, right? Well, not necessarily. The truth is that chocolate candy bars (what we think of first when we think of chocolate) are bad for you but not because of the cacao that gives the bar its chocolate flavour but because of the added sugar. Refined sugar is what makes chocolates unhealthy. Plus, when the cocoa is roasted to make the chocolate, antioxidant flavonoids and beneficial enzymes are lost due to being heated. So that makes a chocolate bar a no-no when it comes to healthy eating.
Still want that chocolatey flavour without the unhealthy sugars? Think raw cacao. This however doesn’t happen with raw cacao. What is raw cacao? Think about 100% dark chocolate – it’s made of cacao solids. Cacao solids are what’s left after the cacao butter which is the oil in the cacao bean has been separated from the ground-up raw cacao beans. Cacao solids are used to make cacao powder. The term ‘raw cacao’ can refer to the whole bean, the solids, or the powder, all the elements that have not been heated during the process.
So, you’ll just eat 100% dark chocolate, right? But, truth be told, it’s not for everyone. What you can do, though, is make raw cacao taste just as good as chocolate… without adding on the extra calories! Here are some tips from one of our resident athletes Bikini Champion Jenna Carmen…
How to use raw cacao for a chocolate cheat
1. Hot chocolate
Want a yummy warm drink that tastes just like dessert? Add a teaspoon of Muscle Wellness raw cacao to boiling water and about 30ml of rice, soya, or almond milk. Avoid dairy if you can as it limits antioxidant absorption. If you’re like Jenna and have a sweet tooth, then add an aspartame-free sweetener.
2. Oats so easy
Cacao is a great way to make your oats chocloatey – just add to organic oats (with no artificial flavourants) and breakfast will be a treat!
Why cacao? Know the benefits
1. Happiness boost
Some days we need a little help to find our bliss. Cacao contains the mood enhancer anandamide which creates a sense of euphoria. Another mood-enhancing compound found in cacao is PEA or phenethylamine, which stimulates the release of endorphins. These compounds often release naturally when we fall in love and they make us feel real good.
2. Hormone balance
Cacao increases levels of serotonin, the feel-good chemical. At certain times during a woman’s cycle, serotonin levels drop substantially. Cacao is proven to balance hormone levels and restore feelings of well-being.
3. Protect your heart
Cacao is rich in flavanols, anti-inflammatory and heart protective antioxidants which help protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and help improve blood circulation.
4. Prevent premature aging
Polyphenol antioxidants found in cacao belong to the same group of antioxidants as red wine and green tea. These antioxidants protect our cells from premature damage and help you to look and feel younger for longer.
5. Fat burner
Drinking a cup of cacao before meals can help you shed fat. This is due to cacao’s MAO inhibitors, which reduce the appetite.
6. Fight fatigue
Boost your energy levels and combat fatigue with one of the highest concentrations of magnesium found in a natural food source. Magnesium also helps to protect against osteoporosis, reduces type II diabetes, and lowers blood pressure.
7. Shine on
Cacao is high in sulphur which is great for promoting shiny hair and strong nails.
Need more food and fitness tips? Have a look at our Facebook page and website. Muscle Wellness has a wide range of supplements to suit your lifestyle and taste. We believe in approaching fitness from a holistic perspective, with a diet rich in healthy super foods, superior whey products, protein-based products, and even vegan supplements, all designed to boost your health and energy levels. From our Fit & Firm to our Wellness series, talk to us about which products supplements would work best for you – we’d love to help you achieve your fitness goals at whatever stage of your health journey.