By Nindy Grewal, Holistic Nutritionist
It is February and cold, but many of us look forward to seeing the bright red boxes filled with chocolates and cinnamon hearts that adorn the stores at this time of year. This is a month to love – right? Well what if you just keep going from loving Christmas baked treats to January comfort foods to all the sweets lined on shelves in February? With each holiday comes new temptations for us to ward off. There is, however, a way we can still enjoy holiday treats, be mindful and not feel guilty afterwards. Let me tell you how and why this is possible.
As a holistic nutritionist, I have definitely made changes to my diet over the years, but I still take pleasure in eating. I now just understand what foods benefit my body and which do not. The one food though, that I am happy to admit I incorporate into my daily living and immensely take pleasure in, is something that was once deemed the “food of the gods” by Indigenous people. I am sure many of you share my passion and love for this one food. Yes it is chocolate! I am going to share with you all the wonderful health benefits of CHOCOLATE.
Most of us grew up knowing chocolate from the endless television commercials enticing us to take a break with a “Kit Kat” or beat that hunger with an “Oh Henry” bar or perhaps it was by peaking our curiosity with the desire to know the “Caramilk” secret. Unfortunately, no matter how alluring those television ads were, the truth is that processed chocolates are loaded with sugar and diluted of any quality chocolate.
However, when pure raw chocolate beans are cold-pressed to a powder, this process keeps the chocolate extremely nutritious as it upholds its enzymatic content. The difference between raw chocolate from processed is the cacao beans have not been roasted. The roasting of the beans changes the molecular structure and reduces its nutritional value. Cacao beans that have been roasted at high temperatures and ground become what we know as cocoa powder. Eating cocoa powder which is made into chocolate that is 75% cocoa or more can still be beneficial due to its higher antioxidant content compared to other forms of milk chocolate or what we know as candy bars.
The Mayans and Aztecs were enjoying the flavours and benefits of the cacao beans for at least 5000 years before chocolate made its way over to the Europeans. Cacao pods were seen as the symbol of life and fertility by the Indigenous people. They used the seeds to make a cold, very spicy bitter drink called xocoatl (shocolatle), meaning “bitter water”. This drink was considered a potent health elixir. Cacao was believed to be nourishing, fortifying and having aphrodisiac qualities.
The health benefits of eating raw cacao come primarily from its’ flavonoid antioxidants. Cacao is known to help lower cholesterol levels, prevent blood clotting, regulate blood flow, decrease inflammation and lower blood pressure. Cacao is a rich source of minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese. Chocolate is definitely a mood enhancer and is regularly associated with love and as an antidepressant due to its neurotransmitter actions in the brain. Most likely why chocolates are always associated with Valentine’s day!
If you are a huge chocolate lover like me then start to adopt the pleasures of eating chocolate again without the guilt and sugar overload. Raw cacao can be added to smoothies, used for baking or to make your own homemade chocolate snacks. So if you are going to indulge in a little guilty pleasure– then treat yourself to a no guilt treat made of raw cacao!
Here is a simple but delicious recipe you can try at home or gift to your Valentine this year. This is not only going to satisfy your taste buds but it will also bring you good health.
Chocolate Coconut Balls
3/4 cup raw cacao
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup maple syrup
- Combine all ingredients well.
- Form balls out of mix.
- Refrigerate until set (about 10 minutes).
Can refrigerate for 2 weeks or freeze for a month.
Bringing balance to mind, body and soul.
Holistic Nutritionist (CNP, Cl.Irid, B.Ed)