Health Begins in the Kitchen

Cacao Pow Smoothie

Cacao Pow Smoothie

How could you not be excited when I tell you that Cacao is extra healthy for a body. We’re all on board for this superfood. However, there’s a few things you need to know about forms of chocolate before you go raiding your kids Halloween or Easter or Christmas or Valentines stash (I bet you agree there are far too many holidays to justify gluttony of candy). The first important thing to know is that a cocoa been can be roasted or raw. Raw is the form that will typically yield the greatest antioxidant benefits. Cacao nibs or cacao powder, raw forms, are excellent additions to smoothies or other recipes which I’ll get to shortly.

Cacao is high in magnesium which is great to relax muscles and generally we are all quite low in this mineral. It also has a component called Theobromine which helps dilate blood vessels. One potent mood-enhancing compound found in cacao is called PEA or phenethylamine (aka THE LOVE CHEMICAL), which triggers the release of endorphins and neurochemicals–which have similar properties to pleasure-enhancing opium. These neurochemicals are in full force when we fall in love. Note that blue-green algae also contains PEA.1

After the neurotransmitter PEA or the love chemical was discovered along comes yet another reason to make raw cacao part of your life (as if you need one). Anandamide or THE BLISS CHEMICAL was discovered in the cacao which feels similar to that high you get when you work out or experience pleasure. This little molecule has only been found in chocolate and fits beautifully into the nerous system’s cannabinoid receptor sites. It has also been shown to inhibit breast cancer cells.2

As far as its place as an antioxidant, cacao is unsurpassed. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale developed by the USDA measures the effectiveness of antioxidants to absorb free radicals. The higher the ORAC score, the higher the level of antioxidants. Raw cacao powder has a rating of approximately 95,000 on this scale while blueberries only have at rating of only 2400 (hey, don’t toss out the blueberries–they’re awesome for you too).3

I’m sure you need no more convincing to add cacao to your life so let’s get on with a recipe that’ll put some spring in your step–a morning smoothie that incorporates raw cacao.   Check out the health benefits of just three ingredients in my CACAO POW SMOOTHIE:


Cacao contains a number of compounds that are healing for a person experiencing insomnia.  First, it has a high amount of Magnesium (272mg per 100 grams).  Mark Hyman, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine says “It is an antidote to stress, the most powerful relaxation mineral available, and it can help improve your sleep.”4 A recent study found that sleep quality improved when people added magnesium to their diets as it helps decrease sympathetic nervous system activity.1  Second it’s also known as “mood enhancer” since it has a positive effect on the brain and can even have an anti-anxiety effect.5, 6


Besides containing a significant amount of Tryptophan (200mg per 100 grams which converts to Serotonin and Melatonin),  Hemp Seeds also contain Omega 3 which has been shown to help in issues of anxiety which may be related to sleep issues.7   Hemp also has a very high amount of Magnesium which helps with relaxation.  Hemp Seed has about 483mg Magnesium per 100 grams.


Rich in B-vitamins which are essential for the nervous system, Maca Root is known as an adaptogen which means it helps the body adapt to stress.  Maca root has show to be beneficial in those with anxiety, especially post-menopausal women.8

Cacao Pow Smoothie

October 30, 2017
: 1
: 5 min
: 10 min
: easy

Even though bedtime is a long way away from breakfast, you want to start your day off fueling your body with the right nutrients that help you deal with stress, keep blood sugar under control, and keep your body relaxed. Balanced blood sugar and optimum levels of brain chemicals and hormones all work together throughout the day and culminate in the impetus for your body to fall asleep and stay asleep. What we eat during the day is essential in producing this “sleep drive”. The first requirement in optimizing your sleep drive is to start your day with ample protein to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Second you need foods that contain ample Tryptophan which will have the remainder of the day to convert to Serotonin and Melatonin (both important brain chemicals for sleep). Next you need food with Magnesium which helps with relaxation of your muscles. Finally you need food that contains B vitamins which are essential for a properly functioning nervous system that’s resilient to stress.


  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp Maca
  • 1 Tbsp Cacao
  • 1 Tbsp Hemp Seed
  • 2 Tbsp Vegan Sprouted Protein or enough to offer approximately 20 grams of Protein
  • 1 cup Spinach
  • ½ Banana
  • Step 1 Add all ingredients starting with the almond milk into a blender. Serve with love and enjoy!


1. “Examining the Properties of Chocolate and Cacao for Health.” NaturalNews. Accessed July 01, 2017.

2.  Petrocellis, L. De, D. Melck, A. Palmisano, T. Bisogno, C. Laezza, M. Bifulco, and V. Di Marzo. “The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95, no. 14 (1998): 8375-380. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.14.8375.

3. Richelle, Myriam, Isabelle Tavazzi, and Elizabeth Offord. “Comparison of the Antioxidant Activity of Commonly Consumed Polyphenolic Beverages (Coffee, Cocoa, and Tea) Prepared per Cup Serving.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49, no. 7 (2001): 3438-442. doi:10.1021/jf0101410.

4. Nielson, F., Jornson, L.Zeng, H,. Magnesium Supplementation Improves Indicators of Low Magnesium Status and Inflammatory Stress in Adults Older than 51 Years with Poor Quality Sleep. Magnesium Research.  2010. 23 (4),  158-168

5. Nehlig, Astrid. “The Neuroprotective Effects of Cocoa Flavanol and Its Influence on Cognitive Performance.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2012. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378.x.

6. Yamada, Takashi, Yasushi Yamada, Yasuyo Okano, Takehiko Terashima, and Hidehiko Yokogoshi. “Anxiolytic Effects of Short- and Long-term Administration of Cacao Mass on Rat Elevated T-maze Test.” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 20, no. 12 (2009): 948-55. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2008.08.007.Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Martha A. Belury, Rebecca Andridge, William B.

7. Malarkey, and Ronald Glaser. “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 25, no. 8 (2011): 1725-734. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229.

8.Brooks, Nicole A., Gisela Wilcox, Karen Z. Walker, John F. Ashton, Marc B. Cox, and Lily Stojanovska. “Beneficial Effects of Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) on Psychological Symptoms and Measures of Sexual Dysfunction in Postmenopausal Women Are Not Related to Estrogen or Androgen Content.” Menopause 15, no. 6 (2008): 1157-162. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953.