Chocolate? Healthy for my body? Yessirree! Well, let’s talk about what’s healthy about cacao first before you jump on over to the nearest gas station and start loading up on Kit Kat 2 for 1 deals. 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 like pudding which I’ll get to shortly.
Cacao is high in magnesium, a mineral many of us are deficient in according an Open Heart journal article published just last year.(1) Magnesium is important in helping relax smooth muscle (think: calm the body). But that’s not where the benefits of this super food stop. Theobromine, another stellar component of cacao, helps dilate blood vessels. PEA (phenylethlamine), yet another chemical constituent, triggers the release of pleasure-enhancing endorphins—one reason to call upon chocolate at Valentine’s day or any other day of the year you need some internal hugs and kisses. PEA is also known as the LOVE CHEMICAL.
If you need another reason to rejoice, cacao also contains Anandamide. This component is also known as the BLISS CHEMICAL as it gives you a little high after you’ve eaten some, similar to experiencing the runner’s high only no work involved other than delivering your “exercise” to your mouth. Do not be misguided, however. This nutritional consultant does not advocate giving one up for the other. Interesting to note, but this chemical fits into the cannabinoid receptor sites in the nervour system. Need one more reason to jump for joy when it comes to Anandamide? It also has been shown to inhibit breast cancer cells.(2)
Finally, raw cacao rates very high on the ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) which measures a food’s anti-oxidant capacity. Compares to the well-known blueberry antioxidant (at 2400 ORAC), Cacao powder comes in at 95.000 ORAC. Again, this nutritional consultant does not advocate going all cacao and passing on blueberries.(3) Both are amazing and show up in this week’s recipe Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding along with Omega 3 rich Hemp Seeds.
Here are three outstanding players in the recipe:
With a considerable amount of magnesium (about 270mg per 100 grams), cacao is excellent when you’re feeling tension. 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.
As mentioned earlier, blueberries may not be as high on the antioxidant scale as cacao, but they still have a considerable amount. Antioxidants protect against DNA damage which is implicated in aging and cancer. In one study 168 people drinking a one litre mix of apple juice and blueberry juice per day found that oxidative damage to DNA was reduced by 20%.(8)
Enjoy this amazingly easy and delicious chocolate treat adapted from That Clean Life. If you can’t get enough of this superfood, then why not make my e-book 42 Easy & Delicious Chocolate Snacks and Desserts part of your collection.
Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding
So easy and delicious! No one would ever guess that the secret ingredient is sweet potatoes. Dress it up and make is a great after school snack by sprinkling on some power and omega-3 packed hemp seeds. Nummy!
- 2 Sweet Potatoes (medium, scrubbed, peeled, cut in cubes)
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/3 cup cacao powder
- 1/4 cup figs (about 4, soften in water for 10 minutes before using)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup strawberries (or use blueberries for some top-notch antioxidant power)
- 2 tbsp shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- Step 1 Steam sweet potatoes for 10 minutes
- Step 2 While potatoes are steaming soak figs in water for 10 minutes
- Step 3 Add potatoes, figs, milk and cacao to a food process and blend until very smooth
- Step 4 Divide between 4 custard cups and sprinkle on shredded coconut, strawberries or blueberries and hemp seeds.
- Step 5 Serve with love and enjoy!
- “Correction: Subclinical Magnesium Deficiency: a Principal Driver of Cardiovascular Disease and a Public Health Crisis.” Open Heart, vol. 5, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668corr1.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 Biochemistry20, no. 12 (2009): 948-55. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2008.08.007.Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Martha A. Belury, Rebecca Andridge, William B.
- Malarkey, and Ronald Glaser. “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity25, no. 8 (2011): 1725-734. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229
- Wilms, Lonneke C., et al. “Impact of Multiple Genetic Polymorphisms on Effects of a 4-Week Blueberry Juice Intervention on Ex Vivo Induced Lymphocytic DNA Damage in Human Volunteers.” Carcinogenesis, vol. 28, no. 8, 2007, pp. 1800–1806., doi:10.1093/carcin/bgm145.