Is Chocolate Really Good for You?


Time to clear up the hype about how chocolate is good for you. This was obviously conjured up by marketeers and chocolate manufactures to keep you buying chocolate… and then reinforced by all the chocoholics that want to find an excuse for eating more of it. People will take any hint of goodness to label something they love as ‘healthy’ and then tell everyone… a marketers’ dream right?


Sorry but No, chocolate is NOT good for you! Chocolate contains high amounts of saturated fat and lots of added sugar, both of which are very bad for you. Neither are the commercial brand of Milo and drinking chocolates because they are loaded with sugar, milk solids and high level of saturated fats added during manufacturing.


Although many studies show chocolate has some beneficial effects, and contain antioxidants, these effects are due to the cocoa or cacao component and are FAR more effective in the form of pure cocoa or raw cacao powder than they are in chocolate.


You only need a small amount of cocoa or raw cacao powder to experience these benefits, but the benefits you receive from chocolate are quickly outweighed by the intake of bad macro nutrients.




Are Cocoa powder and Cacao powder the same?

Raw cocoa and raw cacao are the same. Cacao is just the botanical name for the cocoa plant… both cocoa and cacao come from the same plant albeit processed differently. What is generally considered “raw” cacao is suppose to be a cocoa powder that has been in a process that never exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit.


This is almost impossible to achieve as the cocoa (cacao) is sourced from third world countries near the Equator and the drying process, under black linens on patios and even on concrete slabs under the hot sun making it an almost impossible scenario… and yes, you need to dry them, otherwise within a few days they will rotten, and the shell will be too difficult to peel off.


ALL cocoa powder comes from the cocoa bean, which without the shell is called cocoa nib (a.k.a. cacao nib). The first step is grinding of the nib (which again, when you grind something to such small particle size you will create a lot of friction with… that’s right… heat!). That will give you the cocoa/cacao paste (a.k.a. cacao mass or chocolate liquor), which has about 50 to 56% fat (cocoa butter) in it…and ALL cocoa powders have to go through that stage.


Next stage is to take some of that butter away, which the raw community claims can be done through “cold pressing”. For any that don’t understand that term, cold pressing is done with oils like olive oil to preserve the oil almost intact by cooling the press plates while applying pressure (pressure generates heat, therefore it needs to be cooled). But here is a reminder, olive oil is liquid in room temperature, cocoa butter is SOLID, and it STARTS melting at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit … so, you cannot control and cool it to a point where it will be still in a solid phase, because it cannot be pressed and “flow” out.


Last operation is to grind the solids left in the press, again – heat…and there is your cocoa powder or cacao powder… you tell me if you call it “raw”, a term not defined by the FDA for cocoa, and that can be used by anyone just to sell the cocoa to a much higher price. Maybe that is why bigger, more serious companies don’t have this product, since they do not want to be liable for false advertising…


Regarding “Raw” cocoa nibs or cocoa beans…yes, that is possible, and the only concern is the high bacteriological plate count… but how much you want to train your immune system is up to each individual. And yes, the less manipulated the cocoa, the more polyphenols and healthy chemicals you will obtain from it.


There is also a difference between alkalized or ducthed powders, and the natural ones (which do not contain any potassium carbonate), being the second ones the ones containing more of the healthy properties (antioxidants). But that is totally different than claiming a “raw” cocoa powder.


So, that is my explanation, and again, I respect anyone’s opinion on what they want to eat or how they want to consume it. I just disagree with misleading the general public just to make juicy profits.

-Source: From a forum post by a chemical engineer based on her reasoning and experience of 15 years in the cocoa business.


Do production differences affect the antioxidant levels of raw cacao and cocoa powders?


Since natural unsweetened cocoa powder is very similar to raw cacao powder except for experiencing higher temperatures during production, the question is, does natural cocoa powder have the same benefits as raw cacao powder?


The main beneficial property of raw cacao powder is antioxidants. Antioxidant activity is measured as an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score. Foods with higher ORAC values have more antioxidant activity.


The ORAC score for raw cacao powder is 95 500 μ mol TE/100g, compared with 26 000 μ mol TE/100g for roasted cocoa powder (I cannot find a source clarifying whether this is for natural or dutch-processed cocoa powder). So raw cacao powder has 3.67 times the antioxidant activity of roasted cocoa powder

-Read more at Nourish My Life 


What are the health benefits of raw cacao?


-Lowers insulin resistance.


-Protects your nervous system: Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.


-Shields nerve cells from damage.


-Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.


-Reduces your risk of stroke.


-Reduces blood pressure.


Slows the ageing process by assisting with nitric oxide metabolism: Nitric oxide protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and thereby lowering your blood pressure. However, nitric oxide production produces adverse reactions and toxic metabolites, which must be neutralised by your body so they don’t result in oxidative damage to your blood vessel lining. Cocoa polyphenols protect your body from these metabolites and help counter the typical age-related decline in nitric oxide production.


Guards against toxins: as a potent antioxidant, cacao can repair the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. In fact cacao contains far more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries. Antioxidants are responsible for 10% of the weight of raw cacao.


Boosts your mood: cocoa can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being. And the same brain chemical that is released when we experience deep feelings of love – phenylethylamine – is found in chocolate.


It is rich in minerals: magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.


On the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, which is a way of measuring antioxidants raw cacao has an ORAC of 95,500 where as roasted cocoa powder has an ORAC of 26,000. This does make raw cacao a more powerful antioxidant source.


However, when assessing raw cacao we must also consider where the cacao is sourced and whether the process is monitored correctly, which in this day and age of the quick buck, needs close scrutiny.


Most cacao or cocoa is harvested from beans grown in third-world countries, and many of the conditions these beans are exposed to during growth and fermentation is extremely unsanitary.


In her article on potential risks of raw cacao, Stephanie Zonis explains that consumption of raw organic cacao powder may drastically increase the risk of pathogen-associated illnesses (or food poisoning) because the cooler temperatures may allow pathogens to survive. However, pathogenic risks are also associated with the addition of egg and dairy products to cocoa powders during the production of chocolate.

Read more at Sally