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Thursday
Apr162009

Cacao: Star of the Show!

"Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine."  -Geronimo Piperni

With its incredible medicinal and spiritual properties- through healing and opening up the heart and creating happiness and thriving neurotransmitters- cacao is truly a gift from the Divine.  Eighteenth century botanist Carl Linnaeus too realized cacao's power, classifying the cacao tree Theobroma cacao or "Fruit of the Gods."  Cacao connects us with all of life's stages. While solid at room temperature, cacao magically melts in one's mouth with a velvetyness coupling us with our mother.  We became joyfully wide-eyed when offered chocolate in our childhood and, as adults, have relaxed with ease and comfort while enjoying a bar of chocolate. As we seek to maintain our happy and nourished bodies and beingness, cacao calls to us with an offering of health and feelings of well-being.      

Cacao's history gives great insight into the power and potency of its medicinal and metaphysical properties. The story begins around 1100 BC in the Americas when the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs cultivated and consumed cacao. Cacao beans were valued more than gold and actually used as a the currency of ancient Mexico.  Traditionally, the Mesoamericans drank cacao, or xocoatl, by grinding the beans into a bitter, coarse paste, which they mixed with water and spices. The Aztecs, who consumed cacao in spiritual rituals, revered the cacao tree so greatly that they appointed their god Quetzalcoatl as the guardian of the cacao tree. They referred to cacao as "yollotl eztli" meaning "heart blood" due to its natural physical and metaphysical heart-opening qualities. These include theobromine which dilates the cardiovascular system and Phenylethylamine (PEA), or the love chemical, which is also released when falling in love thus fostering a deeper heart-based connection between people. We can also thank the PEA for cacao's aphrodisiac benefits!

After returning from Mesoamerica in 1528, Cortez introduced the cacao bean to Spain and cacao spread throughout Europe. Whereas the Native American cultures had preferred bitter chocolate which contained nutritional and healing properties, the Europeans combined cacao with refined cane sugar and eventually milk. Both of these ingredients damaged cacao's healing integrity as sugar lowers the medicinal value of chocolate and milk nullifies its antioxidant properties. By 1590, the Europeans desired the cacao trade closer to Europe, and therefore began planting cacao trees in west Africa on the small island Bioko now part of Guinea.

Recently, a grand desire to reconnect with cacao's roots, complete with its medicinal and spiritual qualities, has inspired seekers such as Chocolate Girl Vanessa and Team Gnosis to embrace RAW! cacao.  Sometime after cacao arrived in Europe, the bean was processed and heated while creating cacao powder and chocolate bars. By heating cacao above 118F, which Gnosis Chocolate never does, much of the powerful medicine in cacao vanishes. Heating cacao destroys its antioxidants and vitamin C as well as its heat-sensitive PEA compounds, all of which we want and need for healthy bodies and happy hearts!  Furthermore, for those interested in weight loss through appetite suppression, which PEA and magnesium aid in, one must consume organic raw chocolate for maximum benefits. Serotonin, the primary well-being and stress-defense neurotransmitter in the human body and its integral friend tryptophan, which is critical for producing serotonin, are both abundant in cacao. The amazing cacao bean actually helps the body self-produce even more neurotransmitters!  Yet once again, it is crucial for cacao to be in its raw, unprocessed state for one to be graced with these elevated benefits. It is also helpful for chocolate lovers to know that while raw cacao contains essential omega-6 fatty acids, cooking and processing cacao leads to rancid essential fatty acids and this can catalyze an inflammatory reaction with the body.  Raw cacao, with its healthy omega-6 fatty acids intact, will not create inflammation.  Gnosis Chocolate never uses any refined sugar or milk and we ensure the raw integrity of each of our cacao beans, therefore creating the world's most nutritious chocolate.  If you are interested, we invite you to read about our commitment to cacao authenticity!  http://www.gnosischocolate.com/raw-integrity-project/

The cacao tree blesses us with an all-year-round growing season and begins producing fruit in 3 to 5 years.  This special tree, which prefers environments with temperatures above 60F, bears flowers pollinated by tiny insects called midges.  Once the flowers have been pollinated, each flower births into a pod-fruit which ripens in 5 to 6 months.  These pods are between 7 and 8 inches in length and contain 20 to 50 almond-shaped seeds (known as cacao beans) kept safe within a sweet pulp.  Each tree produces about 50 pods (and therefore anywhere from 1000 to 2500 beans), harvested 2 to 3 times per year.  Cacao is a magnificent giver!

Not only does the cacao tree provide us with an abundance of beans, each bean packs an extraordinary amount of nutritional and healing benefits.  A 2008 Italian study found that dark chocolate (as opposed to milk or white chocolate) reduces inflammation that leads to heart disease.  Moreover, another study found that participants eating dark chocolate lowered their systolic blood pressure (top number) an average of nearly 3 points and their diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) an average of almost 2 points.

At Gnosis Chocolate, we offer genuine gratitude to the cacao tree for her many blessings.  Below we have listed more of cacao's benefits.  Thank you for reading our post and enjoy your delicious and magical chocolate-filled life!!    

The Benefits of Cacao:

  • Antioxidants: Cacao has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world.
  • Magnesium: This nutrient supports the heart, relaxes the muscles, increases brain power, and helps relieve menstrual cramps.  Over 80% of North Americans eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) are chronically deficient in magnesium, and cacao can help heal this deficiency.
  • Iron: Our blood is kept healthy and anemia is combated with iron, found in cacao.
  • Chromium: Similar to magnesium, nearly 80% of Americans are deficient in this trace mineral which helps to balance blood sugar.  Luckily it is found in cacao!
  • Manganese: This nutrient found in cacao helps form hemoglobin and oxygenate the blood.
  • Zinc:  The immune system, liver, pancreas, sexual floods, and skin are all supported by zinc.
  • Copper: Cacao's vitamin C complex contains copper, which helps to build immunity and healthy blood.
  • Vitamin C: Valuable vitamin C is only found in raw cacao as heating and processing nullifies its healing properties.
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids only remain intact in raw chocolate whereas cooking cacao creates rancid and potentially inflammatory fatty acids.
  • Phenylethylamine (PEA): This class of compounds abundant in cacao is produced when we fall in love and we can only enjoy its affects through consuming raw, unheated chocolate.  Chocolate's aphrodisiac benefits are most potent with raw cacao!
  • Appetite Suppressant: PEAs and magnesium, found in organic raw chocolate, appear to be a natural appetite suppressant.
  • Anandamide: Known as the "bliss chemical" as it is released in the human body while we are feeling great, anandamide is abundant in cacao.  Amazingly, our natural and cacao-provided anandamide remains even longer in the body when consuming chocolate because our bodies break down anandamide at a slower rate due to the cacao's natural enzyme inhibitors.
  • Serotonin: This "stress-defense" and happiness-creating primary neurotransmitter in the human body is found in cacao!!
  • Tryptophan: Linked with serotonin as it is critical for the neurotransmitter's production, tryptophan is also a powerful mood-enhancing nutrient.
  • Fiber: Cacao's soluble fiber is amazing for the human digestive system as it can still cleanse the intestine in any form, whether blended or crushed.
  • Theobromine: This nutrient has diuretic, and stimulant and relaxing effects, and can lower the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.  Theobromine can also relax bronchi muscles in the lungs and can be used as a cough remedy.


-Sources: "Superfoods" and "Naked Chocolate" by David Wolfe.  Thank you :)

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