The EXOTIC CACAO
BEAN has intoxicated
First discovered by the Mayans and considered the “food of gods,” today cacao, better known in Northern America and Europe as “chocolate,” is a delectable treat for people of all ages, all around the world. Many, find they are addicted to chocolate and for good reason. According to a BBC report, the experience of chocolate melting in one’s mouth increases brain activity and heart rate more intensely than passionate kissing, and the effect can last four times as long.
In the past few decades, there has been much innovation with chocolate. Young chefs and entrepreneurial companies have crafted new and exotic recipes using this flavorful, potent, and nutritious superfood. Depending on the recipe, the bitter flavor of ground cacao beans can marry with innumerable exotic partners, such as the sharp delight of Celtic sea salt, or the tang of Tibetan goji berries, and even the astringent bite of green tea.
Chemically speaking, ground cacao contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has also been linked to heightened serotonin levels in the brain (the body’s happy neuron). Research supports that chocolate eaten in moderation can stimulate the brain, lower blood pressure, and help prevent cancer.
There are a few fine details in selecting a great tasting chocolate, especially if you are a connoisseur. Ground cacao beans are rich in flavonoids and compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. What most people don’t know however is that the amount of flavonoids in chocolate will depend on the amount of processing and manufacturing it has undergone. Buying a generic brand of chocolate won’t have the same nutritional “guilt free” properties as a batch of minimally processed chocolate, so look for a chocolate with as few ingredients as possible. Avoid any “lab” foods such as the emulsifying agent soy lecithin (a genetically modified additive often used to create a smoother texture) unless it is organic. Also, buy chocolate that contains milk coming from happy and healthy pastures, rather than farm factories.
Unfortunately, there are some local politics at work behind chocolate. In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States (members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland) lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter, in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow a product to be referred to as “chocolate” if the product contains any of these ingredients.
On a larger scale, there are global concerns as well. Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cacao beans are produced in West Africa, with 43% sourced from Côte d'Ivoire, where child labor is a common practice to obtain the product. Frightening information like this that makes it all the more important to know who is making your food and where it comes from. Buying from local and fair trade companies is recommended, as well as companies using raw cacao, which keeps all of nutritional properties of the cacao bean intact.
Take all this into consideration while you enjoy this truly delicious and blissful ancient food. As Valentine’s Day draws closer, consider ditching the old-fashioned and highly processed heart-shaped box of chocolates and instead, treat yourself and your beloved to something raw and sexy.
Spicy hot chocolate
1 cup of hot water with a Numi Organic Rooibos chai tea bag.
1 tsp of organic raw cacao
A dash of brazil nut mylk. ( or your favorite milk)
Honey or stevia to sweeten (or your favorite sweetener)
mix and float away ;)
A gift idea
Read more on LAGUSTA'S LUSCIOUS in AGB No.6 available in digital format.