Why Drink Cacao? Open your heart and see…
Raw Organic Cacao has got to be right up there with my favourite Superfoods and for me, one of the most powerful. I was introduced to the real deal out in Guatemala where I ended up working for the local cacao shaman. A big group affair a team would be processing the beans through the grinder and then the rest of us would pack the warm, thick paste into the packets. It really was the best job. The fumes were intoxicating and I always left with a big grin on my face and a skip in my step with my cacao payment under my arm. After that I started to attend Cacao ceremonies. These are wonderful heart opening affairs where a circle of attendees drink the cacao together, share what they feel called to share, and often there will be beautiful music played by musicians in the circle. Prayers for the cacao goddess who delivered the gift of this amazing medicine and gratitude sharing would bring the circle closer together and often, big openings happen with tears, healings and realisations. With a good container things can come up and you can feel safe enough to express something or feel something that perhaps you have never allowed before. It’s a magical thing to be witness to with an experienced practitioner to hold space.
Used extensively by the Mayan and Aztec within ceremony, cacao was always a bitter drink rather then made into the chocolate we know today. It was only made into bars when the beans were brought over to Europe after the invasions onto native lands. So unfortunately many people haven’t experienced real, unrefined cacao and many people are simply addicted to the sugar added to the bars of today which can also contain, emulsifiers, artificial flavouring and milk fats with a very small percentage of actual beneficial cacao.
I was heart broken to experience the real deal Venezuelan Black Cacao in the small village of Chuao on the Caribbean Coast of Venezuela in a little chocolate shop. It was 100% paste with cinnamon and they made it into a hot drink for you by grating it into hot water or milk. I could feel the cacao flowing through my blood vessels, expanding and warming. It was a very potent experience and afterwards I remember feeling like I was floating down the street. I learnt that outside of the village the raw cacao is unobtainable as the bulk of all the harvest, from all the surrounding plantations, goes directly to the local Nestle factory to be churned into low quality bars that go all over the world. I would confidently state that those products contain no trace of what I experienced in that little fishing village in the jungle.
So what are the health benefits of Raw Organic Cacao?
Cacao is a powerful antioxidant and it has more then 21 times the free radical protection of Green Tea.
Raw cacao contains:
- antioxidant polyphenols,
- epicatechin which has been singled out as providing cacao’s vasodilation benefits, which help protect against thrombosis formation and hypertension
- gallic acid, which has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties (also found in witchhazel).
- theobromine, an alkaloid in the same compound category as caffeine. it is a cardiac stimulant and relaxes the blood vessels increasing circulation by 30-40%. It is however much less stimulating then caffeine, about a 1/4 as stimulating and the effects are longer and softer.
Cacao contains beneficial neurotransmitters and neuromodulators already present in our brain, most notably including:
- Norepinephrine – the joy molecule
- Serotonin – help with wellbeing, and creates resistance to stress.
- Dopamine – feelings of motivation and pleasure.
- Anandamine – the bliss molecule, it moderates pain, and is associated with the “runners high” effect.
- Phenylethylamine – helps with excitement, alertness, attention. Give the perception of time slowing down.
Cacao and Magnesium
Cacao is believed to be the richest source of magnesium of any common food. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body and is the number one mineral that assists and supports healthy heart functioning. It is vital for over 300 enzyme systems in the body – more than iron and zinc combined, yet nearly 70% of the population is deficient in magnesium. Many experts believe even with a healthy diet, produce may still be grown in mineral-depleted soil and lacking in this vital nutrient.
Combining a low-fat diet plan with foods rich in magnesium can naturally help to reduce blood pressure—and lower blood pressure is a key part of reducing the risk of stroke and otherwise keeping the heart healthy. In fact, studies have found that there is as much as a 58 percent lower chance of heart attack in those who have proper levels of magnesium. Low magnesium levels have also been found in patients who have died from heart attacks. Cacao is a vasodilator, which means blood vessels relax and blood pressure goes down promoting a sense of calm.
Because magnesium helps activate vitamin D stores within the body as well as metabolizing calcium, it’s linked to improved bone density and the formation of stronger bone crystals. Studies have found that good magnesium intake can even lower the risk of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women, and therefore is just as vital as calcium supplementation for it’s treatment.
Blood sugar regulation
Studies have also found that getting proper magnesium intake can help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. the evidence suggests that insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity become properly balanced with help from this mineral.
Magnesium is also beneficial for Gastric Disturbances (heartburn and flatulence) as it neutralises the stomach acid converting it to magnesium chloride. With less acid available less gas is produced, resulting in alleviation of the symptoms. Magnesium may also help relieve constipation, by relieving pressure on the bowel and allowing fluid to soften bowel movements.
Low levels of magnesium have been connected to anxiety, and research suggests that getting more of this important mineral may be able to help improve anxiety-related symptoms. Depression is also linked—in fact, many antidepressants work by raising brain magnesium, which increases serotonin levels. Low magnesium levels can cause tension headaches and migraines, a sign of constriction in blood vessels which cacao reverses. This is why you can feel so willing to relax and share your truth within a cacao ceremony. Your body has been relaxed and so within, so without.
Women and Chocolate: PMS relief
Additional studies have found that women experiencing PMS may be able to find relief from symptoms like abdominal bloating, leg swelling, weight gain, breast pain, headaches, fatigue, fluid retention, mood swings and insomnia just by increasing intake of magnesium. Which really explains why a lot of women crave chocolate before and during there bleed time. However, we often go for the sugar filled stuff, which, in the long term doesn’t help with the mood swings as our insulin levels spike and crash. Why drink cacao? Trying to keep balanced during this time is hard enough so I urge you to seek out some dark, sugar-free cacao for the next time the craving hits. It’s more then likely your body asking for magnesium!
Cacao and Conscious Communication
For me, I use it as a relating tool. If my partner and I are having a heated discussion which is feeling a little out of control, we will often pause, make some cacao and come back together after some deep breaths. Everything always feels more manageable after we do this, and conflicts are often resolved much more easily. I recommend it as a great helper for conscious communication! Simply restart the conversation with what you are grateful for and the whole energy shifts.
So there you have many great reasons to be regularly treating yourself with the best, organic cacao you can find!
My favourite real chocolate champions:
Firefly– Jonas makes the most incredible bars of coconut sugar chocolate as well as single origin ceremonial cacao. He is based in California and is at many festivals on the west coast. You can order online and also book him to facilitate a cacao ceremony.
Ombar– I met Richard at the beginning of his raw chocolate journey when I used to do product photography and did his first photos, he’s come a long way! I see his bars all over the UK now. Amazing flavour combinations and now certified organic.
Booja Booja– Uk company. Posh vegan truffles as well as cashew vegan icecream, I love these guys! Their truffles come in boxes painted by women’s craft co-ops in India.
Vortex Fare– I found this chocolate when I was passing through Mount Shasta, California and it blew my chocolate loving socks off! This is raw cacao filled with stone ground almond butter! Made in extremely small batches so grab if you can!
Ceremonial Cacao– Website for Keith the chocolate shaman out at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. You can buy cacao for ceremony online which ships worldwide, when the Guatamalan post office is functioning, and he travels to facilitate worldwide as well as holding ceremony locally in San Marcos. Why I drink cacao? This guy.
Miessence Berry Radical– All the power of Raw organic cacao amped with the power of nine potent antioxidant berries. This is my daily night cap.
Willies Cacao– Willie was a greta early inspiration early on in my chocolate journey. He makes an amazing block of 100% single origin cacao and he farms in the region of Venezuala I visited. He restored an old cacao plantation and planted many original rare breeds which hadn’t been lost like in a lot of the world where hybrid strains are the norm. Ships worldwide.
If you are after a sacred vessel for your cacao my wonderfully talented partner has created a range of ceremonial chalices. We drink cacao from them each night and they are designed to fit in the natural oval of your hand, contact him via facebook for availability.
Please support your small, independent makers and always honour you cacao and express your gratitude before tucking in. This makes the goddess feel happy and more able to work her magic 😉