Do you have cravings for chocolate? Do you know what usually triggers those cravings? Sometimes we are feeling emotional, sometimes we are hormonal, sometimes we are celebrating. 

How can we make it healthy?

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a craving. As I like to say, you just need to plan your toxic. If you make a mindful plan to enjoy chocolate, it can be an enjoyable treat once in awhile. 

But if you like regular, even daily, chocolate, how can we make it a healthier choice? Chocolate has sugar, dairy, and other ingredients that you might be trying to avoid in your healthy diet. If you feel a craving for chocolate, but want to avoid those particular ingredients, what can you do?

Cacao vs cocoa vs chocolate

We’re all really familiar with chocolate, but there are other options that might be healthier for us. Chocolate is what is produced after processing and adding a variety of ingredients, like milk to make milk chocolate, sugar, and others.

Cocoa is a powdered form. If it’s intended for a hot chocolate drink, it could be mixed with milk and sugar, and other ingredients. Another form might be intended for baking, which usually excludes the milk, but includes the sugar. 

Whether it is powdered or in chips or a bar, chocolate has been chemically processed and roasted, which breaks down the nutrients that are in the plant. The added ingredients can also break down the nutrients. Including milk prevents your body from absorbing many of the nutrients. 

The other health concern is non-organic chocolate has been sprayed heavily with toxic pesticides and fumigation chemicals. Shopping for produce, you might avoid the dirty dozen (the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide use), and you can also switch to organic chocolate to avoid the pesticides. 

Cacao is minimally processed so it retains the nutrients that make it so beneficial to our health. It is sold in a variety of forms including cacao nibs (like chocolate chips) and cacao powder. Making the switch to organic cacao can be a healthier choice with a host of intact health benefits and none of the health concerns. 

Benefits of cacao

A mood booster: Cacao has four mood-boosting chemicals, including serotonin, which make you feel happier and boost feelings of wellbeing. Boosting our mood is one of the reasons that many of us reach for chocolate during a difficult day. 

Antioxidants: Cacao actually has 40 times the amount of antioxidants present in blueberries (another food you might know as a superfood). Antioxidants are important for our health because they can stop the oxidation of other molecules. Molecules oxidating can start a chain reaction that can damage cells in the body, which is something we want to prevent. 

Iron: Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron with 7.3mg per 100g. If you have anemia, you are deficient in iron, and it can cause a variety of symptoms like fatigue. 

Magnesium: Like iron, cacao is one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium, which many people are deficient in. Magnesium is important for muscle and nerve function and it can also help to improve our stress response. 

Calcium: Cacao has more calcium than milk with 160mg per 100g. Calcium is important for strong bones. 

Fiber: Cacao is a good source of fiber. A diet high in fiber can help gut health and keep you regular.

Recipes

In making the switch to raw organic cacao, it can be hard to adjust to the taste. Without sugar and milk, cacao can be bitter. But there are ways to use cacao and incorporate it into your diet in a delicious tasting way that allows you to ease your chocolate craving and get all the health benefits. 

Adding cacao powder or cacao nibs to a smoothie can be one way to adjust to the taste. You can include any other ingredients you like, but I would suggest almond milk, a banana, blueberries, and the cacao. 

Raw cacao powder can be used to make a delicious hot chocolate drink with almond milk or coconut milk (remember cow’s milk will block the absorption of those key nutrients we want) and a dollop of honey. 

In addition to incorporating cacao into these simple drinks, you can also create delicious desserts that everyone will love with some expert guidance. 

Jackie Caldwell, a nutritionist,  created a wonderful recipe for chocolate pudding that includes raw cacao powder, almond or coconut milk, avocado, and banana. 

For a bite-sized treat, Tess Masters created chocolate truffles, with raw cacao powder, cacao butter, cashew butter, and maple syrup. 

Making this small shift to raw cacao can give you a huge set of benefits while still satisfying your chocolate craving. What are your favorite ways to eat cacao? Let me know in the comments.

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