Cacao brings health and happiness
Cacao beans are the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree, meaning ‘food of the gods’ (theo = god and broma = food). It is one of the most complex food sources. Although cacao still holds some mysteries, research shows many health benefits and neurocognitive effects.
High in antioxidants
Cacao is high in flavanols (which make cacao taste bitter as well), antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. It has one of the highest ORAC scores which is used to measure antioxidant levels in food. Cacao protects our heart and cardiovascular system. It’s good for the elasticity of our blood vessels and increases blood flow throughout our body.
Theobromine is an alkaloid responsible for the stimulating effects of cacao. It is a heart stimulant, dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Compared to caffeine, theobromine gives a longer and softer energy without the peak and dip that many people experience. Also it is found to reduce coughing, alleviate asthma symptoms and hardens tooth enamel.
Rich in minerals
Magnesium plays a vital role in our energy production and is found to reduce diabetes. No other source of food contains as much magnesium as cacao. It supports our heart, relaxes our muscles and stimulates brain function. Magnesium is a primary alkaline mineral for detoxification. Other important minerals are iron, potassium, zinc, copper, calcium, selenium, phosphorus and manganese. Cacao also contains sulfur which helps to transport nutrients into and out of cells. It supports the insulin function and glucose metabolism, tissue repair, immune system, build and rebuild collagen and keratin (hair, nails and skin).
Positive effect on mood, focus and creativity
Yes cacao makes us happy, reduces stress, increases our focus and creative flow. Our brains work incredibly complex and cacao has a positive impact through neurotransmitters and modulators.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a mood regulator and triggers happiness hormones like endorphin, dopamine and noradrenalin. Similar to when we fall in love or have sex. It increases focus and energy and gets us in a flow where we lose track of time. Great for working or boost your creativity. Also it increases our libido, diminishes anxiety and is used as an extract against depression symptoms. What better than consume it directly from a natural product.
Anandamide is called the ‘bliss molecule’ (ananda means bliss in Sanskriet) for creating a feeling of euphoria also known as the runner’s high. It regulates mood, memory, appetite and pain perception.
Tryptophan is critical for producing serotonin (diminishes anxiety and stress) and melatonin (related to sleep). Cacao is a direct source, while at the same time modulating agents (MAO inhibitors) in cacao prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine making the effect longer and stronger.
Healthy fats and increased absorption of nutrients
Cacao butter, naturally present in cacao, is a healthy source of fat that works with many diets like paleo and ketogenic. Many nutrients need fats for your body to absorb them. Combined with the increased blood flow cacao is known as a delivery system for medicinal plants and mushrooms. This is why we don’t use cocoa powder, but with the cacao butter naturally present in the cacao paste as a whole food to make drinks.
Drink enough water
Cacao is slightly dehydrating and can lead to a light headache. Drink enough water to avoid this and support your body to detoxify. If you feel an astringent like feeling just drink some water to clear it out and open up. This is sometimes overlooked in cacao ceremonies.
Cacao during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Traditionally cacao is used by women to regain strength after giving birth and against postnatal depression symptoms. The natural antidepressant effect of cacao helps is a healthy natural way. It is advised to use a smaller dose to check the reaction of your child. Many women still use cacao during pregnancy and breastfeeding and research found a positive effect. Happier babies and happier mothers.
With a hand grinding technique Mayan women where already able to separate some cacao butter from the paste. They used this for skin care and on their nipples while breastfeeding.
Contraindications for cacao
Cacao is in general very safe to use. However its good to double check if there is a contraindication if you’re using SSRIs or have a heart condition. Sometimes chocolate or cacao is avoided because of the MAO-inhibitors and tyramine could link to migraine.
Cacao actually functions as a natural antidepressant and for some people it is a great replacement for synthetic pharmaceutics.