(NaturalNews) One of the most sought after foods in modern society is chocolate. This ancient food source has been used in many cultures and has been revered for its outstanding taste and surprising health benefits. Unfortunately, most industrialized countries have highly processed chocolate and combined it with a number of toxic ingredients in order to boost shelf-life and make it into a decadent treat. Discover the amazing taste and health benefits of pure chocolate.
The average American consumes 11lbs of chocolate each year. Most of this is in the form of highly processed candy bars, ice cream, pastries, etc. These products are loaded with trans-fatty acids, pasteurized dairy, sugar, artificial flavorings & preservatives that are highly toxic for human consumption.
Pure chocolate comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao plant. This plant grows naturally in South America, regions of Africa and the West Indies. This tree was cultivated in Mexico and in Central and South America for many years before the European discovery of America. Cacao products were a form of currency in the land during these times.
The cacao bean is the seed of the fruit and is often thought of as a culinary nut. Cacao is a superfood that is rich in anti-oxidant phytonutrients. Using raw cacao in the form of powder, bars, nips, etc. is a fantastically healthy approach. When cacao seeds are roasted they lose some of their nutrients and this processed form is called cocoa.
Cacao and cocoa are both high in flavonoid polyphenols such as epicatechin which have powerful anti-oxidant effects. The less processed the cacao is the more bioavailable the flavonoids are. Cooking and processing destroy the valuable anti-oxidants in the chocolate. The addition of milk (milk chocolate) inhibits the polyphenol absorption.
Cacao/Cocoa also contains theobromine, which is a bitter alkaloid that is similar to caffeine. Theobromine has powerful vasodilating effects and has been used in the treatment of swelling and edema (fluid collection in the body). Theobromine is also used as a diuretic and a natural cardiovascular stimulant that enhances oxygen flow to various regions of the body. This improved blood flow also stimulates cognitive function and improves memory.
The vasodilating effects of cacao/cocoa through theobromine help to relax smooth muscles and have been known to have a particularly good effect at reducing asthmatic symptoms. It has also been shown to powerfully lower blood pressure. A study published in April 2007 in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that cocoa was more effective at lowering blood pressure than green and black tea. Both of these teas contain similar polyphenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants.
Although theobromine and caffeine are very similar alkaloids, theobromine is not addictive like caffeine. It has a lesser impact on the central nervous system than caffeine. Theobromine does stimulate cardiovascular function to a greater degree than caffeine. Although it is not considered physiologically addictive like caffeine, it does play a role in the `addiction` to chocolate. Most researchers credit the majority of American society`s fondness of chocolate to the sugar and artificial flavorings that usually come with it.
The Kuna Indian populations living on the islands off the coast of Panama are one of the heaviest cacao/cocoa consuming cultures in the world. Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied this culture to see what effects their consumption of cacao/cocoa would have on their disease rates. They were found to have significantly lowering rates of heart disease and cancer in comparison to the group living on mainland who consume significantly less cacao/cocoa. The risk of death from heart disease and cancer on mainland Panama was 1280% and 630% higher respectively than on the islands.
Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Ga. He is a Maximized Living doctor. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition & exercise, & structural corrective chiropractic care. For more information go to www.exodushc.com To find a Maximized Living doctor near you go to www.maximizedliving.com