(NaturalNews) The ancient Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs considered cacao (ka-cow) a source of power. The scientific name for the cacao (or cocoa) bean is Theobroma cacao, which literally translates as "Food of the Gods".
Raw chocolate or cacao is the unprocessed seed or bean form of chocolate. Cacao grows on trees that are native to Mexico, Central America and South America. When the pods are harvested, between 40 to 60 seeds from each pod are removed, fermented naturally and left to dry for one to two weeks. What emerges is raw cacao beans.
Cacao beans are loaded with powerful antioxidants as well as important minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, the commercial chocolate we are all familiar with involves roasting the cacao beans, which greatly reduces their antioxidant level. The greatest health benefits from chocolate are from the unheated or raw cacao.
Raw chocolate contains higher levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, catechins, and epicatechins than red wine, goji berries, pomegranates, green tea and blueberries combined.
ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scores for the Top 10 Antioxidant Foods (per 100 grams or 3.3 oz):
Raw chocolate is the most magnesium-rich food on the planet. Magnesium is the essential heart mineral needed for healthy heart functioning. Over 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Considering the Standard American Diet (SAD), this comes as no surprise.
According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Michael T. Murray, ND, and Joseph E. Pizzorno, ND, "The level of magnesium in the blood correlates with the ability of the heart muscle to manufacture enough energy to beat properly. Many disorders of heart rhythm are related to an insufficient level of magnesium in the heart muscle."
Dr. Mark Sircus, AC., OMD, author of medical and health-related books and director of the International Medical Veritas Association, stated: "Magnesium routinely saves lives in the emergency room and in intensive care wards; for stroke victims, ... it is assurance of dramatic reduction of [post] stroke symptoms.
Raw chocolate's polyphenols or flavonoids/flavanols, especially epicatechin, act as powerful antioxidants that help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The flavanols in cacao prevent fat from oxidizing in the blood that inflame arteries.
Flavanols are clot preventers. They make blood platelets less sticky and therefore reduce a major cause of heart attacks and strokes, without the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical blood thinners like aspirin.
Blood sugar and weight management
Chromium and magnesium in raw chocolate helps the body metabolize sugar and reduce insulin resistance by increasing insulin sensitivity. Twenty-five percent of people with diabetes are low in magnesium.
Cacao helps stop food cravings. It contains the metabolism revving nutrient, theobromine, and the endorphin, anandamide, which can curb emotional eating while reducing excess cortisol production.
Depression and mood management
In addition to abundant magnesium, cacao contains significant amounts of the essential amino acid, tryptophan. Both are needed by the body to create the stress protective neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin, and build our "stress defense shield."
Serotonin is considered a primary neurotransmitter that plays a powerful role in mood regulation. Heat and cooking destroy tryptophan. Conventionally processed chocolate is low in tryptophan (roasted beans) compared to raw cacao, which typically contains 33% more tryptophan.
Perhaps increasing rates of depression can be alleviated by indulging in the food of the gods, raw chocolate.
About the author: Paul Fassa is dedicated to warning others about the current corruption of food and medicine and guiding others toward a direction for better health with no restrictions on health freedom. You can visit his blog at http://healthmaven.blogspot.com