How Cacao Can Reduce Stress and Boost the Power of the Mind
If you’ve ever felt guilty about eating chocolate then we have some very good news for you! While you’re right that highly-processed milk chocolate won’t do a whole lot of good for your body, raw cacao, on the other hand, is packed with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, phytochemicals and a variety of other health-boosting compounds that make cacao a true superfood with benefits for the body and mind.
What’s so great about cacao?
The Incas considered cacao the drink of the gods due to all its health benefits, and this obsession gave rise to the name of the tree that the beans are grown on, the Theobroma tree (from the Greek theo (god) and bromo (tree)). In Mesoamerica, cacao beans were so valued that they were even traded as a form of currency.
It was actually Christopher Columbus and his crew who were the first Europeans to encounter cacao beans after seizing a canoe at Guanaja and mistakenly believing they had stumbled upon some odd-looking almonds.
These “almonds” turned out to be cacao beans, and there are documented reports from early explorers detailing how cacao helped them heal their bodies on their various adventures by helping with digestion, healing the nervous system and also alleviating conditions such as tuberculosis, gout and fever.
So, even though cacao may seem like a modern-day superfood invented by foodies, it’s actually been helping people heal their bodies for centuries! And if you’re wondering about the difference between cocoa and cacao, cocoa beans are roasted, whilst cacao is left raw, meaning its enzymes and many other nutrients remain intact. What better reason to eat it? (as if we need one!)
How can cacao improve your mood?
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food” – Hippocrates
Most of us are familiar with the mood-boosting qualities of a bar of really good dark chocolate, but do you know why raw chocolate is so good at turning frowns into smiles?
It’s all down to the fact that cacao contains a compound called PEA (or phenethylamine), which triggers the release of endorphins and mood-enhancing neurochemicals in the brain. These are released naturally when engaging in sexual activity or when falling in love, so it’s no wonder eating dark chocolate can be so euphoric!
Despite containing caffeine, cacao is also excellent at helping banish stress, thanks to its high levels of the stress-reducing substances valeric acid and magnesium.
And, as if the above isn’t enough, raw cacao also contains serotonin (which improves the mood and decreases stress), anandamide (a “bliss” chemical that produces a feeling of euphoria), and theobromine (a mild stimulant sometimes used to treat depression).
How can cacao boost brain power?
What’s that, we hear you ask, chocolate can make me brainy? Well, yes, to a point! Cacao contains high levels of natural compounds called flavanols that are shown to improve cognitive function.
However, the more processed the chocolate the less flavanols it contains, so if you want maximum brain-boosting, avoid Dairy Milk and eat cacao instead!
What’s the best way to enjoy cacao?
Cacao can be found in the form of cacao nibs, which are basically raw chocolate chips that are delicious on their own or in baked goods, or in its powder form. Our favourite thing to do with cacao is to put it into a smoothie, as its rich flavour turns the most boring smoothie into a thing of chocolatey wonder!
To get you started, here is a super-healthy recipe we like from Ella Woodward’s website. To make, simply pop the peeled banana and avocado into your blender, then add the pitted dates, cacao and the rest of the ingredients. Blend for two minutes until smooth.
CACAO, BANANA & AVOCADO SMOOTHIE
– 1/2 a cup of almond milk – 1 really ripe banana – 1/2 an avocado – 4 medjool dates – 2 teaspoons of cacao powder – 1 teaspoon of manuka honey – 1 teaspoon of almond butter – a few ice cubes
Obviously, as with everything it is possible to eat too much chocolate, even in its raw state. Even adding a little cacao into your diet will provide you with copious benefits for your body and mind, plus you can nip those chocolate cravings in the bud!
And if you feel like you want to do even more to treat your body and mind, we have you covered. Why not treat yourself by booking a luxurious massage or buying a deluxe candle? Both will help clear your mind and calm your body.