I’m privileged to share this guest post from the lovely Briannan Dean all about the benefits of cacao and a delicious and super-quick recipe!
For the Love of Chocolate: Magical Cacao
“Chocolate truly is food for the heart – it is the heart’s “blood”, due to its magnesium, antioxidants, love chemicals and esoteric properties” ~ Naked Chocolate, David Wolfe and Shazzie, 2005
One of the deep mystical magics of cacao is that it has long been associated with love, sexuality and the heart, and for good reason. The complex chemical and energetic properties of cacao make it beneficial to the heart, induce feelings of love and euphoria, and also act as an aphrodisiac.
The cacao plant originated in South and Central America and was used ritualistically by the Mayans, and later the Aztecs. It was known as the food of the gods and was used as a currency more valuable than gold! Most notably, cacao preparations in the form of drinks were used in marriage rituals in order to induce feelings of love and increase the couples lovemaking potential!
Cacao, and indeed chocolate, owes its reputation as a food of love to the incredible range of feel good chemicals it contains. Cacao is one of the most pharmacologically complex foods on the planet, with over 1200 known chemical constituents. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter, known as the bliss chemical, that induces feelings of love and euphoria and stimulates the pleasure centres of the brain. Cacao is full of the stuff and also contains anandamide inhibitors which ensure that this wonderful bliss chemical hangs around for longer in our bodies. It also contains significant quantities of the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is yet another powerful mood-enhancing nutrient. Chocolate is one of the best natural sources of arginine, an amino acid. Arginine acts in a similar way to Viagra in that it increases blood flow to the penis and amplifies sexual desire! On top of all this sexy stuff (yes, there’s more), chocolate contains and induces the release of dopamine, a feel good chemical which in turn activate hormones that make us feel euphoric, increase our interest in sex, and enhance our pleasure.
In addition to giving us all those good feelings, cacao literally does open the heart at a physiological level, making it a useful ally in the maintenance of a healthy heart. Cacao beans are the richest source of magnesium found in nature, and whilst magnesium is important for a number of functions, its most important function relates to the heart. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrates that eating a few squares of dark chocolate daily increases the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. This makes chocolate effective in lowering some types of high blood pressure, reducing the risk of arteriosclerosis, and improving blood flow. In addition to this, raw cacao has more heart healthy antioxidants in it than red wine or green tea!
As with all healthy foods, the industrial food system has found a way to adulterate cacao. Processed dairy milk chocolate, though delicious, is an entirely different substance from the cacao we have spoken of. The heating and processing, along with the inclusion of lots of sugar, dairy and other additives, mute or destroy much of its therapeutic and nutritional benefit. So, go for the good stuff! Raw cacao, raw chocolate or dark chocolate (at least 70%) are the best ways to go.
Super Quick (and Delicious!) Recipe
Now, for a super quick recipe! This drink is inspired by the ancient Mayan chocolate ‘water’ that was often drunk ceremonially. Typically, Mayan chocolate was spicy, bitter, unsweetened and made with water. This version honours that delicious spice and bitterness, but is sweet and rich too. It is a great one for the colder months as the cayenne is so lovely and warming. Aside from the nutritional brilliance of the cacao, the cinnamon in this drink helps to stabilise blood sugars, the raw honey is full of immune boosting enzymes, the cayenne stimulates the metabolism and warms the body, and the maca increases energy and vitality and improves libido. This drink is a wonderful way to start the day, as it fills you with warmth and energy, increases alertness, and even helps suppress appetite. Yippee!
Note: spices are optional and you can alter to your preferences.
Sensual Spiced Cacao
- 2 cups almond milk*
- 2 heaped teaspoons raw cacao
- half teaspoon cinnamon
- quarter teaspoon nutmeg
- quarter teaspoon organic vanilla extract or powder (or scrape the beans from a pod!)
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
* or other non-dairy milk. Dairy is best avoided for this recipe as it will inhibit the absorption of a ! number of nutrients, antioxidants and feel good chemicals.
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. It is important not to let the mixture heat too much or boil as this will reduce the antioxidant activity of the cacao. Whisk the ingredients constantly to incorporate the cacao while the mixture warms through.
Et voila! Serve warm, drink, and let the love flow.
Light and love,
Briannan is a health coach certified with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, New York. She is a writer, speaker, mother, foodie and passionate lover of all things wellness, and specialises in the mind body connection.
For any enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.