I have now found many uses for my cacao(chocolate!) beans!! AND many reasons why it’s great to eat them!
What are cacao beans?
I found the following picture on Facebook that shows the Cacao Bean and the various forms it comes in – it helped me work out what I need when I experiment with making chocolate!!!
Picture above: My Cacao Beans in my Thermomix – ready to be milled for a recipe.
- Cacao beans are small, quite bitter (if you eat them ‘raw’), and brown in colour.
- It is a seed of the fruit of a tree in the Amazon jungles!
- The natives used cacao as a medicine – it was used to build strength, help digestion, decrease fatigue, anaemia, and fevers.
- Nearly all of the world’s cacao trees are grown on small family farms because cacao farming is labour-intensive and time-consuming (Source: Harcourt-Cooze, Willie 2010 “Willie’s Chocolate Bible” Hodder & Stoughtom Great Britain)
- The word ‘cacao’ actually means ‘cocoa’. Apparently the Brittish found it difficult to pronounce the word ‘cacao’ – or ‘ka-cow’ – so it’s been ‘cocoa’ to us all ever since!
- So cacao is chocolate! ” All the antioxidant value, mineral benefits, neurotransmitter rejuvenating properties, and overall health-giving qualities of chocolate are found in Cacao Beans! ” (Source: here)
- Theobroma cacao, which literally means “Cacao, the food of the gods.”
- Cacao is actually one of the great weight loss foods because it contains the minerals and molecules that shut off the appetite.
- It is one of nature’s most fantastic superfoods due to its mineral content and other varied properties.
- Recent research shows that dark chocolate stimulates feel-good endorphins, contains flavonoids (a powerful antioxidant), serotonin (which acts as an anti-depressant), and may be beneficial to blood circulation and helpful in lowering blood pressure. (Source: Harcourt-Cooze, Willie 2010 “Willie’s Chocolate Bible” Hodder & Stoughtom Great Britain)
- I originally bought the cacao beans because I’d been reading about their health benefits.
Health Benefits of Cacao Beans?
Cacao beans are JAM PACKED with nutrients, and I’m keen to include them somehow in my daily diet.
“Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Source: Medline:Plus Do you know what other diseases are caused by free-radicals?
They are powerful ANTI-OXIDENTS: more antioxidants than any other food! (Sources here and here)
Some of the degenerative conditions caused by free radicals include:
- Deterioration of the eye lens, which contributes to blindness.
- Inflammation of the joints (arthritis).
- Damage to nerve cells in the brain, which contributes to conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Acceleration of the ageing process.
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease, since free radicals encourage low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to adhere to artery walls.
- Certain cancers, triggered by damaged cell DNA. (Source: here)
The list is not to scare you! but to make us realise that we need lots of anti-oxidents in our diet. Getting food sources of anti-oxidents is so important. Some studies suggest that antioxidants are less effective when isolated from food and presented in tablet form. Another source states that “research indicates that simply taking antioxidant supplements is not the best way to go about getting what your body needs. In fact, it’s possible that some of these supplements could be harmful. Fortunately, research is also increasingly showing that you can reap the potential health benefits of antioxidant intake by eating a diet rich in antioxidant-containing foods”.
Great sources of anti-oxidents are blueberries, blackberries, green tea, coffee, red wine, spinach, pistachios, almonds, And for dessert — Don’t forget that a piece of dark chocolate ranks as high or higher than most fruits and vegetables in terms of antioxidant content (Source here). Notice they are mostly dark foods!
Now back to cacao beans (a nice dark food!), apparently they contain more anti-oxidents than ANY OTHER FOOD (Sources here and here).
“Now blueberries are quite dark too, and they’re often thought of as being fantastic for our skin [and a great source of anti-oxidents] . But while blueberries contain 32 antioxidants, and wild blueberries contain 61 antioxidants, cacao beans contain an unbelievable 621 anti-oxidants!!! That is an insanely high amount”. (Sources here and here) This is because the antioxidants are so concentrated – antioxidants known as polpyphenols make up more than 10 percent of the weight of dry raw cocoa beans.
They contain an amazing amount of CHROMIUM, more than ANY other food! (Source here)
The top five chromium health benefits are: 1. Monitors the blood sugar 2. Aids metabolism 3. Reduces food cravings 4. Regulates fat and cholesterol 5. Prevents hypertension (Source: here)
and chromium aids in weightloss (because it helps metabolism and reduces food cravings) (source: here).
They are a great source of MAGNESIUM, and again, the beans contain more magnesium than ANY OTHER FOOD!! (Sources here and here)
“Magnesium: Cacao seems to be the 1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is one of the great alkaline minerals. It helps to support the heart, brain, and digestive system (it fights constipation). Magnesium is also important for building strong bones. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during the monthly cycle. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and is associated with more happiness. Magnesium is the most deficient major mineral on the Standard American Diet (SAD); over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in Magnesium! Cacao has enough magnesium to help reverse these deficiencies.” (Source)
Magnesium deficiency — here are just a few: anxiety, asthma, bowel problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, food cravings (chocolate is high in Mg!), headaches (including migraines), heart disease, hyperactivity, infertility, menstrual cramps, mitral valve prolapse, muscle cramps and/or tics, osteoporosis, tremors, wheezing and the list goes on and on… (Source) I’ve also read about how magnesium deficiency is linked to experiencing morning sickness whilst pregnant (Source).
The is a lot more detailed information in the book “The Magnesium Miracle” and see here for more information on weaning off of anti-depressants and the importance of magnesium.
They contain high levels of Vitamin C.
I’d rather get some raw cacao beans into my diet rather than a little pill containing all of the above!
NOTE: The chocolate we eat usually contains no more than 5 to 10% cacao, the rest is fat and sugar and other additives. Today’s chocolate, according to Willie, has been “diluted and polluted”, has almost nil health benefits. So my recipes will be containing cacao beans in their raw state as well as other healthy whole ingredients.
I found a recipe that uses cacao beans and some other amazingly healthy ingredients AND tastes yummy.
I have cut it into bite sized pieces (like chocolate) and the kids LOVE them, I love them, and we can have one a day like a tablet – because it’s so full of goodness.
I have modified a recipe that I found in a book Rawlicious – Raw Food recipes for everyday! by Thermomix (you can find the book here).
I’ve called them…
Sweet Cacao Bean Bites
What you need / INGREDIENTS
55g Cacao Beans (peeled or unpeeled – I used unpeeled)
75g Chia Seeds (these are called ‘nature’s complete superfood’ – they contain more Omega 3 and Dietary Fibre than any other food from nature)
75g mixture of whatever nuts/seeds you have in your pantry (I used sunflower kernels and almonds)
50g Pistachio Kernels
60g Raw Honey
Pinch of Sea Salt
(I then added a few drops of Peppermint Oil – I LOVED it – but the kids weren’t so keen, so I made it ‘plain’ next time)
1. Mill the Cacao Beans –
(Thermomix: Mill for 20 seconds on Speed 10)
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Blend until well combined
(Thermomix: 40 seconds on Speed 7)
4. Press into a container on some baking paper (or a baking sheet) and refrigerate until you want to eat it!
5. Peel off baking paper and cut into small ‘chocolate piece’ sizes.
6. Store in the fridge.
Method Summary… in pictures…
PS I bought my Cacao Beans from Loving Earth – $12.50 for 250g – at the moment, Loving Earth have FREE shipping on orders over $50!