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Volume 13 Issue 5
March/April 2008

What's the Scoop on Chocolate?

Late-breaking Natural Health News!


Living "Green" Both Inside and Out

Ion Cleansing: The New Trend in Detox

Now is the Time to Awaken Your Powers & Heal the Earth

For the Love of Horses


Paulette MillisWhat's the Scoop on Chocolate?
by Paulette Millis

Cacao beans are the seed of a fruit tree grown in regions in South America, Africa, and Malaysia. This tree, Theobroma cacao, means "the food of the Gods". It is said that the cacao beans were so valuable they were used by the Mayans and Aztecs for money, i.e. three beans for one fish, one bean for an avocado.

The trees are diminutive and grow wonderfully in a rainforest, counteracting global warming, as well as providing the habitat for monkeys and many other flora and fauna. The increasing demand for chocolate is causing farmers to remove the forest trees to allow the cacao trees full sunlight, as this, along with chemicals, increases pod production for a time. This practice not only wrecks havoc with the forest but eventually causes loss of the cacao trees themselves as they have a life span of ten years less than the forest trees.

Cacao is pronounced "ka-COW", and cacao and cocoa both refer to the cacao bean before the beans are fermented and dried. It is actually a NUT (seed of a fruit) but commonly called a bean. The chocolate is processed from the cocoa bean. Dried cocoa beans are called "cocoa nibs".

Raw cocoa beans contain over three hundred chemically identifiable compounds, making cocoa one of the most complex substances on earth.

ABC News reported in 2005 that the average American consumes 11.5 pounds of chocolate a year, mostly chocolate bars and chocolate candy, the content of which is predominantly sugar and fat. Imagine! Most people have NEVER tasted raw chocolate!

Pods are harvested from the cacao tree when perfectly ripe and the beans (about 45 per pod) are removed. These beans are then covered with banana leaves and left to ferment for five days until they develop an enhanced chocolate flavour. They are then dried in the sun before shipping to buyers and processors.
A fatty substance called cocoa butter comes from the fruit of the cacao tree, although there is also a small amount inside the bean itself. This butter is removed from the bean by pressing, and it is often used in making chocolate. The best dark brown colour and chocolate flavour and the greatest health benefits are from the bean, not the butter.


In the recent past, we have been hearing about the health benefits of chocolate. Raw cacao contains a variety of unique properties. Cooking destroys or corrupts many of these. Some benefits of good quality raw chocolate are:

  1. Lowered blood pressure - The Journal of the American Medical Association states dark chocolate can be helpful if you have reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure.
  2. Dark chocolate, NOT milk chocolate, is beneficial in moderation, says Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition. "Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate and may negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate." Studies show a drop in blood pressure when chocolate is consumed daily AND by not eating other similar foods to balance the 480 calories, or by ingesting milk.
  3. Most scientific studies based on raw chocolate not subjected to high heat or chemicals show twice the antioxidants of red wine and three times the antioxidants of green tea.
  4. Fresh cocoa beans are rich in bioflavonoids, called flavanols, useful in oxidizing fatty substances in the bloodstream without the negative side effects of aspirin and other blood thinners. However, the concentration of the flavanols in any chocolate depends on the flavanol content of the cocoa plant it is derived from and the procedures used to transform the cocoa into chocolate.
  5. Cacao contains the amino acid tryptophan, involved in producing the neurotransmitter serotonin, so important for feeling good. Phenylethylamine (PEA - promotes mental alertness), and dopamine are other amino acids in chocolate.
  6. Anandamide is a fat found in cocoa in significant quantities to effect the brain. It is known as the "bliss chemical" because it is released when we are feeling good, similar to the effect of marijuana. It acts on certain groups of brain cells, not the whole brain, and the bliss feelings are much less intense, although this is one of the reasons chocolate can become addictive.
  7. ORAC is a term given to a test for the level of antioxidants in a food. If a food has a high ORAC score, it means it is helpful in eliminating free radicals from the body, a cause of aging and disease. Unprocessed raw cacao is said to have an extremely high ORAC value-28,000-compared to many other healthy foods such as blueberries, 2,400, kale 1,770, and red grapes 739. Dark chocolate comes in at 13,120 and milk chocolate at 6,740.
  8. Raw cacao contains many other nutrients, namely magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, manganese, and some B vitamins. Dr. Bernard Jensen states the heart requires two minerals more than others-magnesium and potassium, and organic dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium. Did you know chocolate cravings are a sign of magnesium deficiency?
  9. The Journal of Hypertension, August, 2005, states that dark chocolate causes an increased sensitivity to insulin, which means a positive effect against diabetes and a drop in LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
  10. Tradition has it that chocolate is a symbol of love, and has often been called an aphrodisiac. It could be that chocolate is a "food for the heart" due to the magnesium content. It may also be due to the belief that chocolate may help with erectile dysfunction by increasing healthy blood flow, as one research study discovered that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) is a critical component in healthy blood flow and blood pressure control.


One experiment done with ground roasted cocoa beans and boiling water showed excitement of the nervous system and an accelerated pulse similar to black coffee, but the same experiment with unroasted cocoa beans did neither.

Hot chocolate usually contains about 5% of the caffeine found in a cup of regular perked coffee. High quality organic cocoa powder that has the outer membrane removed from the bean will contain almost no caffeine. While coffee may contain up to 200 milligrams of caffeine, and tea between 25-100 milligrams, a cup of cocoa beverage may contain no caffeine, depending on the quality of the beans, or up to 25 milligrams a cup.


The US Food and Drug Administration states manufactured cocoa and chocolate products have one of the highest lead concentrations reported for all food items, a concern for young children particularly.

A serious concern is the high sugar content in most chocolate, as this increases many health risks. As well, it increases our need for chromium, a mineral that is needed for balancing blood sugar, and depleted in our foods due to soil conditions. Remember when buying good quality chocolate bars that they do contain sugar.

It is clear that anything other than pure raw chocolate, sweetened with agave or stevia, may be considered a junk food. Second choice would be the organic dark chocolate with 70% cacao solids, a sinful, rare treat.

Dr. Joseph Mercola states that chocoholics suffer greater anxiety, guilt, restlessness, frustration, and depression when exposed to chocolate than non-chocoholics. Sounds similar to drug addiction or alcoholism, does it not?

In a study done by biochemist Vivette Glover with twenty heavy migraine sufferers, twelve were given real chocolate and eight were given a carob placebo made to taste identical to the chocolate. Within twenty-four hours five of the chocolate eaters experienced pounding migraine headaches while the carob eaters experienced no symptoms. Ms. Glover suspects catechin, also present in red wine, and theobromine, a biochemical cousin to caffeine in coffee, although they have not as yet been isolated. (James F. Scheer, Health Freedom News).


  1. If you do eat chocolate, eat only Dark chocolate, and preferably raw chocolate. Purchase the cacao nibs and make your own treats, using the recipes below.
  2. Do not consume milk with your chocolate as it renders the anti-oxidants less useful.
  3. If you are unhealthy in any way, do not eat any chocolate that is made with sugar, as sugar definitely lowers your immunity.
  4. Consume chocolate in moderation and only as a special treat. Replace unhealthy food choices such as ice cream, chips, or other junk foods with chocolate, rather than eating chocolate in place of nutrient-dense foods.

We all like to justify our self indulgence of our sometimes "addiction" to chocolate but the truth is, the health benefits are derived from the raw, dark, unprocessed chocolate only.


Search for sources of organic dark raw cacao nibs. As mentioned above, the high quality cacao from organic beans is ground without the membrane, and low caffeine, or free of it.

Similarly, look for raw dark cacao powder, as it has not been fermented, roasted, or processed with high heat, or treated with alkalis.

Look for dark chocolate baking squares made from cacao beans that are blanched, sun-dried, non-roasted, and cold-pressed, as they contain significantly more anti-oxidants than the regular baking chocolate.

Most chocolate candy is made from beans subjected to high heat, treated with alkalis or other chemicals, and contains various additives such as hydrogenated oils, animal fats, corn syrup, refined sugar, dairy products, and chemical preservatives. Read all labels; notice that sugar is often the first ingredient. One article stated that we should call these products "Chocolate-flavoured Sugar!"

"Dutching process" means chocolate makers treat cocoa powder with alkaline salts to reduce the bitter taste. This destroys some of the flavanols. Avoid those chocolate products with "Dutch process", "alkali added", or "European style" on the label. Look for natural, unsweetened, raw cocoa powder for greatest health benefits.

Milk chocolate contains added milk solids and milk fats.

White chocolate contains NO cocoa at all, but has a high content of fat from cocoa butter and milk fat, in addition to sugar and other ingredients. One source suggested we call white chocolate "Cocoa Butter Candy".

If a product is "made from" organic raw cacao nibs or beans, the health benefits depend on the processing method used, and the addition of milk products and other ingredients.

Sprinkle raw cacao nibs on whipped cream, ice cream, puddings, and other desserts for chocolate flavour. These look like crushed coffee beans and taste like unsweetened chocolate. Try the "ice cream smoothie" in the recipe section below, using these raw nibs.

Make healthy hot chocolate and cold chocolate drinks with organic dark raw cocoa powder and agave syrup.
Make a homemade healthy chocolate syrup using organic cocoa powder and organic virgin coconut oil to make healthy brownies, cakes, and cookies.

To substitute unsweetened baking chocolate with healthy cocoa powder: 3 tbsp cocoa and 1 tbsp coconut oil for 1 ounce of baking chocolate.

Raw cacao nibs, whole beans, cocoa powder, and other chocolate treats are available from www.realrawfood.com and other websites. (see references below)

Healthier brands of ready-made chocolate are Denman Island (www.denmanislandchocolate.com), Devine (www.devinechocolate.com), and Cocoa Camino (www.cocoacamino.com).

Healthiest kinds of chocolate are: raw, organic, unprocessed, unadulterated, unheated cacao beans or nibs; organic unroasted cocoa powder NOT treated with alkalis; and organic dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids and the least sugar and other additives.



300 grams organic dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup organic brown rice krispies

Melt chocolate over low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well coated. Spread on a greased cookie sheet and place in the freezer to set. Keep in a closed container in the freezer.

Optional: 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 cup hemp seeds in place of nuts or other seeds, or try different varieties of nuts. I like cashews, hazelnuts, and hemp seeds.


1/2 avocado
1/2 scoop whey powder (if diet allows dairy)
and/or 2 tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (grind in coffee grinder before using)
1-1/2 tbsp agave syrup
A handful of dried mint leaves
1/2 cup pure water
1/4 tsp guar gum

Blend until smooth and thick. Add ice cubes and blend to desired consistency. Add a few more raw cacao nibs before serving.

—Adapted from Superfood Smoothies, Mike Adams

RAW CHOCOLATE (1 serving)

3 tbsp raw cacao nibs
1 tbsp coconut butter
1 tbsp agave nectar (or unheated honey)

Grind cacao into fine powder using coffee grinder. Using a fork (or blender) mix the cacao powder with butter and agave sweetener.

—From The Live Food Factor, Susan Schenck


This is the raw version of Reese's peanut butter cups. Take mini cupcake holders and make a layer of the above raw chocolate on the bottom. Top with a layer of organic peanut butter or almond butter. Freeze and serve from the freezer.

—Adapted from The Live Food Factor, Susan Schenck


Make the above recipe for raw chocolate and make 7-8 times the amount.

In a food processor, blend:
3 cups shredded dehydrated coconut
1/3 cup raw honey or agave nectar
1 tsp peppermint or mint extract

Spread thin the layer of coconut mixture for the peppermint part on the bottom of a container, topping it with a thin layer of chocolate. Freeze for several hours. Serves 10.

—From The Live Food Factor, Susan Schenck


2 whole Asian pears
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
(ground in coffee grinder)
1 tbsp protein powder
(whey, or Naturade Soy Free Veg)
1 tbsp agave syrup
3 cups pure water

Optional: for extra chocolate taste, add 3 tbsps cacao powder to the mix.

Combine ingredients in blender and blend to desired consistency. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water for a very cold drink.

—Adapted from Superfood Smoothies, Mike Adams


4 squares bittersweet baking chocolate (Bernard Callebaut)
500 mg of heavy organic whipping cream
1 cup butter

Bring cream and butter to a boil. Remove from heat after it has fluffed up. Be careful not to burn. Place chocolate in mixture and whip with wire whisk until the mixture emulsifies. Pour into a one-inch deep baking dish and place in the freezer for 5-8 hours.

Remove from freezer and remove slab of chocolate from pan. Place on cutting block and cut to desired size. Hold a piece in your hand to soften and melt slightly and roll in desired coating. Try organic coconut shreds, or finely chopped nuts. Package to store in the freezer for up to two months.

Optional: add orange, vanilla, or mint flavourings if desired at time of whipping.

—Thanks to Christine Devine for this recipe. Her chocolates are available at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market or by calling (306) 668-3977.

References: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March, 2005, 81(3): 541-542 (Free Full-Text Article); American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March, 2005, 81(3): 611-614; Alive Magazine, December, 2007; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003, 51:7292-7295; Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001, 20:436-439S, Dr. Joseph Mercola; Chocolate: Food as Medicine/Medicine as Food, Carl L. Keen; Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon; Raw Power: www.ecomaxnutrition.com, 1-800-668-4559; www.realrawfood.com; www.rawfood.com; www.upayanaturals.com, (info@upayanaturals.com); www.livingtreecommunity.com.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis is a speaker, author, and nutritional consultant. To contract her for speaking engagements call (306) 244-8890 in Saskatoon, or email eatingforhealth@sasktel.net. Website: www.healingwithnutrition.ca. Her books, Eat Away Illness and Cook Your Way to Health, are available at health food stores and at McNally Robinson Booksellers.


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