by Paul Tarbath
Have you ever eaten raw chocolate/cacao (cocoa)? Many of those who have been in the raw food movement for any length of time will almost certainly at some stage or another, have at least sampled this ‘food of the gods’ or ‘super food’ as it has been called by many.
Indeed, the ancient civilisation known as the Aztecs revered the cacao bean and the chocolate drink they would make from it. With the Spanish conquest of what is now modern day Mexico, chocolate soon made its own conquest by spreading around the globe and is now grown in many different countries including Equador, Brazil, Peru and The Ivory Coast, which is at present the world’s biggest cocoa bean producer.
Raw chocolate is packed full of minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, Zinc and also flavonoids that are supposed to help deal with any damaging free-radicals in our bodies and so help prevent disease. With all these wonderful nutrients and their seemingly great benefits you would think everyone would be jumping up and down extolling the virtues of raw chocolate and the cacao bean … but they are not.
Many people find it hard to understand that a ‘food’ which seems to offer so many health benefits could possibly be called anything like toxic or harmful to the human body. So, how can this be the case? What actually is in the cacao bean and raw chocolate that could possibly do us harm?
In both the raw and roasted state, the cacoa/cocoa bean has an unpleasant taste due to the presence of a number of alkaloids, which include theobromine. This alkaloid is very similar to caffeine and is a known toxin for dogs, cats and other pets. In humans it is not considered to be toxic by mainstream science, but there are many alternative health leaders such as Dr. Dougals Graham, Frederic Patenaude, Jeremy Safron, Dr. Fred Bisci and Victoria Boutenko who openly acknowledge that raw cacao/chocolate is not something they would class as a food, but instead a stimulant.
With chocolate being a stimulant, when it enters your body, it makes your adrenal glands go into what is called the fight or flight mode, and they begin to produce stress hormones. This is because anything that is a stimulant is interpreted by your body as being an invader (toxic substance) and so a threat to its well-being. So your body naturally wants to try and expel this foreign and unwanted/toxic substance as quickly as it can!
Just as with the caffeine found in coffee, after experiencing the so called “high”, your body will eventually hit a low because it would have expended a good deal of energy in its attempt to try and rid itself of this toxic substance. This natural reaction to eating raw chocolate will fatigue your adrenal glands and thus impact negatively on your health. Consuming something like raw chocolate on any kind of regular basis will simply mean continual stress for your body, and as such can never be deemed healthy in any shape or form!
When we both switched to a raw vegan diet, we stopped eating chocolate. Our diet was clean right from the start, low-fat, 80/10/10 and very simple (we didn’t eat the gourmet raw stuff, though we did try it at parties in the beginning 3-4 times, felt awful and decided not to eat gourmet raw food as it made us feel so bad). When we tried raw chocolate about 6 months into our raw journey, we both had headaches and experienced other unpleasant sensations in our bodies. So no, raw chocolate is never a healthy choice to make!
The wonderful balanced state and clarity of mind we now get by eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is something we love, and is in direct opposition to how raw chocolate affects our bodies and makes us feel.
Raw chocolate contains the alkaloid called theobromine, and this is how it can affect your body:
- Theobromine, which is an alkaloid found in cacao does have an impact on the human central nervous system, smaller yet similar to caffeine and also stimulates the heart to a greater degree.(1,2)
- Theobromine has been cited as potentially causing addiction to chocolate (3)
- Theobromine can also cause restlessness, sleeplessness, tremors and anxiety. (4)
So, the health gurus and sellers who want to promote their raw chocolate/cacoa products will tell you it can help you stay healthy, fight off diseases such as cancer, deal with free radicals and do all sorts of amazing things! Well, instead of eating raw cacao or chocolate and paying good money for it, you can instead enjoy eating raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, which contain an abundance of flavonoids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants and without none of the stimulating, unhealthy effects that cacao is known to bring upon the human body.
For those of you who are new to the raw food diet or just fancy that ‘chocolate taste’ then you can use raw carob powder as a great tasting alternative. A safe and non-stimulating substance, it is derived from a fruit and tastes very similar to chocolate. Both Yulia and I used it for a while in our transition and it makes for a great chocolate flavoured, banana smoothie!
What are your thoughts on this? Please share in the comment section!
(1) Joel Hardman & Lee Limbird, ed. (2001). Goodman & Gilman's the pharmacological basis of therapeutics, 10th ed.. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 745.
(2) Howell, L.L., Coffin, V.L., Spealman, R.D. Behavorial and physiological effects of xanthines in nonhuman primates (1997) Psychopharmacology, 129 (1), pp. 1-14.
(3) William Gervase Clarence-Smith (2000). Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765–1914. London: Routledge. pp. 10, 31.
(4) Irwin J. Polk (1997). All about Asthma: Stop Suffering and Start Living. New York: Insight Books. p. 100.