Excuse Buster: Health benefits of raw, natural cacao

PHUKET: “Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate, particularly with a cocoa content of at least 70%, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet function,” commented Frank Ruschitzka, professor of cardiology and Director of Heart Failure/Transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland.

Who doesn’t love consuming chocolate in one form or another? However, one question I often hear regarding this subject is: “Is chocolate healthy?” In my opinion, it absolutely can be if it’s the right type.

I know there are people who say everything is okay in moderation but I am not in this camp. Some foods, in my opinion, should not be regularly consumed if your aim is to be healthy.

Highly processed foods with high fructose corn syrup (such as soft drinks and most candies) and hydrogenated fats like deep fried foods, offer no nutrition and can actually steal key nutrients from your body to process them.

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That’s my definition of a food by the way. If it gives more than it takes, it’s a food, but if it robs you of nutrients and energy, then it’s a non-food. Sadly, there are lots of non-foods regularly disguised as real food today.

If it’s clear that 100 per cent natural cacao has many health benefits, then why isn’t all chocolate good for us?

Obviously it’s because of what is added, which in the case of commercial, cheaper products is refined sugar, artificial additives and bad fats.

My suggestion is to either buy dark chocolate that is at least 70 per cent chocolate or even better, make your own. Before you panic or dismiss the idea as requiring too much preparation and work, hear me out.

Here are some simple and rewarding ideas for making your own chocolate.

Combine raw cacao with butter (and/or coconut oil) and a better (more natural) sugar like erirthtol, xylitol, stevia or raw honey.

Adding natural vanilla yogurt or coconut milk to the base can also make it more milky.
Additionally, ground macadamia nuts blended with the base can also give it a white chocolate look.

Other additives could include crushed nuts like almonds, dried fruit like cranberries, gogi berries or orange, chilli (if you like spice) or natural sea salt, maca root (which is full of minerals), fresh mint or other herbs like ginger, coffee and bee pollen.

Below is an example, but you may adjust the measurements based on your preferences.

1. Take 100 grams of (melted) real butter like Anchor or Kerry gold.
2. Add 2-4 tablespoons of raw, 100 per cent cacao powder.
3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of erthyritol, xylitol or raw honey (I bought these on iherb.com).
4. Add 2-4 tablespoons of natural vanilla yogurt (or any other natural yogurt, depending on your preferences).

Put the mixture in molds and refrigerate if you wish. It really is that simple to make and the kids (both young and old) will love these healthy versions.

Craig Burton is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) with a Bachelor of Science degree (Sports Science) and a National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES) certification.

— Craig Burton

Thai Life

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