Chocolate: Food of the Gods
Cocoa – Not your ordinary chocolate … or maybe it is.
Chocolate, Cocoa, Cacao, Raw Choco – It is all referring to and sourced from, the Theobroma cacao plant.
What’s that you say?? Greek gods, can you help a gal out?
Theo = God; Broma = Food. Literally ‘Food of the Gods’. Blessed Cacao! It’s our saving grace.
What most of us know as chocolate, in our modern day, is a tragedy to its name. Sugar syrup eggs, Kinder-surprise, Brand name nut bars and maybe, just maybe, the baker’s chocolate in the back of mum’s cupboard that no one really likes. All but the last example are sweet solidified sugar & milk with a sprinkle of chocolate woven in for colour.
Ultimately the chocolate flavour that we all know and love, striving to be found, does make its way to out to dance with our tastebuds.
That flavour, is the bitter deliciousness of cacao that comes from the seed of the fruit of the tree.
Does my Kinder-Surprise count as my fruit & seed intake? Nice try, but no.
But, maybe a square of dark chocolate could.
Let’s start with definitions:
Coco-nut – completely different altogether. Come back another day for that discussion.
Cacao – The common name for the tree that makes the Cacao fruit, as well as the fresh fruit that contains the bean.
Cacao juice – Made from the white pulp of the fruit – sweet & similar consistency to coconut water.
Cocoa – Dried & processed Cacao bean – usually found as powder, with the butter removed.
So, We know where Cocoa comes from, what about Chocolate?
Cocoa Butter - The naturally occurring fat in the Cacao bean. It can be separated from the bean with high pressure.
Cocoa Liquor – Not alcohol. The paste from fermented, dried & roasted Cacao beans; includes bothcocoa and its butter. (Fermenting creates the delicious bitter flavour)
Chocolate - Hardened Cocoa liquor with varying amounts of sugar & milk solids, sometimes adding more cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
All that hullaballo about people eating chocolate being healthier is all over the internet: The Huff post version, and the Medscape summary, can give you some research-based support for your chocolate consumption.
We’ve heard about the sugary deviousness, We’ve heard about the caffeine, but do you know about the…
a constituent similar to caffeine, but a little more subtle. It affects the heart more than the nerves, and is less addictive.
- It is a dimethyl xanthine: bronchodilator, vasodilator, diuretic & CNS and cardiovascular stimulant.
Translation – opens your airways, let’s your blood flow freely, let’s your water run through you, and has a mild & lasting mood lifting effect. Who wouldn’t call this Food of the Gods?
- It is also a non-selective phosophodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor – reduces inflammation and decreases hypersensitive immune reactions.
- When isolated from Cacao or synthesized, methylxanthines, and theobromine specifically, have been used to stimulate the heart rate, decrease hypertension, treat asthma, cardiac failure, angina pectoris and cause diuresis.
& The PhenEthylAmine (PEA)?
We use PEA in our brains and bodies to feel good. The good that comes with sweet sweet love.
PEA stimulates the nervous system to release opiate like substances; endorphins like Norephinephrine & Dopamine (these assist us and increase when excited, aroused, motivated, energetic and feeling lovey).
Cocoa doesn’t have the highest amounts of PEA compared to other food (in fact, it’s the microbial fermentation that makes it and smoked meats and cheese have the highest concentrations, mmm those make me happy too), and it breaks down pretty quickly in digestion, but in that time, it does cause an increase in the feel good neurotransmitters above.
If that’s not enough – there’s also the butter.
a saturated/unsaturated fat. About 2/3 of its fat content is saturated, and 1/3 is unsaturated. Both of which are necessary in our bodies for vitamin and hormone production, as well as healthy skin. Don’t be so hard on the sat fat. Our bodies crave it, need it, love it. It satiates us, so that we don’t need to go searching for more.
Our biggest problem is ourselves – a true sign of our body’s health lies in our mind.
“If a little is good, a lot must be better”
– No, that’s not how it works.
- Chock-full of Vitamin E – important for fertility, stamina, digestion, & cell turnover.
- It is high in antioxidants and polyphenols – Technically these quench free radicals. What this means in the big picture of health, we don’t know for sure yet – a sort of checks & balances for the systems as it works, the chimney sweep, the ball boy, the robo-vacuum. We think this is a good thing, for now.
- A beautiful blend of minerals – Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium & Calcium (in order concentration). Chocolate cravings can surface when our bodies require more of one of these minerals.
- Another reason that we feel blissful when consuming Chocolate with its butter is Anandamide(quite literally – from Sanskrit – bliss-amide) chemically known as N-Arachadonoylethanolamine.
Chocolate is the only food substance we know of that can create this specific chemical – Anandamide
– which locks into certain Cannabinoid Receptors (often solely associated with the all-too-controversial Cannabis). There are 3 places to find it – We make it naturally in our own brains. Cannabis Sativa leaves make THC that can fit the same brain receptors, and the Cocoa Plant makes it from the fats within. It breaks down quickly, but possibly sticks around just long enough to remind us that life is good. Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter, and you need the cocoa butter to feel it. Cocoa powder won’t do it.
Beyond constituents, there's the beauty of Chocolate (not including the added sugars & milk):
Texture – dry, but smooth. velvety, even.
Colour – dark brown seems sassy, yet soft.
Smell – clean, earthy, bitter, sweet.
AND It melts at body temperature – oh heavenly.
It’s no wonder that our civilization’s history with chocolate is torn between pleasure, sanctity and taboo.
Now, can you see? Chocolate is so much more than a boxed gift – it is a nutrient-rich experience, that connects you to your senses and your body. Play with your chocolate. Roll it around in your mouth, search for the bittersweet flavour, lay back and enjoy the sensory & satiety experience. You might find that all you need is a small piece.
Chocolate purists, get into your bean! The liquor is where it’s at. Dark, Bitter flavour & Fat.
And let’s be clear, once it is ready to bear fruit, ONE tree will produce only FIVE TWO pounds of chocolate, a YEAR. (Internet sourced from All Chocolate dot com)
It is a valuable resource – treat it that way.
If you are going to buy Cacao, Cocoa, Chocolate, I’d recommend:
These folk – from Denman Island, friends and good people, good business ethics, good chocolatier-ing.
These folk – Just south of the border, are an organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate factory, and they understand the reverence for chocolate.
These folk – From Amsterdam, the chocolatiers take it to another level. They create only 4 different bars, using only heritage beans AND for every bar that is purchased, a cacao tree is planted. Hows that for full circle?
& If you want to blow your mind on the nuances of roast vs conch time and varieties across the world and that all affects what your taste, (ie; there’s more to it than Dark vs Milk Chocolate) check out these folk, here in Vancouver.