“Western culture has fallen in love with this most amazing substance. Yet, for most of us, it has been a blind date all along. After all, what is chocolate? Where does it come from? The key to chocolate’s super qualities seems to be eating it in its raw, natural state as a cacao bean! When cacao beans are excessively heated, melted, processed, chemicalised and added to dairy products, they lose key nutrient qualities of texture, psychoactive properties, brain nutrition and more. Other properties of the cacao bean are still present yet diminished by cooking, such as dark chocolate flavours, antioxidants, aphrodisiac qualities, mood elevation and others.” - David Wolfe
Some key nutrients of Cacao explained
Magnesium is important for muscle relaxation, the body's detoxification and acid removal. It lowers pain sensitivity, calms the nerves and is also helpful in menstrual cramps due to its muscle-relaxing effect. It promotes a healthy development of bones & teeth. Magnesium activates enzymes that help nerve cells to mobilize stored energies. It raises brain function, which is perceived as increased focus and mental clarity. As a basic mineral, it opens more than 300 detoxification processes. The concentration of magnesium is 18x higher in the heart than in the bloodstream. Magnesium and antioxidants act directly on the heart, so that chocolate opens the heart can be seen as a fact.
Antioxidants - Flavonoids
Raw cacao contains more antioxidants than any other plant. Antioxidants improve cardiac function and lower blood pressure. They purify the body of so-called "free radicals", highly reactive oxygen compounds (hence the name antioxidants), which are associated with cell aging and a number of serious diseases such as cancer. Flavonoids are antioxidants which are particularly present in cacao. They bind the free radicals, thus protecting the cell walls from becoming “porous". Antioxidants are therefore attributed to a rejuvenating effect. In addition, antioxidants purify the blood vessels. The arteries become more flexible & the blood thinner, which reduces blood pressure. Superfoods with high levels of antioxidants, such as cacao, potentiate the effects of super-herbs such as medicinal mushrooms (reishi, cordyceps, chaga) as well as cat's claw, pao d'arco and others. Cacao also potentiates spirulina, chlorella & the blue-green algae.
Serotonin, often called the "happiness hormone" is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the human brain and can be found in cacao. In addition, cacao also contains substances that are necessary for the body's own production or stimulation of serotonin such as tryptophan. Serotonin forms our natural stress-shield.
Theobromine & Caffeine
Theobromine is a caffeine-like molecule, which is contained in cacao in high concentration and strongly acts on the cardiovascular system. Theobromine is one of the substances that physically support the heart-opening effects of cacao. Heart function and blood flow are increased. Theobromine dilates the vessels and relaxes the muscles. Theobromine has also a strong effect on the liver. The stimulant effect is equivalent to about a quarter of the stimulant of caffeine. In contrast to caffeine, it has a milder and longer lasting and also has a mood-enhancing effect. Cacao does contain caffeine, but in a much lower dose.
PEA - The Love Molecule
Phenylethylamine is a neurotransmitter that is naturally released in our body when we are in love. It is found in high concentration in the brain of happy people. Sexual interactions and orgasm are also associated with high PEA levels. PEA causes euphoria. It also helps us to be more attentive and focused. This allows us to enjoy the moment and forget the time. Also, we are less distracted and a feeling of hunger is reduced. PEA is contained in large quantities in cacao - but only in the unroasted, uncooked beans or raw cacao paste. Because it is a very heat-sensitive molecule, it decomposes in the processes that cacao undergoes during chocolate production. PEA is found in two foods only: cacao and the blue-green algae.
Tryptophan - Mood-enhancing amino acid
Tryptophan is a mood-enhancing nutrient and essential for the production of serotonin. It helps in reducing anxiety and stress. Tryptophan is very sensitive to heat, which is why cacao must not be cooked to develop its full effect.
Chromium & Zinc
Other key trace elements found in cacao include chromium, which helps regulate blood sugar, & zinc, which plays an important role in the growth process, insulin storage, protein synthesis, and sperm production. It also strengthens the immune system.
Anandamide - Bliss Chemical
Ananda in Sanskrit describes a sense of perfect and supreme bliss and true and lasting joy. Anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid. Anandamide triggers feelings of happiness, relaxation and joy in us. It is released in our body, especially after physical exercise and is therefore responsible for the euphoria that runners feel after a marathon. Cacao is the only plant in which anandamide has been found so far. In addition, cacao contains substances that prevent the breakdown of anandamide, providing a longer-lasting exhilaration.
Oxytocin is often referred to as the "bonding hormone" because it plays an important role in childbirth and neonatal bonding, but also in all other forms of positive social interaction. It is related to feelings of love, trust and inner peace. Furthermore, oxytocin is also believed to have a sexually stimulating effect.
Monoamine Oxidase (MAO)
Cacao contains substances that inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO are responsible for breaking down a number of neurotransmitters, including: serotonin and dopamine. MAO inhibitors therefore lead to an increase in these messenger substances in the brain. This is often associated with feelings of happiness and positive mood. Man-made MAO inhibitors are often used as antidepressants. Cacao can therefore be seen as a natural mood enhancer. MAO inhibitors are contained in many psychedelically active plants. MAO inhibitors are also able to activate psychedelic substances such as DMT. Some people see psychoactive but not psychedelic properties in cacao. Taking MAO inhibitor in a high concentration may have side effects. Therefore, ceremonial cacao should not be combined with antidepressants or other MAO inhibitor-containing medicinal plants (such as ayahuasca).
If you want to learn more about the nutrients of Cacao,
David Wolfe's book 'Naked Chocolate' is a good read.