All the purported health benefits of chocolate are circumstantial. The little known fact that most Australian or American chocolate would not legally allowed to be labelled as chocolate in Europe is one such circumstance. Refined sugar is bad for us, there is no need to harp on about that. So naturally it follows that chocolate with refined sugar is not going to be healthy. Milk solids inhibit the absorption of nutrients and antioxidants. So chocolate with any milk solids, low fat or otherwise, is not going to be balancing. Hydrogenated fats are bad, so chocolate made with hydrogenated vegetable fat is bad. But there are alternatives. We have learnt about good fats and good sugars. We are yet to learn about raw foods and the benefits of such a diet.
The ultimate sin, or redemption? Chocolate!
Let’s look at exactly what ‘raw chocolate’ is and why certain brands of chocolate are making Melbourne swoon.
“Raw chocolate is a simple yet revolutionary approach to chocolate. It contains no sugar or dairy and is suitable for vegans, it is essentially uncooked, unprocessed chocolate in its pure rich essential form sweetened with agave syrup (a natural low GI sweetener). It is a wickedly decadent healthy treat. The cacao is never heated above 45ºC from the time it is picked from the tree to its final state in the chocolate bar and this means that its wealth of phytonutrients are fully intact. Raw chocolate has been tested to have up to 4 times the antioxidants of conventionally processed chocolate.”(Source: Loving Earth – www.raw-chocolate.net)
Loving Earth bases its philosophy on the concept of the earth as a living organism. James Lovelock popularised this belief with his “Gaia theory”, already the basis of many indigenous cultures. Paradoxically to our modern society, they cherish life in all its forms, demand respect of the earth and environment as well as love for our own bodies, as part of the world. Food, like life, should be consumed in its simplest and purest forms. Our society has converted the concept of ‘pure’ to sterile, white, processed foods and living. We extract from food sources and life itself, only the essence of what we want. In doing so we irreversibly alter it, distorting what it once was.
Raw products are sourced for Loving Earth chocolate bars in harmony both with these concepts and the communities from which they come. They work directly with the indigenous growers, with an aim to both aid those communities as well as educate us as end consumers of the environmental, social and cultural context in which the products are produced. The go beyond ‘Fair Trade’ systems to empower the communities from which they source. Health – Sustainability – Fairness are the triumvirate of their ethics and business model.
You can tell that I really admire what is being done for chocolate. There are many producers who still do good by the environment and their consumers. Chocolate should be about trust, not guilt. Chocolate should be consumed daily in my universe, if desire. Chocolate is my healing, healthful, balancing food. It should never exclude, by being limited to using dairy, gluten products, refined sugar, additives or heaven forbid, colouring!
Why do I advocate chocolate so… the science. Made from plants as we so often forget, it has the health benefits of dark vegetables: flavanoids, which act as antioxidants and prevent free radical damage with eight times those of strawberries and more than green tea. Flavanoids also relax blood pressure through nitric oxide and they balance certain hormones. Chocolate acts to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10%. The fats in chocolate are mostly oleic acids and stearic acid, similar to olive and coconut oil. The terrific taste is partly a symptom of endorphin production stimulation and serotonin which reduces any depressing feelings. The theobromine and caffeine, in conjunction with other ‘drugs’, gives us a boost of energy.
Chocolate consumption leads to lower cholesterol, aids the free radical war, makes us feel good while we get a much needed energy and brain boost in the mid afternoon, or evening, or at seven in the morning. If you don’t like the taste of the first Dark chocolate you try, then try and try again. Seriously, fork out a little more cash and try a better quality. It should be silk, smooth and not (too) bitter. For the greatest chocolate experience and to truly get the most out of your daily treat follow the ‘chocolate tasting method’ out lined at longevity.
BBC News, article on the benefits of dark over milk chocolate and the inhibition of antioxidant absorption when milk is consumed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3185363.stm
Longevity’s chocolate tasting method. at http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/ht/taste_chocolate.htm
‘The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate’ George Nemecz, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Campbell University School of Pharmacy, Buies Creek, North Carolina at http://www.uspharmacist.com/index.asp?show=article&page=8_1210.htm