In the world of health and nutrition, the information changes fast, often as a result of the most recently available study. So now, is raw cacao still good for you or not?
As if our lives are not hard enough trying to keep up with everything, we see new studies being released all the time. This forces us to pay attention to the news and latest findings in health and nutrition if we want to keep our health at its optimum. As if we have the time for researching all day.
We are all experiencing it – constant price increase for almost every food item that we buy for ourselves and our family. Add to that the inflation in all of our other expenses from housing, car/transportation, and education to medical expenses, utilities, debt repayment, and insurance.
If we have to work all the time to pay the bills, who has time to keep up with the latest studies and research findings on each and every food we eat?
Well, although you may not need to keep an eye on all the foods you eat, certainly not vegetables, but you may want to pay some attention to some of the latest studies.
For instance, while grapeseed oil has many benefits and offers a particularly good nutritional balance as well as high-heat tolerance oil for cooking, studies have found that in the last few years, producers who are expected to increase their production by demanding retailers, have decided to use hexane to increase production. Hexane is a chemical additive process that leaves residue chemicals in the oil that is certainly not good for you and your family’s health.
Raw cacao is now under scrutiny as is grapeseed oil, thanks to the distributors:
Raw cacao has been sold for years with the marketing promotion that described raw cacao, or raw chocolate as being a superfood for health and vitality. Although we know the ugly stepsister cocoa (not cacao) is a roasted and processed product filled with chemicals and sold as “hot chocolate”. But most people in the nutrition community have agreed that at the least cacao beans and cacao powder is good for people.
Most nutritionist believe that raw cacao have many benefits including cataracts reducing effects, ability to help improve heart function, alleviating stress, even medicinal benefits. They believe that theobromine naturally found in raw cacao is a mild, non-addictive stimulant that can treat depression and may cause the brain to produce more of a neurotransmitter, and high levels of antioxidants reduce the amount of free radicals in the body.
So far these all sound great. And, we all certainly like the taste of chocolates, and can tolerate knowing that there is sugar and other ingredients (in even dark chocolate) that are not necessarily so good for us.
Latest studies have shown that raw cacao beans (and the cacao powder without additives) is certainly very high in antioxidant flavanoids, sulfur and magnesium and have essential fatty acids that may help against cholesterol and hence lower bad cholesterol.
Well the latest news is that cacao beans, cacao powder and hence chocolate contain chemicals, contaminants, and additives as a result of crop collection practices, handling, distribution, storing, and processing:
All this happens before cacao even gets to a factory that makes chocolates from the cacao. Strange? Yes. Indeed.
Before I mention the unsanitary way that cacao beans are turned into cacao powder to be delivered to chocolate factories, let’s review what anti-chocolate community claims about cacao and chocolate:
- Cacao is one of the most addictive substances known – with psychological effects that range from addictive tendencies, sexual dysfunction, violent outbursts, lack of reasoning, and decreased will power.
- Cacao is super toxic to the liver – there are chemicals within cacao called methylxanthines which are classified as theobromine, caffeine, and theophylline. Together these cause a host of symptoms including abnormal glandular growth, nervousness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, itching, heart and circulatory problems, glandular difficulties, nervous disorders, osteoporosis, birthing abnormalities, stomach problems, nausea, vomiting, and nervous disorders.
- Cacao is extremely clogging due to the toxins carried in the oils contained within. Plus the fat chains are highly complex and not easy to the body before it can be broken down.
- Cacao consumption will agitate kidney and liver functioning in the body.
The above claims are controversial up to this day since there are many researches that suggest raw cacao beans are good for health. Here are the studies about health benefits of cacao beans:
- Promoting cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol.
- Reducing the risk of colon cancer:
- Lowers the risk of diabetes:
- Healthy brain function and improving Alzheimer's disease
- Improve visual, cognitive function and healthy skin [Source: http://www.seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-food/health-benefits-raw-cacao-beans-dark-chocolate.php]
But without even going into more detail on the above claims by researchers, or adding a few of our own to it, it is even more important to mention what happened to the world of cacao beans and cacao powder distribution and production.
Well, just as the hexane was used to extract more oil from grapeseeds, there is a dark side to cacao distribution and production: unsanitary practices of cacao beans and powder:
The “hexane” of cacao and chocolate is that there is limit set by FDA regarding rodent feces and insect parts that is allowable in cacao and chocolate.
Yes, you read this correctly. Rodent feces and insect parts!
According to the author of “Poison With a Capital C”, every time you eat a chocolate bar, it may contain a rodent hair and 16 insect parts. FDA regulation limits such contamination of chocolate powder or cakes and there must not be more than 75 insect fragments in three tablespoons of cacao powder. Animal excreta (such as visible rat droppings) must not exceed 10 milligrams per pound. That is the “hexane” of cacao and chocolate – i.e. they are contaminated with animal feces and hair, insects, and molds.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But, that is the latest on cacao and chocolate:
In the US, the level of hygiene and sanitation is often very high, and that there is little chance of feces, animal hair, and insects in the chocolate that are produced here. However, in Africa and South America, where most of the cacao comes from, we are not all that satisfied. Some facilities in those regions have very high standards compared to U.S. and even higher in some plants since their livelihoods depend on the export of the crop. But unfortunately that is not true for all. Cacao beans are often stored in storage factories for months and they are exposed to mold and rodents. Then they are shipped to U.S. and are put on a conveyor belt on its way to become chocolate confectionery.
Thanks to WTO (World Trade Organization), a member can export and the legal ‘corrupt’ system they put into place is allowing producers to send their contaminated cacao all over the world. I remember the WTO protesters in Seattle, Washington claiming that WTO will make things worse. Now it seems that the claim was not totally unfounded.
I suggest that you research the above claims in more detail for yourself. Only you can decide what to eat, if you choose to eat it. Our desire is to bring you as much relevant information as we can. But we are a blog site. You can however decide to do your own research and find out more about the above claims on your own.
Conduct your own research, watch expert discussions/claims on YouTube and YOU make the decision. One thing is clear for sure: chocolate may not be as good as so many of us wish, and had hoped, it was. Not necessarily because of cacao itself, but they way it’s being produced and distributed. When eaten in moderation however, it doesn't seem to be causing too much harm either. You decide.