March 16, 2014

Cacao for Health

Drinking Chocolate at Kakawa in Santa Fe, NM
When I think of chocolate, I picture rich and creamy dark chocolate bars from Equatorial climates all over the world. Chocolate makes a great addition to savory dishes as well, such as the mole poblano sauce I enjoyed at Jardin Escondido in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. 

As this precious fermented food becomes more globally available, I remember my grandfather, who only enjoyed chocolate once a year on Christmas day. When I savor cacao, I try to honor its source and all the work required to get it into my kitchen.

Mole Poblano 
Cacao beans, once harvested, fermented, and roasted, are a particularly potent source of healing antioxidants. Georgetown University studies have also shown that flavonols, antioxidants found in chocolate, help lower your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and boost "good" HDL cholesterol. They ease inflammation and help prevent clotting and arterial plaque formation.

Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest level of cocoa flavonols and is the healthiest form of chocolate. Try to buy organic, Fair Trade–certified cocoa powder. Fair Trade certification aims to protect farmers in developing countries from exploitation by large corporations or from price fluctuations for commodity crops. In order to be Fair Trade–certified, companies are required to pay farmers a fair price for crops, enabling farmers to pay their workers a living wage, avoid using child labor and practice environmentally friendly farming methods.

Adding cocoa to savory dishes is a great way to get the benefits of chocolate without all the fat and sugar usually found in sweet chocolate-based treats.
Chocolate Chile Bread

Email lisa[at] for recipes such as: Black Bean Cocoa Soup with Lime Zest; Mole; Chipotle Chicken Stew; Chocolate Chile Bread; Slow Cooker Posole.

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