Chocolate & the Grey Matter

In which I look at chocolate in terms of proven health benefits + Thoughts about food trends and a reminder to always choose balanced over powerfood-bingeing.

Feed Your Brain

Research shows that certain foods are immensely helpful for brain “anti-aging”, protecting the grey matter from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke – coconut oil, omega-3 rich fish oil, lycopene-rich foods, foods rich in vitamins E, C, K and homocysteine-lowering B complex, foods rich in antioxidants (like blueberries) –, while others are not at all beneficial: alcohol, sugar and excessive intake of carbohydrates for example.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I do all it takes to prevent my brain from premature aging. As opposed as I am to the very term “anti-aging” (I think that anti-aging is an outdated concept), when it comes to my brainzzz, there can’t be enough of it.

So I was really happy when studies told us that chocolate – cacao, in fact – was really good for a healthy brain.”

* Most recent studies:
Study on association of fish oil supplement with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function;
Coconut oil attenuates the effects of amyloid-β on cortical neurons in vitro.

Heart, Guts, Brain: Chocolate, Please!

Earlier in 2014 a study has demonstrated the mechanism of how exactly dark chocolate packs a punch for our health: It seems that the good gut bacteria, those that prevent inflammation, keep our hearts going and our system healthy, love dark chocolate. They really feast on dark chocolate! They omnomnom it and ferment it into wonderful, anti-inflammatory compounds. Dark chocolate helps the beneficial bacteria grow and fight the bad bacteria, and you help the good bacteria by feeding them good, dark chocolate.
Hold on, for we’ll discuss good choc in a sec.

Like this was not enough to fall for chocolate (ha!), a newer study also brillianty proves that cacao helps maintain brain health; the study’s 60 y.o. subjects who have taken a dose of cacao flavones comparable to half a chocolate bar daily have shown a significant cognitive/memory improvement.

Reality check: studies on cacao-associated health benefits DO NOT mean that you can indulge in chocolate cup cakes, truffles, ice cream, donuts, double chocolate mocchas and chocolate milk shakes!
Go figure moment: these studies don’t even mean that you should binge eat raw cacao neither – everything is good in moderation. There is significant proof that far too many antioxidants might be just as harmful as far too few.”

Hear Me Raw

Now, what exactly is good dark chocolate?
There is a lot of theory behind the A to this Q, but I will try to be brief.
A good idea is to pick high quality, non alkalized, organic raw cacao powder or chocolate bars – brands like Blyss, Pacari, Ombar (sweetened with coconut sugar), Love Chock cater for this all regulatory snares, and there are a few, raw cacao is the best choice; it has a higher ORAC value and even more antioxidants than The antiox powerhouse herself, miss blueberry. For maximum flavone intake you have to look for non “dutched” or non-dutch-processed cacao. Dutching means alkalizing cacao beans prior to pressing. Due to this process, only 10-40% of antioxidants remain in the beans; and according to this Wiki article, major chocolate brands offer dutched cacao: Sarotti (Germany), Droste, Van Houten (Netherlands), Lindt (Switzerland), Pernigotti (Italy), Valrhona, Poulain (France). And here’s a picture so you can see the striking difference:raw-cacao-versus-dutched-cacao

Concerns (Because That’s How Life Goes)

Just a few thoughts.
Firstly, RAW is not a regulated standard. And I have seriously no idea what kind of mess we’re moving towards with raw becoming more and more a hot consumer/foodie trend. Let’s watch it.

Second, despite all benefits of raw cacao, we should not forget that:
all raw products are at risk of contamination, well, in fact – all products altogether are at risk of being contamindated anyway, but that’s another story (of Doom!) and we’ll leave it to tabloids and footway lunatics with the “we’re all gonna die” signs;
– raw sugar is still sugar, that’s why I prefer unsweetened raw cacao powder or pure beans, and I trust Blyss over any other brand;
– the theobromine in cacao is not the ingredient you want to binge eat as it can be over-stimulating your heart;
dark chocolate is highly toxic for dogs, rodents and other animals and has to be stored with all necessary precautions;
– the oxalic acid in cacao (and also in: rhubarb, spinach, beetroot, parsley, chards, sorrel, starfruit) poses a risk for the development of kidney stones.

Huh? Did you just say, balanced diet?
Yes! That’s proper thinking, Adventurer!

This post was written and edited in the dead of night. All typos are my own.
And why do I work in the dead of night?
Because by day I am busy (day-)working + restructuring the Quest to make it more understandable, more trackable for me in terms of my progress, and more valuable for you in terms of sharing all the knowledge gained and the great results. It takes a lot of time, and the finished page will reside here.

On a totally related note – I have just tested it, and it works!
Cupcake topping made from fresh avocado, cacao powder and a natural sweetener of your preference (maple sirup, coconut sugar) is fantabulous, stays beautifully in shape and tastes amazing, sweet, rich, and fresh at the same time, unlike your standard butter/ vegan butter cream:raw-cupcake-topping-chocolate-avocado


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

10 Responses

  1. BLYSS chocolate

    Well balanced and responsible article Nath! Yes just because raw cacao is better for us than conventional chocolate, it is still a fibre/fat oriented nut, which means we enjoy it with the same balance as a cashew or macadamia. Everything for good reason, season and joy. Thank you for pushing our industry forward with good questions, critical analysis and praise for those who do their best to find a good way. You mentioned great raw choc companies, and thank you also, for the kind note on BLYSS.

  2. I wish I could persuade my parents that dark chocolate would be good for them. Interesting about the cupcake topping because I have just finished reading a breakfast smoothie recipe that is made of avocado and chocolate powder and a sweetener.

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