Chocolate – good or bad?

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Sunday morning and a cup of hot chocolate at our place. 

Every now and then, scientific reports on the health benefits of chocolate will be abused by the media in headlines suggesting that indulging in sweets will do you good. It won’t. Not a bit. Chocolate bars or other products containing low quality, rough-handled cocoa deplete of most nutrients – and likely diluted with dairy, sugar and other cheap stuff – is decidedly bad for you. I’m sorry for being harsh, but there’s really no point in sugar coating it (pun intended).  You can obviously choose to eat such products anyway, but the pretense of them promoting your health is false.

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Have you seen these kinds of headlines? Mildly put, they’re based on a very creative version of the truth in which cacao and cocoa are represented as equal. 

The good news is that chocolate can be good for you. High quality, lovingly handled cacao, that is. The health benefits shown in trustworthy scientific studies are primarily linked to raw cacao, which is indeed very high in nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Here is a brief explanation of the difference between cocoa and cacao:

“Although cocoa powder is derived from the same cacao bean which provides cacao powder, there is a marked difference between cocoa powder and cacao powder. Cocoa powder is obtained by roasting the beans at much higher temperatures than cacao powder. As heat destroys many compounds, the benefits of cocoa powder are greatly reduced. Additionally, cocoa powder goes through an alkalising process, usually with potassium bicarbonate, to develop a more mass-market flavour and colour that we associate with chocolate. Unfortunately, this alkalising process is liable to remove some of the minerals such as magnesium and calcium found naturally in cacao beans.”

Anyone focused on pure, ketogenic food will most likely avoid all forms of sugar, dairy and artificial sweeteners. “Mass-market flavoured”, roasted cocoa powder is not particularly bad on its own, though. It’s just not nearly as nutritious as the real deal. We’ve found that mixing cocoa it with raw cacao powder allows us to enjoy the rich, chocolatey flavour while at the same time reaping the benefits of the raw, but much less ingratiating, raw cacao. Here is a simple recipe for hot keto-chocolate:

  1. Mix 1 tbsp or raw cacao powder and 1 tbsp of ordinary cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt, in a cup. Once you learn to appreciate the taste of raw cacao, you can start to experiment with the proportions (increasing the amount of raw cacao).
  2. Pour 1,5 dl of hot (but not boiling) water over the mixture and stir until it’s smooth.
  3. Add some coconut milk and/or butter if you like.
  4. If you need to, add a few drops of stevia (but I find it redundant).

At the moment, I’m deeply in love with this warm, rich, fragrant beverage which is really nice as autumn progresses here in Sweden. I find it to to be absolutely true that cacao can create a sense of euphoria – thanks to its high contents of phenethylamine and its role in the release of oxytocin.

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