Going Coco Loco!

Coconut oil has been getting all the press recently – it’s delicious and nutritious, full of good fats and fantastic for your hair and skin. However, another ‘superfood’, usually linked with bad fats, high calories and tooth decay, is equally full of nutritional value, flavour and is as versatile as coconut oil in it’s raw form. Welcome to the humble cacao bean.

Did you know raw (unroasted) cacao powder contains about seven times more antioxidants than plain chocolate and has about a third more nutrients than cocoa powder (which has been roasted)? It’s also high in magnesium (good for healthy hearts, nerves, muscles and energy) and sulphur (helps to keep hair, skin, bone, cartilage and tendons strong and healthy).

The fats in cacao are heart-protecting which has a natural effect on cholesterol, and contains only traceable amounts of caffeine. If you’re sensitive to caffeine then limit your intake of cacao as it does also contain the stimulant theobromine (theobromine is about one tenth the strength of caffeine so has a much milder effect on the body. However, it does still stimulate mental and physical energy).

Raw Cacao Powder

Where does it come from? Cacao powder is the result of milling raw cacao beans (from the cacao tree) at low temperature to protect the nutrients and flavour. Nothing else is added. Look out for organic and fairtrade brands such as The Raw Chocolate Company, or Creative Nature’s organic cacao powder.

So if you fancy giving cacao powder a try, here is a great recipe to start with, provided by Nutritionalist and star of our Healthy Cooking seminars, Orit Kent.

Chocoberry Power Shake
Crammed with nutrients, this delicious energy shake will refresh and energise! The coconut water is naturally sweet and hydrating whilst the berries are packed with antioxidants and adds much colour. Easy, quick and great for a warm sunny day!

Pouring Chocoberry Smoothie

250g frozen or fresh organic summer berries
300 ml coconut water
250ml organic oat milk
2 heaped tbsp organic raw cacao powder
1 – 2 tbsp organic agave syrup (start with 1 and add more to taste)

Tip the above into a blender/mixer and whiz up until smooth and frothy. For increased energy and nutrition you can also add to the mix ½ tsp maca powder and 1 tbsp nut butter of your choice (almond/pumpkin/cashew/tahini).Chocoberry Smoothie Preparation

NB: Maca has a sharp flavour and gives a strong energy boost so go easy at first and check the flavour!

And if you would like to know the nutritional benefits of all the other ingredients in our Chocoberry Power Shake, read on …

Summer berries have a low GL, they’re high in fibre and contain vitamins and minerals the body needs to function normally. One cup of strawberries contains over 100 milligrams of vitamin C, almost as much as a glass of fresh orange juice. They also have a bit of calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium. All berries contain phytochemicals and flavonoids that may help to prevent some forms of cancer, and blueberries and raspberries also contain lutein, which is important for healthy eyes.

Coconut Rice Milk

Coconut water is incredibly healthy and one of the best drinks to hydrate the body. Besides helping to remove toxins and aiding digestion, coconuts have amazing anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Oat milk is a tasty vegan alternative to dairy, and is also nutritious. Western herbalists recommend oat milk as a tonic for the nervous system. It’s very low in fat and lactose free, just a cup of oat milk contains 36% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium. It also contains 10% of the RDA for vitamin A, which is twice as much as cow’s milk. If you suffer from anemia and are looking for vegan options for iron, one serving of oat milk contains 10% RDA.

And finally, you can use cacao powder in a wide variety of recipes, for drinks, cakes, tarts, sauces and of course chocolate sweets!