12 amazing superfood properties of Cacao

12 amazing superfood properties of Cacao

Medicinal and Therapeutic Properties of Cacao

This article is about some surprising medicinal benefits of real Cacao – the stuff that chocolate is made of.

It may come as a surprise, but Cacao is actually pretty healthy.  (It’s my favourite ‘superfood’. 🙂


If you are interested in the history of Cacao and how we have come to love chocolate so much, take a look at this article about the cultural history of chocolate.



PARTS USED: Dried seeds and seed shells.
HARVEST: Cacao pods take about 5-6 months to mature. The harvest occurs twice a year, from September to February and May/June, even though there is always ripe and unripe fruit on the same tree.
CONSTITUENTS: Fat, Amino Acids, Alkaloids (Theobromine, Caffeine), Riboflavin, Niacin, Thiamine, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamins A, C, D and E, polyphenols.
ACTIONS: Diuretic, stimulant, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant, nutritive anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

Crushed Cocoa Beans

Crushed Cacao Beans

Image by janiceweirgermia from Pixabay


In Central America, a tea made from crushed Cacao seed shells called ‘nibs’ is used as an effective diuretic. A strong flow of urine is a sign of health and vigour, and any substance that produces this effect is praised as an aphrodisiac, enhancing male potency.

Anti HIV-properties

A pigment extracted from the husks has anti-HIV properties. In vitro studies have demonstrated that polymerized flavonoids present in the husks reduce the damaging effects of HIV. Apparently, they prevent the virus from entering the cells (Unten et al. 1991). But once inside the cell, the virus replicates normally.


Cacao is incredibly rich in polyphenols, antioxidant flavonoids that have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.

Animal studies also suggest that Theobromine and Theophylline can ease inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract, such as asthma, by dilating the lungs and thus helping to relax the air passages.

But unfortunately, most of them are lost due to the standard methods used to process Cacao Beans.

Cardio-Vascular support

Apparently, eating chocolate can be good for your heart health! In 2015, a study found that habitual chocolate consumption can reduce the risk of cardiovascular health issues, providing it is of high quality with a high cacao content. (2)

Cacao can relax and widen the arteries, thus reducing blood pressure and improving blood circulation. Combined with its ability to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, it can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Skincare from within

The Cacao phenols are also good for the skin. They improve blood circulation to the peripheral cells and improve the smoothness of the skin by helping to hydrate it from within. Long-term use is also said to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Mood enhancing

The higher the Cacao content, the better it is for your well-being. Have you ever wondered why you are craving chocolate when doing demanding mental work? It’s your body telling you what it needs: High Cocoa chocolate (min. 65%) has nutritional and stimulating properties that make it a good ‘pick-me-up’.

The flavonols in Cacao improve mood, alleviate symptoms of depression and reduce stress. One study of pregnant women even showed this stress-reducing effect to be conferred to the babies. It is also popular as comfort food to soothe PMS symptoms. Another study showed that older men can benefit from the regular consumption of high Cacao content chocolate, reporting improved health and well-being.


Even better, high Cacao content chocolate improves cognitive functions by increasing the blood flow to the brain. The beneficial flavanols can also cross the blood-brain barrier and directly benefit the neurons. For those suffering from cognitive impairments or neuronal conditions such as Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, high Cacao content chocolate is brain food.

The findings are promising, suggesting that more research is warranted.

Blood-sugar regulation

High Cacao chocolate can even have a positive effect on Type 2 Diabetes symptoms. The unexpected findings showed that flavanols can slow the carbohydrate metabolism and uptake in the gut, while stimulating insulin secretion, lowering inflammation and aiding the transfer of sugar from the blood to the muscles.


Weight loss

Interestingly, high cocoa content chocolate actually has a positive effect on the body mass index (BMI). Chocolate eaters (min 81% cocoa) lose weight faster than people who do not eat chocolate.



Several animal studies indicate that a flavanol-rich Cacao diet lowers the risk of cancer – especially breast, pancreatic, liver and colon cancer and leukaemia. However, more research is needed.


Immune system stimulation

Another counterintuitive finding is that Cacao contains antibacterial, anti-enzymatic and immune-stimulating compounds that can have a beneficial effect on oral health.



It must be stressed, that all of these benefits only apply to high cocoa content chocolate that is very low in sugar, or without sugar. The common candy bar has NO health benefits. On the contrary, chocolate candy can be harmful.


(In case you are confused about flavonoids, flavanols and flavanols, they are actually different compounds. Take a look at this article to help clear up the confusion.)


(1) Unten, S., H. Ushijima, H. Shimizu, H. Tsuchie, T. Kitamura, N. Moritome, and H. Sakagami. 1991. Effect of cacao husk extract on human immunodeficiency virus infection. Letters Appl. Microbiol. 14:251-254.

(2) (Kwok CS, Boekholdt SM, Lentjes MA, Loke YK, Luben RN, Yeong JK, Wareham NJ, Myint PK, Khaw KT. Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women. Heart. 2015 Aug;101(16):1279-87. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050. Epub 2015 Jun 15. Erratum in: Heart. 2018 Mar;104(6):532. PMID: 26076934; PMCID: PMC6284792.)




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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s day! Time to spread some loving!

One of the nicest things about February is not just the fact that March is around the corner and therefore spring is on its way, but that the inner tide is turning, too. Just as the sap is rising in trees, the love juices are also flowing within. It is a time to indulge in courtship and romance, to lavish buckets of romantic gooeyness on your significant other, rekindle an old flame, or perhaps to make an impression on someone that only recently caught your eye.

Who is St. Valentine?

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, a somewhat questionable Saints Day, which has its origin in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a festival of licentiousness. At first, denounced as a lewd pagan rite, it proved too popular to be suppressed. Thus, the old festival of love was dressed in a thin cloak of Christian piety and became the saint’s day of St. Valentine.

This Valentine was a fictitious figure who was said to have been executed just as his beloved received his ‘billet of love’ (a kind of little love letter, which has its modern-day equivalent in the custom of sending Valentine’s cards). This custom was also associated with the Roman festival of Lupercalia.

February – the month of Juno Februata

Incidentally, the word ‘February’ is derived from the name of the Goddess ‘Juno Februata’, to whom this month is dedicated. Her name contains the word ‘febris’ – meaning ‘fever’, which does not refer to a kind of divine flu, but to her fiery passion – the fever of love.

To this day, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as ‘lover’s day’. Here is a look at some of those age-old customs and their underlying significance and some suggestions as to how to stoke the fire of love.

say it with flowers

Say it with flowers

Flowers are still THE most popular Valentine’s gift, but which ones should you choose? Maybe draw some inspiration from the Victorian flower language, a secret lovers’ code that could be used to express very specific kinds of messages, so long as both parties were ‘in’ on the symbolism. If they were not, the message would either be lost or interpreted entirely the wrong way. Seen in this light, even Roses are not a safe bet. It all depends on the specific variety and color you choose. Thus, instead of conveying a message of love, it could mean something like ‘you are a pretty ditz’, or ‘you might be charming, but proud’, and ‘your beauty will not last’. To learn more, see this long list of flowers and their specific meanings, before risking a disastrous mistake!

Chocolate – always desirable

chocolate loveIt might be safer to ‘say it with chocolates’ instead. Chocolate is the other most popular Valentine’s gift. Although perhaps a little less romantic, it might be more enticing and less ambiguous. After all, Cocoa’s reputation as an aphrodisiac dates back to the ancient Aztecs.

Montezuma, the last Aztec emperor, was a veritable cocoa fiend! He regularly downed his golden goblet full of foaming ‘xocoatl’ (=chocolate) brew, to invigorate himself before entering his harem.

Few of us today would find his recipe very tempting as it has little resemblance with our modern idea of what chocolate should taste like. But, it seems to have worked for him.

Incidentally, modern research confirms the ancient claim. Apparently, Cocoa contains a substance that has appropriately been called ‘Anandamide’ – alluding to the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’, which means ‘bliss’. Anandamide has anti-depressant properties that induce a sense of well-being and contentment. Cocoa is also rich in Phenylethylamine, which neurochemistry links to the feeling of euphoria so characteristic of the mental state of ‘being in love’. No wonder everybody LOVES chocolate!

A loving spoonful?

Peter's Chili‘Love goes through the stomach’, so they say. Those who find chocolates and flowers too ordinary might instead seek to impress their loved one with a particularly sexy dish, prepared with love, of course.

On scouring the literature one cannot help but be in awe at the amount of foodstuff deemed to have aphrodisiacs properties. Some of these appear to have gained that reputation on account of their appearance (who says placebos don’t work?), while others have a rather more direct, physiological effect.

In the category of visual aids are things like carrots, parsnips, asparagus, and bananas.

Things like piñon nuts, lady’s fingers, truffle mushrooms, oysters, and pufferfish, on the other hand, would hardly qualify if optics was the only criteria. Various spices, as well as certain herbs, have also long held on to their aphrodisiac reputation. Their volatile oil components are highly stimulating. Among these herbs are lovage, cardamom, saffron, and cinnamon. Garlic and chilies are in a category of their own. While not exactly seductive, they undoubtedly pack a punch. None fits both categories better than the gloriously endowed ‘Peter Chili’ – I mean, really, Mother Nature – was that meant to be a subtle hint?


ChampaignContrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a suitable aphrodisiac. In fact, it is probably the worst thing you could drink if love is on your mind. While a little alcohol undoubtedly reduces inhibitions, too much of it has a desensitizing effect and is most likely to put you to sleep.

A non-alcoholic cocktail is a great, nutritious alternative that provides an energy boost and is very tasty, too.

Or, try a chai tea. This exquisite, richly flavored blend combines a whole range of warming aphrodisiac spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and black pepper with black tea, milk, and honey.

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