Nutritionist and author of 10-days to a Healthier You Kathleen Alleaume gives us the low-down on raw cacao, how to eat it and why it’s better than chocolate – and shares her raw cacao protein balls recipe.
We all have experienced the positive feelings associated with eating chocolate, but have you tried unprocessed chocolate in the form of raw cacao (pronounced ka·cow) – which essentially is the same bean as cocoa, but in its raw state.
Compared to traditional cocoa found in traditional store-bought chocolate, raw cacao has very little sugar or additives making it a great way to consume something nutritious while still feeling decadent.
Due to its minimal processing, raw cacao retains a potent mineral content and nutrient dense properties, including a rich source of chromium (to help balance blood sugar), magnesium (to help maintain normal muscle and nerve function), and contains nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine and up to three times the antioxidant content of green tea. Research also shows that cacao promotes cardiovascular health by helping reduce blood clotting, improve circulation, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart attacks or stroke.
Too much of a good thing
Cacao is very powerful on the central nervous system and over-indulging can inhibit calcium absorption. The recommendation is to have no more than 40g (or four to six heaped teaspoons) of raw cacao a day.
How to eat it
Good quality raw cacao powder is available in most supermarkets and health food shops. Although the taste is very bitter, it’s advised to add a sweetener to it such as honey, stevia or agave. Add 1 tablespoon of cacao to your morning smoothie, make decadent desserts using avocado, or enjoy cacao protein balls as a guilt-free energy-boosting snack.
Recipe: Raw Cacao Protein Balls
Makes about 10 balls
½ cup LSA (linseed, almond and sunflower) meal
¼ cup chia seeds
2 tbsp raw cacao
½ cup tahini
6 dried dates, pitted
1 tbsp honey
1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor and process until well combined and in a crumbly, paste-type consistency. Add a splash of water to make a smoother consistency (optional).
2. These delicious bite size pieces of heaven surely hit the spot. Not only are they jammed packed in protein and good fats, they’re a fantastic grab and go snack that will satisfy that longing for something sweet.
For more nutritious meal ideas, shopping lists and lifestyle tips to help you look feel great and look beter, download a free 3-day sample plan at www.therightbalance.com.au.
Julia has lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, and New York, and is obsessed with food. She's either cooking or thinking about what to eat next. Follow Julia on Twitter.