Q: I keep hearing about chocolate smoothies made with cacao. It sounds so good. Is it true that putting chocolate in your smoothie is really as good for us as they say it is? What are the benefits, and do I just add it to anything?
A: Chocolate smoothie are a truly a health-giving treat, but it's important to note that we're talking about creating smoothies with raw cacao as not all chocolate is created equal. Many commercial brands strip chocolate of its benefits by overcooking it, adding dairy fats, excess sugar, and preservatives. But real, â€œrawâ€ chocolate (cacao), has incredible benefits. Sure it'll please your taste buds, but check out all the other ways cacao is good for your whole body:
Cardiovascular Protection: - Numerous studies have shown that the antioxidants in chocolate -- called flavonols -- help lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels.
Relaxation - Magnesium is a mineral that helps relax muscles, and cacao is one of the highest sources of magnesium of all natural foods. Third party testing has shown some cacao powders to contain as much as 475 mg per 100 grams (the recommended daily intake for men is 400 mg and women 310mg).
Natural Sunscreen - these same favonols also help protect the skin, helping to circulate blood to the surface of the body, which researchers have found helps to protect against UV rays.
Mood Boost - Chocolate helps naturally increase seratonin production - the â€œgood moodâ€ chemical in the brain. It also contains other phytochemicals that have mood-elevating effects, like phenethylamine, which enhances the release of pleasurable endorphins.
Anti-Aging - Cacao offers cell protection like no other with its soaring levels of polyphenol antioxidants. Cacao powder will have the most concentrated form of these antioxidants, which have tested up to a jaw-dropping 95,000 ORAC/100 grams. Compare that to antioxidant-rich blueberries, which average around 7,500 ORAC, and it's easy to see why cacao is so impressive!
As for how to enjoy cacao? We have a big collection of chocolate smoothies listed in our cacao recipe archives to get you started on enjoying all the benefits cacao has to offer!
Have a superfood smoothie question of your own? Ask away! Just post it below and we may feature it in an upcoming segment of Ask the Chef.