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    Is Chocolate Actually Healthy?

    By Lauren Felts | April 11, 2016

    Is there anything better than finding one of your favorites foods is actually healthy for you? Absolutely not! That is why I am so excited to tell you to keep eating chocolate, or cacao, as we call it here at Navitas Naturals.

    So you might be wondering what's the difference between cacao and regular old chocolate. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, the raw material from which all other chocolates are made. It is the less processed version of cocoa powder and chocolate bars, and therefore retains the most beneficial nutrients.

    Cacao, also known as Theobroma Cacao, comes from a tree that produces cacao pods. These pods are cracked open to release the cacao beans inside, which can be eaten as is, ground to make pure cacao powder, or further processed and heated to make cocoa and chocolate products. But in order to reap the maximum benefits from this oh-to-delicious superfood, we choose to indulge in its purest forms - cacao beans, cacao nibs (broken pieces of the beans) and cacao powder.

    Cacao is rich in a variety of nutrients that have proven beneficial to the health of the body. First off, cacao is one of the most antioxidant rich foods, claiming four times more antioxidants than dark chocolate and twenty times than that of blueberries. These antioxidants protect cells from damage, reducing the risk of chronic disease, and cancer. Research has concluded that it is the phytonutrients present in cacao that protect against cardiovascular disease, UVB-induced skin wrinkling, and high cholesterol. Its phytonutrients can also support healthy cognitive function with age. In addition, studies have found cacao to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and inflammation, and to improve insulin sensitivity. But that's not all that cacao is good for…

    Cacao is unique in that it is also rich in minerals, essential fatty acids, and the organic compounds called phenethylamine (PEA) and theobromine. PEA stimulates the body to make the neurotransmitters (mood chemicals), norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepineprhine and dopamine work together to keep your mood elevated. Norepinephrine triggers the release of glucose into the blood stream to cause mental and physical alertness, which is then balanced by dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel focused and attentive, and also helps to improve our memory. Dopamine, also known as the “reward chemical,†provides feelings of enjoyment, motivating us to do, or continue doing, certain activities. Finally, we have theobromine, which offers antitumoral, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits to the body. It's no wonder we keep going back for more chocolate!

    Now that we've been given permission to continue with our addiction, let's talk technique! There are so many ways in which to indulge in this rich and alluring superfood, but we may have a few new ones for you to try. Using the cacao powder, we are obsessed with these Brownie Batter Balls, this Chocolate Pistachio Tart, and these Fudgecicles, and yes, these are all healthy treats in our book! And if you are interested in trying cacao in its purest form, cacao nibs or cacao beans, throw a handful into your trail mix or granola, or make a batch of this Raw Cookie Dough (you won't believe what this is made from!), or these Maca Crunch Truffles. Enough said.