cacao beans

It is always a delight to find foods and beverages that taste good and are good for you as well. Cacao, the source of cocoa and chocolate, ranks high on our list of favorites. The polyphenols it contains have numerous health benefits.

Starting the Day with Unsweetened Cacao:

Q. Your recent show on chocolate and its health benefits was appreciated. We start our day with granite stone ground cacao with chiles and cinnamon in coconut milk as our morning beverage. This has eased inflammation and cut sugar cravings throughout the day.

A. We appreciate your unusual recipe and notice that your hot morning beverage does not contain sugar. Your potion combining cacao with cinnamon and chile peppers mimics the way that the Mayans used to use cacao. They considered it a sacred plant.

What Are the Benefits of Cacao?

Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has reported that both tea and cocoa help relax the blood vessels. In addition, cocoa improves sensitivity to insulin. These physiological mechanisms may help explain why cocoa consumption is associated with a reduced risk of stroke (Stroke, Jan., 2014). Dr. Larsson is not the only investigator who has found that cocoa flavonoids can reduce insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Nov. 18, 2015).

The compounds in cocoa also reduce oxidative stress in the body and keep platelets from clumping together to form clots as well as fighting inflammation (Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, June, 2013). Cacao polyphenols also encourage nitric oxide production and improve mitochondrial function (Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine, Dec., 2015).

A small study in older adults found that a drink high in cocoa flavanols can improve blood flow in the brain (Psychopharmacology, Sep., 2015). Some scientists believe that this may mean that unsweetened cacao could help preserve cognitive function as we age (Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2016).

Is Cocoa Really Good for You?

Whenever new research appears on the health benefits of cacao (from which chocolate is made), public health experts harrumph that chocolate is too high in sugar to be healthy. No doubt that is true, but you have found a way using unsweetened cacao to bypass the sugar and enjoy the benefits. Thanks for your testimonial.

Another way to get the healthful cocoa flavanols is with a supplement specifically designed to provide them. CocoaVia makes such a supplement. The company sponsored our newsletter in the past. It is currently contributing to the COSMOS study to see whether the compounds from cacao can help prevent stroke, cancer and heart disease.

Revised 12/5/2016

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  1. Phil

    After breakfast, I take about 1/4 tsp of turmeric, mixed with ground black pepper. Then, I eat one square of Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate (100% Cacao). It is not at all difficult to become used to the mildly bitter taste. After the chocolate, I eat two prunes; they improve the aftertaste in my mouth. I have been doing this for several years, and I do believe it is helpful.

  2. Susan

    I checked 2 books that I have from People’s Pharmacy, “Spice up your Health” and Recipes & Remedies. The recipe for the Hot Chocolate was not in either book! Please don’t describe such a nice sounding recipe and not share! I also purchased the home remedies book for a friend last Christmas…and MOM deodorant. I’ve noticed the posts on this site are getting more “flimsy”. Is there a reason why?
    PS: in the Recipes and Remedies book, drinks are not listed in the list of recipes. For future printings, it would be nice to have those listed, too. Thanks!

    • Terry Graedon

      Susan, the person who wrote to us did not give any further details or we would have included them. We will definitely consider developing such a recipe for a future revision. Thank you for the recommendation.

      As for the posts, we are striving not to have any “flimsy” posts.

  3. Jen
    Portland, OR

    All of these ingredients are healthy, because I use raw honey and as natural as I can obtain. I don’t use the granite ground cocoa, as not easily accessible for me.

    I warm up 1 cup coconut milk on my range, as I don’t want the microwave to kill the nutrients. In the meantime, in my empty cup, I mix my heaping teaspoon coconut oil, same of cocoa, sprinkle cinnamon 1/2 tsp, more or less, and same with vanilla. I gradually mix the hot milk, to melt my ingredients. Stirring and melting, and getting the lumps out. Depending upon your size of cup, you may not need a full cup of hot milk. Play around with the ingredients. Everyone’s taste of each is different. You can drop or add to your own taste. At one time, women didn’t have recipe books, and couldn’t read. It was passed down.
    Sometimes, I warm up two cups of coconut milk and enjoy two cups of hot chocolate.

  4. David

    I add raw cacao nibs to my herbal tea twice a day – once at breakfast and once at dinner.

  5. Laura
    Buffalo, NY

    I thought tests show that Cacao powder has high levels of cadmium. Very toxic for all.

  6. Mary Jane

    Re: sweets in the a.m.; I learned a while back that the first food you eat in the morning “sets the dials” for the day. I don’t even eat fruit for breakfast, and if we all started the day with a vegetable omelette, the candy industry would be out of business in short order.

  7. L


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