"Raw Cacao: Another Stimulant Disguised As a Healthy Food"

by Frederic Patenaude

Many of my readers have been asking me what I think of the whole raw cacao craze. For those who don't know, raw cacao beans are now sold by different raw-food companies as the latest "superfood." Cacao beans are traditionally roasted and used to make chocolate. Now, raw-foodists have found a raw version of the beloved bean and are apparently using it for its magical properties.

First, let me start by explaining what my own personal use of cacao is. I've known for a long time that cacao is a stimulant. Not as strong as coffee, but its stimulating "qualities" are easy to spot when your body is not used to eating such foods. Because of this, I often used carob powder in my recipes. Carob powder is made from a fruit and has a taste that reminds of chocolate. It is naturally sweet. Instead of being a stimulant, carob is a mineral rich food and has a calming effect. So, like most raw-foodists, I used carob powder in my recipes. But, then one day, I decided to use cacao powder. I figured: if I'm going to make something that tastes like chocolate, why not use the real thing? I've noticed that cacao has a stimulating effect, but since I was using it occasionally (i.e. less than once a month) and just for fun in some recipes, I was not too bothered by that little indiscretion. However, I never considered it to be a health food.

Now, cacao beans are sold to us at an exorbitant price under the assumption that it's one of the best things we could ever eat. I couldn't disagree more.

First of all, cacao beans are not really food. If you found them in nature, you wouldn't eat the seeds. You would eat the fruit, which is apparently delicious, and throw away the seeds. Even if you wanted to eat the seeds, they would not taste like chocolate. In order for the cacao seeds to taste like chocolate and become the cacao beans that we know, they have to be fermented first. They are fairly bitter, indicating the presence of a poison. And when I say a "poison," I'm not making this up. Just do a little research and you'll discover that cacao contains many chemicals with a stimulating effects, such as theobromine and caffeine.

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