The well-publised health benefits of dark chocolate have given many chocolate lovers an added reason to indulge in recent years. Sales have doubled in the past five years and are worth £85 million a year in Britain alone. Conveniently forgotten, however, is the fact that a bar of dark chocolate still contains high volumes of fat and sugar. So how do you enjoy the health benefits of cocoa without the worry of an expanding waistline? Raw food expert and nutritionist Jessica Fenton says the answer lies in the anadulterated beans of the cacao pod. This, she says, is the real superfood, and it is quite different from its foil-wrapped relative. Cacao pods, which grow on trees, originated in Central and South America. Ancient South American civilisations prized them so much for their medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, they even used them as currency. "The modern manufacturing process for chocolate bars involves firstly harvesting the pods, which contain seeds known as cocoa beans,' explains Fenton. 'The pods are crushed and the beans and surrounding pulp extracted, fermented, then dried - either naturally by the sun or mechanically in a factory. 'The dried beans are then roasted, in a similar way to coffee beans. The length of roasting depends on the type and size of the beans, to form cocoa, which is mixed with sugar and fats to form chocolate. Raw cocoa beans, on the other hand, are fermented and dried but not roasted, which preserves their antioxidant content.' Dr Sarah Schenker, a registered dietician from the Nutrition Society, saysL 'The lower levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate result from the effect of high heat during roasting. This process removes micronutrients that often have antioxidant properties and other health benefits.' Antioxidants - found in all fruit, vegetables, herbs and seeds in varying levels - are important because they neutralise molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are generated by external factors such as sun exposure, pollution and cigarette smoke but are also produced by the body during various metabolic processes, or in response to infection to kill viruses. These molecules can damage healthy body tissue, and antioxidants neutralise them. Studies have shown antioxidants consumed in the diet can help protect against everything from heart disease to cancers. Raw cacao powder has nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries and 119 times more than bananas. And cacao does more than boost antioxidant levels - studies have shown that if contains a third more essential nutrients than traditional roasted cacao. Cacao contains protein, calcium, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, magnesium and sulphur. It is a source of phenethylamine (PEA) a naturally occurring chemical released by our brains in large quantities when we are in love. A study carried out by the Univerisity of Maryland showed that PEA is beneficial for depression. It also contains anandamide, a compound that causes feelings of relaxation and satisfaction. Raw chocolate can be bought in powder or nibs - tiny chunks of the crushed, dried beans. Hotel Chocolat offers a range of nibs coated in regular dark chocolate. And raw chocolate can also be bought from most High Street healthfood shops, including Holland & Barrett. --Review, The Mail 31.07.11
An introduction to RawFood through the Seductive Power of Chocolate. Over 35 delicious recipes including drinks, biscuits, cakes, sweets, dessert and party food. Beautiful full-colour photography throughout. Jessica's raw chocolate recipes are mood-boosting, deliciously whimsical and decadently vegan - the healthy antidote to junk food chocolate. --Viva! August 2012
About the Author
Jessica Fenton is a raw food guru, presenting writer, lifestyle coach and nutritionist. She is the founder of TotalRawFood.com, the UK's raw and living food resource centre, She runs raw chocolate workshops, holds raw food dinner parties and offers a raw nutrition consultancy service. Jessica recovered from M.E. through a raw food diet - and ran the marathon a year after diagnosis.