Description: Chocolate is created from the extraordinary superfood, cacao. Cacao is enormously rich in magnesium, and is one of the most abundant sources of antioxidants in the world, beating red wine, blueberries, and green tea in this arena. Cacao is a tropical plant, whose seeds are dried, roasted, and pulverized to make the powder used in conventional chocolate making. Cacao is naturally high in a unique array of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds. It also contains chemicals that enhance mental and physical strength, including theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine, and dopamine and anandamide, which facilitate a feeling of bliss.

The unprocessed, raw cacao bean is the richest source of these naturally occurring compounds. The processing of cacao into chocolate powder that is used in all conventional chocolate making causes a significant loss of nutrients, and also creates compounds that lead to allergies, intense cravings, and addictions. Consider that in modern chocolate factories, cacao beans are first roasted at temperatures up to 266°F, then run through rollers to separate the bean from the shell and skin. The shelled beans are ground at an intense heat that liquefies the cacao into chocolate liquor. The liquor is pressed to separate out the cocoa butter, and is then formed into cakes. The cakes are made into cocoa powder, and potassium carbonate is added to raise the pH so the powder is water soluble. Naturally, the original compounds and qualities of the raw cacao bean have been significantly changed by this time!

In general, milk chocolate is made from pasteurized, homogenized, inorganic milk that leads to poor quality chocolate, and is to be avoided. Chocolate bars that are found in grocery stores and natural food stores range widely in quality and taste. All conventional, candy bar brand chocolate is sure to be made with over-processed, poor quality cacao, sweetened with corn syrup, and laced with artificial flavors. Beyond these cheap, harmful candies, a vast market exists filled with organic, high-quality chocolates that come in a variety of unique and natural flavors.

What to look for: Organic, dark chocolate, although not usually made with raw cacao, is an excellent alternative to conventional dark and milk chocolate. Look for products that are made with organic ingredients and unrefined sweeteners. Many companies are producing chocolate bars with guaranteed fair trade and sustainably-harvested cacao sources.

Uses: Raw cacao can be ground into a fine powder and used in baking, smoothies, and a variety of desserts, including homemade ice cream and fudge. The powder can be blended with agave syrup or honey and avocado to create a chocolate paste; cacao nibs (small chips of the cacao bean) can be added directly to baked or raw treats. Dark, organic chocolate bars are to be savored and enjoyed in moderation, and for special occasions.

Where to find: Raw cacao is widely available online, as well as in many natural food stores. Organic chocolate bars are in natural food stores, some conventional grocery stores, and online.

Avoid: All big-brand chocolate, as the cacao is often contaminated with lead, denatured to the point of having lost vital nutrients, and sweetened with corn syrup, a harmful additive. Milk chocolate is to be avoided in general, as poor milk quality leads to poor chocolate quality. Avoid white chocolate, as it is completely bereft of any positive health qualities.