A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Five Superfood Teas. As it turns out, cocoa drinks can also be very healthy. I can honestly say that cocoa gives me the best energy I feel from any food, drink or supplement.
How Healthy Is Cocoa? Very!
Health Effects Of Cocoa
Science tells us that daily consumption of 200 mg or more of cocoa flavanols promote healthy circulatory system, which in turn benefits our heart, brain and muscles. Cocoa can even promote a feeling of bliss, especially if circulatory function is limited. Surveys show that the older you are, the better the boost you could notice.
Cocoa contains nutritious catechins and flavonoids that create those positive health effects. It's been found to have the highest antioxidant power of any natural food. Some of the flavonoids can taste bitter, so manufacturers remove many of them from store-shelf cocoa products.
Cocoa is also mineral-rich, including magnesium which supports the heart, brain power, bones, and helps us relax. Finally, its a catalyst for driving nutrition into the body, which makes it combine very well with other nutritious foods and herbs.
However too much of any food can be bad for you. Consumed in excess, cocoa can stress the adrenal system or the liver, or cause a headache. People can have very different tolerance level for cocoa, so carefully monitor how your body reacts and learn your limits.
Your Chocolatey Buying Options
"Cacao" is the raw unprocessed form of cocoa. In my experience, cacao is about 15% healthier than processed cocoa, which in turn is somewhat healthier than a dark chocolate bar. That's why it's usually best to make drinks from raw cacao powder rather than processed cocoa powder (especially cocoa processed with alkali.)
You can spend over ten bucks on a package of raw cacao marketed as a health food, or you can spend three or four dollars on the same thing at a store like Trader Joe's. I've tried both and they're about the same, as far as I can tell.
A supplement called "CocoaVIA" is made from the concentrated nutrients found in cocoa. I've tried it personally, and even though it was already ten months past its expiration date, it was very effective. I found it bitter-tasting, but maybe that's because it was expired.
Dark chocolate candy bars are also somewhat effective, just make sure it's 65% cocoa or higher. Don't mess with milk chocolate, because the ratio of sugar to cocoa is just too high.
Getting The Most From Cocoa
Here are a dozen pointers to maximize your benefit from cocoa:
Keep building up your nourishment, happiness and wisdom in all ways possible. I've found that living with a grateful spirit and purposeful energy is also very sustaining.
- Find the right amount. Find the dosage amount that works best for you. The usual recommendation is three tablespoons of cacao. That's a good starting point, but sometimes I like to take four. The levels cocoa may affect you as you take more are:
- Relaxing: You feel calmer and a bit better.
- Pleasant: It's really helping you! Now try whatever you feel will be enjoyable.
- Blissful: You're beginning to feel excited, like you're living inside happy dreams (or at least moving in that direction.) Where will this wonderful flow take you next!?
- Blessed: You feel like you're walking in a divine light. Accept and welcome its blessings. Let well-being and enlightenment unfold.
- Overloaded: Too much cocoa can make you feel stressed or "hyper" or "on edge." You've found your limit, don't ever take that much again.
- How to make it. For easiest mixing, microwave two or three ounces of water for a minute, then mix in the cocoa. Then add a few ounces more of water to thin it out a bit.
- Using sweeteners. Add a little sweetener if you like (I use a tablespoon of raw honey.)
- Other ingredients. Some other energizing ideas that might help you enjoy cocoa more are coffee (even decaf), holy basil tea, or ginseng. Try it with other nutritious ingredients you've found energize you.
- Co-nutrients help. Drink it with a really light meal, or a piece of fruit, or a small smoothie. I like to keep this to a cup or less, which lets the cocoa be digested quickly and completely. Good food provides co-nutrients, plus the cocoa will be more easily digested.
- CocoaVIA tips. If you use CocoaVIA, definitely mix it with some food because it can be a little abrasive to the stomach by itself. Also, it's so strong that you might do well with half the recommended dose of CocoaVIA.
- Avoid some foods. Don't mix it with anything that can be difficult to digest. This can vary from person to person. Personally I avoid milk and refined sugar, and minimize bread and meat. A little caffeine may help, but too much could make you feel edgy (I'd keep caffeinated coffee to 1/4 cup or less.)
- Drink it gradually. For some people, having four tablespoons of cocoa or cacao is too much (I fall into this category.) Try drinking half of it and see how you feel. After that, consume more cocoa no faster than a tablespoon per 30-60 minutes.
- Have a good experience. Look for a feeling of positive energy to appear over thirty to sixty minutes. If you're like me, you'll sail with a smile for a few hours, then the energy will glide smoothly downwards over the next four to six hours.
Discover which activities enhance your bliss. Cocoa is versatile: It elevates the joy you get from positive physical activities by enhancing blood flow, and also helps energize your thinking by its intensifying effect on your "neurotransmitters." You may find it to be a nice pre-workout energizer.
- Carry it with you. Want to have a chocolate boost available for you anytime you want one? I like to carry with me some dark chocolate coated almonds, or a four-tablespoon bottle of cacao powder mixed with freeze-dried fruit and/or nut powder.
- Take a break. It would be nice to enjoy chocolate every day, and indeed CocoaVIA is marketed as a daily supplement. But you may find that your body prefers to take a break once every two or three days. Have a "break day" when you don't eat any chocolate at all. Discover for yourself what works best for you.
- After it wears off... As the effects of cocoa decline, keep happily treasured all the joys and peak experiences you lived. They are yours forever.
Later on, you may experience fatigue or feel emotionally lower on "break" days, or after your natural "high" from cocoa's nutrients has worn off. If that happens, you may want to use cocoa mainly on occasions when you want to be at your best.
Hope you can make cocoa work for you as well as it does for me!