Thursday, January 19, 2006

Raw Cacao, Anyone?

I've been reading about the amazing, beneficial properties of raw cacao, so I decided to check out this "superfood" myself. According to people who eat raw cacao, they feel more alert, have more energy, and in general feel happy. Promoters of raw cacao (such as David Wolfe, a nutritionist well known and respected by raw foodists, and Nature's First Law, which sells raw foods) claim that raw cacao is amazingly healthy because it is high in magnesium, has chemicals which promote a feeling of happiness, and reduces appetite. It is the "raw" aspect that really draws raw foodists and which attracted my attention. I wondered what this stuff tasted like, so I went out the Whole Foods Market and bought an 8 oz. bag of Nature's First Law "Certified Organic Raw Chocolate (Raw Cacao Nibs)" for the extreme price of $9.99 (the same price it is sold for online at Nature's First Law). This was the only raw cacao I could find in the store.

Upon opening the bag, a strong, not unpleasant chocolately aroma wafts out. My girlfriend and I both think it smells like a mocha-flavored coffee as it's roasting at Starbucks or someplace. I looked at the nutritional information and was quite surprised to see no mention of the huge amounts of magnesium that is supposed to be present in raw cacao. I did notice that there are 11 grams of fat in one ounce (4 of them saturated). The other listed nutrients are: 30 mg of sodium, a total of 14 grams of carbs, 9 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 42 mg of Vitamin C.

I placed one tablespoon of the nibs in a little bowl and tasted some. First impression? YUUUUUUCKKK!!!!! Oh. My. Gawd. This stuff is bitter and...and... I just didn't like it at all. My friend tasted it next and made some gruesome faces (which she refused to let me photograph for the blog). We tried to like it- after all, it's supposed to be good for you. But the truth is, our first impression is that we cannot stand this stuff.

I decided to do some investigation about this product. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be the center of yet more controversy amongst raw foodists. Nature's First Law describes the cacao bean as the seed of a fruit, and describes its beneficial influence on mood and appetite. It downplays its stimulant properties in a section called "Stimulant or Superfood?" which led me to believe that there must be concerns about cacao's stimulating effects. Nature's First Law says that it is cooked cacao that has the stimulating effects that concern nutritionists, not cacao in its raw form.

So what does the other side say? I found several articles that are vehemently anti-raw cacao- or, more accurately, against the marketers of the product. Their most common concern is the claim by raw cacao promoters that raw cacao is truly raw. They claim that the fact that Nature's First Law's raw cacao nibs are peeled is proof that the beans/nuts have been roasted (cooked) and therefore have none of the enzymes that raw foodists are after in a raw diet. Another site shows that raw cacao is naturally white; its brown color comes from fermentation- another process whose effects on foods raw foodists disagree about. One website goes so far as to accuse a particular promoter of raw cacao of scamming the public.

For me, the only true raw foods are the unprocessed raw fruits and vegetables I see in the produce section! As consumers we certainly can't trust the labels on processed foods; for example, cashews labeled "raw" are actually, according to some raw foodists, heated to temperatures that kill their enzymes. And the whole enzyme theory that is the basis of raw foodism itself is a point of controversy! There are nutritionists and scientists who say that enzymes from raw foods are not utilized by the body in the way raw food promoters claim they are, and that raw food diets are no more healthful than cooked food diets.

I have come to realize that I am not into the whole enzyme theory. This disqualifies me as a classic raw foodist, I suppose, but I'm not trying to fit into any community. I'm just an average citizen trying to get healthy. If raw foods have a miraculously beneficial effect on me, I'll accept that these benefits have occured. But I'm not going to attribute them to enzymes, since that theory has not been proven. If others want to attribute such benefits to enzymes, that is fine for them- maybe the theory will be proven once and for all one day. I have nothing against the theory; I just don't see it as anything more than that- a theory. And whether or not the theory is fact doesn't change my experiences: I've had a tremendously easy weight loss so far, and the raw foods I've eaten (with the exception of raw cheese) have not produced any of the cravings or desires to binge that I'd always experienced before. I therefore have no plans to stop eating raw! And although the many controversies within the raw food community are a concern to me, I will still try new products and see if they work in my new raw lifestyle.

But I won't be eating raw cacao any time soon!

Here are sites I read while looking for information on this topic. I urge you to read them, and other resources, yourself so you can come to your own conclusions.

Jan. 22 UPDATE: I have added a publication by Nature's First Law because in it, they claim to not roast their cacao. The publication is listed in the Pro-Raw Cacao list below.

Pro-Raw cacao
David Wolfe's website
Nature's First Law, the marketers of the raw cacao nibs.

"Anti"- Raw Cacao

General Raw Cacao Information

Cooked vs. raw:


Rawfood said...

very good analysis. but i gotta tell ya, raw chocolate is the shit!

Rawfood said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



FeedBurner FeedCount