Hi! I sit here typing up this blog in a highly energetic state thanks, I believe, to the delicious handful of raw cocoa seeds I just ate. Fun fact, the stimulant activity of chocolate is due to cocoa’s theobromine content. If you happen to ever get a trivia question asking what stimulant is in chocolate and you get the answer right, I would appreciate it if you would please send me a dollar.
Anyways. A couple of months ago, I was checking out some of the less “gentrified” food stalls at the Grand Central Market (#dtla) and stopped at one that sells a lot of beans and other dried goods. As I took my time looking at all of the many types of beans displayed in their little bean aquariums, I noticed one that looked like a kind of dried, brown lima bean. Curious, I asked the seller what it was, and when he told me it was a cocoa seed, I asked for a taste. In a matter of seconds I was biting down the on the crunchy, chocolatey, winey, crispy and very non-sweet goodness of a raw cocoa seed.
I’m gonna tell you something right now: it did not taste like a piece of chocolate. Not that I really expected it to – I’ve tasted nibs before – which are basically little pieces of cocoa seed. But for those of you who maybe haven’t had nibs, or any form of raw cocoa seed, I want to manage expectations. This is not the sweet, creamy, fatty treat that is the chocolate bar you and I have come to know and love. BTW, if you are one of “those people” who doesn’t like chocolate, move along… I’m just kidding, I love you. Please stay and keep reading anyway.
Now we’ve come to the lesson portion of the post. Allow me to tell you a little about the raw cocoa seed, or as I like to call it, “the heart of chocolate. (TM)” According to Wikipedia (required as the next few sentences are pulled word-for-word from the Cocoa Wiki page) “The cacao bean, also cocoa bean, is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted.
“They are the basis of chocolate… In general, cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants such as procyanidins and flavanoids, which may impart antiaging properties. [Yes, please.] …Prolonged intake of flavanol-rich cocoa has been linked to cardiovascular health benefits.”
Yay! This is why we’ve been hearing for years that it is actually good to eat dark chocolate. Woot! Woot! Dark chocolate is a health food! Or to reference many a Facebook meme, chocolate is a vegetable. Except… “though this refers to raw cocoa and to a lesser extent, dark chocolate, since flavonoids degrade during cooking and alkalizing processes.” Damn you, Wikipedia.
So basically, all of that is to say it is raw cocoa/cacao seeds – not dark chocolate bars – that are actually really good for you. And if you can get used to the strong, non-sweet flavor, (which trust me, if you eat kale or brussels sprouts, OR if you like black coffee without sugar, you definitely can) they start to taste quite delicious. The key is to pretend you are eating a chocolate-coffee flavored nut instead of a piece of candy, because if you compare these little guys to candy, there’re gonna be problems. Unless you are one of those nuts who actually doesn’t like sweets, in which case move along. No seriously, move right along. 😉
Now the question of where to buy. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, or another city that has a place that sells bulk beans, nuts and other “exotic” foods like raw cocoa/cacao beans, you can order them online. Even Amazon has them.
In summation, I was happy to learn about these little guys, because I try, on occasion, to eat less sugar, and these help me scratch the chocolate itch without falling off the sugar-free wagon. If you get a chance, and you’re feeling healthy, check them out yourself. And if eating them raw, like a nut, is just too much for you, you might try some of these suggestions from U.K. edition of Women’s Health magazine, which also has some other great information about the nutritional benefits of eating raw chocolate. On a side note, you’ll notice they spell it “cacao,” which seems kind of a little pretentious if you want my opinion, but that’s the British for you. I’m joking! I love you, British people.
So what are your thoughts? Have every tried raw cocoa? Did you like it? And do you have any tips for ways to eat it that taste really good but are still healthy?
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.
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