Raw chocolate (cacao) makes an excellent flavoring and superfood boost to many smoothie recipes. It works well with most base fruits such as bananas, mangoes, peaches and pears. It mixes well with most flavor fruits and is a nutritious indulgence to green smoothies.
Raw Chocolate (Cacao/Cocoa) Nutrition and Health Benefits
Antioxidant Powerhouse! Cacao provides a powerful dose of antioxidants including polyphenols, catechins, epicatechins and flavanoids. According to David Wolfe, an expert on raw food nutrition, raw cacao contains more antioxidants by weight than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates, and goji berries combined.
Vitamins and Minerals. Cacao contains magnesium, iron, chromium, anandamide, theobromine, manganese, zinc, copper, vitamin C, Omega-6 fatty acids, phenethylamine, tryptophan, phosphorus and calcium. Cacao is a good source of healthy fat and contains protein. There are four different varieties of cacao beans (aromica, criollo, forestero and trinitario) which can vary in overall mineral content depending on the plant variety, growing conditions and region. Sunfood brand organic cacao is made from the aromica bean and is very high in iron (314% per serving).
Total Body Wellness. Raw chocolate contains a variety of nutrients which help support the heart, brain, pancreas, liver, skin, digestion and immune systems as well as build stronger bones and healthy blood.
Eat Chocolate, Be Happy! Cacao is a mood-enhancer. Both anandamide (AKA “The Bliss Chemical”) and phenethylamine (AKA “The Love Chemical”) are found abundantly in raw chocolate. Magnesium helps to balance brain chemistry and tryptophan, an essential amino acid, plays an important role in the synthesis of serotonin, which also helps regulate mood and sleep patterns.
How To Use Cacao In Green Smoothie Recipes
By itself, cacao is bitter. If you like extra dark chocolate, you will enjoy the flavor but it can be an acquired taste for some people.
The sweet fruits in the recipes below help sweeten the smoothies. If you find that the cacao is still too bitter, then use less. I encourage people to avoid using any sort of sweetener in a green smoothie.
Cacao is sold as whole beans, nibs (pieces) or powder. Cacao powder is the easiest to use in green smoothies, and all blenders will handle it just fine. You will need a high-powered blender like the Vitamix if you wish to use whole beans or nibs. You can also use a coffee grinder to pulverize cacao.
Healthy Chocolate (Cacao) Smoothie Recipes
- 1 cup cherries, pits removed
- 1 medium banana, peeled
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or other leafy green)
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 4 to 6 ounces of filter water
Calories: 245 | Fat: 2g (grams) | Protein: 6g | Carbs: 58g | Calcium: 8% | Iron: 3.2mg | Vitamin A: 41% | Vitamin C: 51%
Start by adding the liquid to your blender (I use a Vitamix), followed by the soft fruit. Add the greens to your blender last. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until the smoothie is creamy. If you do not have a high-speed blender, grind cacao nibs in a coffee grinder or use cacao powder.
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Raw Chocolate/Cacao Controversy
Some health experts have come out against raw chocolate citing its stimulant effects. My personal experience with cacao is that while I enjoyed eating it at first, I too found it a bit too much for regular consumption.
My recommendation is to think of cacao as an indulgence and use it occasionally, but not every day. It’s a fun food, but not necessarily a health food when taken daily, or in excess.
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Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.