Cacao (cacao Theobroma) is native to South America but grown in equatorial regions around the world (including Hawaii). Cacao has been appreciated for centuries and was even traded as currency among the Aztecs. The Mayans would use cacao for ceremonies and celebrations.
Cacao beans come from the pulp of the fruit and are one of nature’s most potent antioxidant foods. They contain literally hundreds of chemicals, including:
Phenylethylamine (PEA), the “love” chemical,
Ananamide, the “bliss” chemical,
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid,
Seratonin, a natural anti-depressant,
Endorphins, a natural pain reliever that can also be produced with exercise, Theobromine, a relative of caffeine,
Omega-6 fatty acids, and
Magnesium, just to name a few.
Research has shown that cacao helps neutralize free radicals, reduce effects of aging, improve cardiovascular health and circulation, lower blood pressure, balance brain chemistry, relieve symptoms of PMS, and promotes a sense of happiness and well-being.
Note: Because of it’s theobromine content, it’s generally recommended to keep consumption of this magical ingredient to 1 TB per day.
RECIPE: Serves 4 – dairy-free, gluten-free, refined-sugar free, vegan
½ cup raw cashews
¼ cup almond milk
¼ cup coconut oil (preferably refined), melted
4 TB raw cacao powder
2 TB maple syrup
2 Medjool or honey dates, pitted and soaked with cashews
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon (I prefer Ceylon)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp star anise, optional
- Soak cashews and dates in hot (not boiling) water for 15-30 minutes (longer will yield a creamier consistency). You can also soak them in filtered water in the fridge overnight.
- While the cashews are soaking, gather the rest of your ingredients and put them in a food processor (I used a smaller one for this). Add almond milk, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, star anise and nutmeg. Pro tip: for optimum flavor, grind a while cinnamon stick and star anise (separately) in a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder that is strictly used for spices). If you don ‘t have them, spices are optional. This also tastes great without them!
- Rinse the cashews and add to the food processor. Cover and process until well blended. You will likely need to scrape down the sides once or twice and taste to adjust flavorings if needed.
- Transfer to glass serving containers (you’ll need something pretty small like a recycled glass yogurt container) Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- When ready to enjoy, add optional topping of choice…I used coconut cream here (simply whipped coconut cream from a can) with walnut “dust,” grated chocolate and a single star anise.
Leslie Dicke is a certified Holistic Health and plant-based Nutrition Coach with additional education in Food Therapy, Sports Nutrition, and Ayurveda. Focusing on digestive health, Leslie helps clients of all ages find delicious ways to incorporate nutritious food to build energy and immunity without feeling deprived. She believes real results come by getting to the root of the problem, not just treating the symptom. Through making positive and sustainable changes, she enjoys watching her clients achieve their individual wellness goals and find the energy to live life to the fullest.
A San Francisco native, Leslie enjoys getting outside in nature, spending time with her family, and creating recipes. She is currently a Reiki Level 2 student.
For more information and recipes, check her website www.feedingyourgoals.com and follow her on Instagram @feedingyourgoals