I discovered chocolate was a drug in my early forties, the way it folded across my tongue, dispensing a sensation of wellbeing—almost like love. Then I went to Ecuador and witnessed the complexity of growing and processing magic cocoa beans. I met the good people who performed multiple ministrations, working under poverty-like conditions to bring this elixir to my 90% cocoa bar.
The cocoa bean is also referred to as cacao—not to be confused with coca when going through customs. Cocoa beans are embedded in an elongated leathery pod filled with a sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called baba de cacao). The appendage-like pods are harvested straight off the trunk, opened with a machete—the pulp and cocoa seeds are removed. Piled in heaps, bins, or laid out on grates for days in the Equatorial sun. Trodden and shuffled about (often with bare feet), sometimes, sprinkled with red clay mixed and water, to obtain a finer color and polish. This process protects them from moldering during shipment to other countries.
Dried and fully fermented, the seeds are finally roasted; only then can the cocoa solids (the powder) and cocoa butter (the fat) be extracted.
That’s a lot of work for one little bean, and the history of colonialism remains an enduring legacy of inequality in the lives of these producers today.
The British comedienne and author Jo Brand once proclaimed, “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.”
I would add that good is made when chocolate is grown with ethical practices, Organic and Fair-Trade.
I grew up eating chocolate with great pleasure and guilt—I thought eating chocolate was a naughty addition to my girlish girth.
Today I realize cocoa powder is great for my health. I add it to chilis, curries, and meats, cultivating a rich dark flavor. Cacao nibs get sprinkled into my organic yogurt and swirled about with drops of maple syrup.
Why Eat More Chocolate?
Your Brain Functions Better
Studies show that cocoa powder contains a lot of flavanols, which improves blood flow to your brain. This will have a big impact on your brain function in the long-term.
Flavanols also increase the amount of Nitric Oxide in your body, increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches all your important parts, brains, muscles, and lungs.
Your Blood Pressure Drops
Studies show that the flavanols in cocoa can lower your blood pressure by relaxing the tension of your blood vessels, lowering the stress on your heart. Studies show that people who regularly consume cocoa powder have a much lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who don’t.
Forget Love, Fall in Chocolate
Cocoa naturally contains phenylethylamine, the same chemical that’s released when we fall in love. As a result, eating chocolate delivers a natural “high,” often related to the feeling of being in love. Maybe that’s why some fall for the idea that it’s an aphrodisiac.
What you eat makes a difference in how you feel. Remember, though: The way that you eat makes a difference, so practicing mindful eating is important. Don’t gobble but savor.
No, Your Clothes Won’t Shrink
Cocoa powder is known to be great for weight loss. It makes you feel full & happy and boosts your metabolism. In addition, a recent study found that dark chocolate can help you lose weight when consumed in moderation.
Why is Fair-Trade Certified so important?
During my trips to South America, I cultivated relationships with Fair-Trade Organic producer co-ops. The Fair-Trade Premium they received went to build wells and solar panels, bring running water to homes, protect ancient heritage trees, and provide healthcare and nutritional needs. It got the kids out of the fields and into schools.
It was so rewarding to see the benefits in basic human needs being met with Fair-Trade. I wanted to bring buyers and consumers with me to see what was behind the products grown in the global south.
Behind the Fair-Trade Certified seal are rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards.
Standards that include safe working conditions, environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods, and communities. Every purchase you make can make a difference in the lives of others.
Buying and eating plenty of Fair-Trade Organic chocolate puts people and the planet first. It has the potential to change the way we think about love and equity in every choice we make.
To quote Katharine Hepburn, “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
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