Before biting into the list it’s important to understand what ‘raw’ means. Raw (food) – refers to the culinary process of food that has not been heated above (approx) 115F. Popularized by Raw foodists who call this food ‘living’ – they believe heat destroys food and makes it less nutritive.
All chocolate begins from the cacao bean which is the seed of the cacao fruit. Specifically, when describing ‘raw’ chocolate, we refer to the un-processing and unroasted cacao bean.
Let’s find out what makes raw chocolate so unique…
Enzymes are like little construction workers in the body and essential as they perform thousands of metabolic functions daily. Raw chocolate is processed at low temperatures – the cacao beans are unroasted thereby preserving these living enzymes. Regular chocolate is roasted at high heat which kills living enzymes.
Cacao has the highest levels of antioxidants of all natural foods in the world. Antioxidants combat free-radicals. Flavanoids, a particular antioxidant found in cacao is attributed to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. Antioxidants are destroyed with heat and therefore void in regular chocolate. Cold ground cacao contains twice as many antioxidants as ordinary roasted cacao!
Raw chocolate companies choose a natural sweetener as opposed to white refined sugar found in regular chocolate bars. Some sweeteners like coconut blossom nectar (which is a fancy way of saying coconut sugar) has been used because of its low GI value and high mineral content. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared coconut blossom nectar to be the most sustainable sugar.
4. Mood Enhancers
Raw chocolate contains anandamide. Anandamide: named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss” (which is why it’s sometimes called the “bliss chemical”), anandamide activates a receptor that causes dopamine production (dopamine causes that “runner’s high” feeling we may get after a great workout). As you guessed it, not found in regular chocolate.
Milk chocolate which is made from dairy and contains a protein called lactose is intolerable if you are lactose intolerant. Raw chocolate itself is dairy-free and while not all chocolate bar companies make dairy-free chocolate, you’re more likely to find a wider selection of bars you can tolerate in the raw chocolate section…
…And, Chances are when you find a dairy-free raw chocolate bar it’s also vegan! Double-win. Cacao comes from a tree and is naturally Vegan. Generally, from bean to bar, regular chocolate companies add dairy and/or dairy-based ingredients like whey or casein to develop taste/texture. Looking for a Vegan bar? Go for raw. Not all companies omit dairy but you’re assured if its vegan it’s proudly stamped on the package!
Speaking of bean to bar – there are a slew of ingredients (albeit, often cheap) that regular chocolate companies use in manufacturing. Raw chocolate respects the use of the natural organic ingredients assuring the most nutritious chocolate on the market.
8. Conscious Eating
Producing good chocolate from honest ingredients is a meticulous and complex process which demands passion and dedication. Carefully selected cacao suppliers work directly with small farmers, without any middle men. In this way they can guarantee that each of the farmers involved receives a fair wage and is treated respectfully. Specialty cacao makes up only 4% of the total world cacao trade, the rest is bulk cacao (often what the regular chocolate suppliers buy). When you buy raw chocolate, you’re supporting these farmers and their families.
Chocolate really is a matter of ‘you get what you pay for.’ While raw chocolate’s price tag will eat up your cash a little faster, the quality ingredients are incomparable. Many chocolate aficionados describe chocolate like a fine wine… a little at a time is all that’s needed which helps to justify the price – if you can stop at once square!. So, if you’re simply a choc-o-holic and need a fix, anything will do. But, if you value quality, intentional consumerism, and your health – try some raw chocolate!
This article originally appeared in Sweat Equity Magazine.