Chocolate and other Culprits

by Anna

I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? But did you know that the kind of chocolate you find stacked on super market shelves has very little in common with actual, proper chocolate? Once you had the enlightening experience of tasting real raw chocolate you will understand. Raw chocolate doesn’t contain sugar nor milk and it has been lovingly mixed together with original untreated cacao and heated below 46 Celsius so that it still contains all the original goodness which is very heat sensitive and would otherwise be destroyed in the heating process.

For those of you who say: “I don’t like dark chocolate”, let me explain something to you:  Just a single drop of milk destroys most of the good chemicals contained in raw cacao. Cow’s milk was never intended for human consumption. It is fine for calves, but we only have a milk digesting enzyme until we are about two years of age and after that our body will have significant trouble coping with it. Nowadays cow’s milk is being “made fit for human consumption” by pasteurisation and thus heating it far beyond its heat labile point at which it begins to change its chemical configuration. This can and unfortunately nowadays is happening to any food which explains why there are so many people who are intolerant to milk and other products. Interestingly, the enzyme necessary for digestion of cow’s milk is only created in the fermentation process which is why people with an intolerance to milk might find that they are able to tolerate e.g. cheese and yoghurt. I have never really agreed with cow’s milk without actually realising and have now converted to soya or nut milk. Soya milk can be found pretty much in any supermarket, but make sure you choose unsweetened and sugar-free and as a general rule of thumb choose one that has as little ingredients as possible. The ingredients in the soya milk of my choice only contain soya beans, water and salt. Nut milks will be available in your local health food shop or online.

Now to those sugar addicts out there. I raise my hand voluntarily admitting:” Yes, I am a sugar addict.” The truth is, everyone is, but not everyone is aware of it. And to be fair, it is not easy to avoid it because nowadays it is added to pretty much anything to enhance flavour. It nearly borders on conspiracy which I am eager to make clear to everyone. Sugar as in the refined white stuff we commonly use in everyday life is a secret killer. No need to panic here, keep using it if you are happy with it. But understanding what affect it can have on us and how addictive it can be, or in fact is, I made the decision to remove it from my diet.  Trying to come off sugar can take time because your body will still crave for it for a long time after your last consumption. Picture yourself repeatedly going back to that chocolate box for yet another “fix”. You feel you need more in order to keep you alert and running, but this is a misconception. Yes, it will make you feel more energized, for about 30 minutes, after which your blood sugar comes crashing down again and you find yourself reaching for the next sugar fix. This is a tough lesson and after three years of repeatedly attempting to avoid it I only just start to settle on a diet without it. I firmly believe that most chronic conditions would be diminished or reduced if we simply remove cane sugar from our diet. And I mean any cane sugar, not just the refined version. Cane sugar alters our body chemicals. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go without it for very long, once you realise how much better you feel without it you will try until your body doesn’t want it anymore. If you wish to avoid the damaging effects of sugar on your health, I strongly encourage you to take the first leap. The end result will be a much more alert, happy and active you. And believe me, your aches and pains will probably just disappear.

There are natural sugar replacements with a low GI value (Glycemic Index i.e. keeps your blood sugar levels stable). I personally use agave nectar or xylitol instead of sugar. Check your local health food shop or the internet. Agave nectar can now even be found in Tesco and dare I say at a much better price than health food shops. But please give your local health food shop a visit because the other good stuff they stock is well worth it and will most likely not be found in general super markets. The arising cost implication is a minor nuisance that I now easily dismiss in favour of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and the fact that I am indeed able to live my life and not be controlled by my dietary intake.

Most people don’t realise how milk, sugar and other food groups affect them or that they are in fact intolerant to any of them. An intolerance is difficult to spot. It isn’t always obvious because a reaction can be subtle and at times doesn’t show at all until the next day unlike an allergy which usually occurs straight after consumption and can be potentially life threatening. To give you an idea I will list some of my symptoms: feeling ill or sick and tired, aches and pains, blocked nose, headache, poor concentration, mood swings, viral infections, skin irritations, fluid retention in hands and feet and a swollen face upon waking in the morning plus not being able to wake up properly. After an acute intake of “ordinary” sweets and chocolates I even get a blurry vision at times. I did get checked for diabetes because some of my symptoms were quite similar but the test was negative.

It took me years to figure out that I didn’t agree with certain types of food and went to my GP at least once a year to have myself checked because I just didn’t feel well. But all standard tests were fine. And when I finally figured out that my reason for feeling unwell was indeed an intolerance to food I was told by my GP that they won’t test for food intolerances and that I ought to go privately. Others might have more luck with this but in the end I consulted a Kinesiologist (muscles reflex testing) who identified which food I was most sensitive to and confirmed mostly what I had already figured out myself simply by watching what I was eating and how I felt afterwards.

If you think you might have a food sensitivity keep a food log and record what you eat and how you feel and you might be able to come to an astonishing realisation. Try to avoid foods that give you problems and ensure you eat a balanced diet with as much raw or steamed vegetables as possible. Also try to avoid sugary drinks; they really don’t do you any favour. Water is the elixir of life 😉

Now back to the chocolate again. Raw chocolate contains no milk and no refined sugar. Just natural sweeteners and cacao. I have been experimenting with it for a couple of years now and have created the most delicious chocolate treats ever. And the best? I don’t feel ill after and I don’t end up craving in an unhealthy manner.

The naturally good properties and health benefits of raw chocolate: Most concentrated source of magnesium in nature. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brain power, relaxes muscles, increases flexibility, promotes healthy bowel movements, helps build strong bones, facilitates more than 300 different detoxification and elimination functions. Highest food source of chromium which assists in balancing blood sugar levels. Possibly best source of antioxidants containing 10,000mg/10%. Also contains vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, C and E and to a lesser extend fibre, iron, phosphorous and hundreds more. Theobromine, the sister molecule to caffeine but much milder, dilates blood vessels, acts as a cough remedy and has shown cariostatic effects. Phenylethylamine, the love or happy chemical, is naturally produced by our brain and other than that is only found in raw cacao and blue-green algae. Anandamide, the bliss chemical released in the brain when we feel really good. Tryptophan, necessary for the production of serotonin which can lower anxiety and stress. Most of these properties are very sensitive to heat and usually destroyed in the cooking process. (List of properties taken from Sweet Gratitude by Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipo Tamborra)

For those of you who had the opportunity to try some of my chocolate experiments will know where to get more. For those of you who haven’t yet, either come to one of my workshops where I will always have some on offer or contact me for more information or on how to make raw chocolate yourself.