COCOA PODS GROWING ON THE TREE
Like many people today, my life is really busy with kids, work, house, garden, dogs, etc. I like to cook and I do quite a bit of it. My refrigerator is always filled with ingredients and left-overs. But you can have a full refrigerator, and still need to find time to eat. There are some days, at least once a week, when I am running around, seeing patients, returning phone calls, dashing over to the hospital, picking up the kids, swinging by the store for something that I need for dinner, when there is just not enough time to sit down and eat. (Caveat: Optimal support of digestive health, not to mention gracious living, would call for a schedule that included time to sit down peacefully for a meal, but given my current reality, this is my adaptation.)
On those crazy days, there is a convenient snack, a homemade chocolate, that I make from equal parts raw cocoa and virgin coconut oil. Since coconut oil melts at 70 degrees, it must be kept frozen and eaten directly out of the freezer. That’s the only down side. You cannot put it in your pocket and eat it later. Instead of consuming protein bars or some other processed packaged food which is actually expensive and often contains undesirable and unpronounceable ingredients, I make this simple snack myself. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and freezes very quickly. I sweeten the chocolates with a little piece of unsulfered dried fruit like a blueberry, or a piece of a cherry.
I have tried other sweeteners such as honey and stevia, but they each have their drawbacks, and I have come to really like the unsweetened flavor of the chocolate with the bit of dried fruit. Honey does not freeze well, and stays sticky and messy, and I never liked Stevia. I always thought that there was something unpleasant about the taste, until I discovered NuNaturals White Stevia Powder. Its actually good and works well in the chocolates. But since I am following the GAPS diet, Stevia in this white powdered form is considered a processed food, and therefore not included in the diet. In addition, this stevia powder also contains maltodextrin, a “flowing agent” derived from grain. (Stevia leaf would be permitted on the GAPS diet). Cocoa is included on the Full GAPS diet, if there are no longer digestive issues such as diarrhea.
I like the way these chocolates taste and the way they make me feel. They give me a calm steady energy and I feel satiated. I may eat 4 or 5 of them, and then I am good to go for hours until I can sit down for dinner. I also like the fact that the majority of the calories in this snack come from a healthful fat which supports my immunity and which is extremely rich in anti-oxidents and minerals.
A bit of cocoa history:
In 1753, the tropical cocoa tree was dubbed Theobroma Cacao, “Food of the Gods”, by the Swedish physician and botanist, Linnaeus. The Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and as food and drink for the privileged. Spaniards introduced the drinking of chocolate to Europe. Those who could afford it, used chocolate as a tonic and medicinal remedy.
Cocoa is very high in flavanoids, an anti-oxident, and the mineral magnesium. Flavanoids are phytonutrients, substances that are found in plants which fulfill many functions. Phytonutrients, the chemicals that help plants defend against environmental challenges, such as damage from pests or ultraviolet light, appear to provide humans with protection as well. Some studies have shown their effectiveness in preventing and treating a range of conditions, including everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is best to use raw cocoa, rather than processed, “Dutched” or alkalinized, as the beneficial flavanoids maybe lost in processing. Even a super dark chocolate bar made from 90 % cocoa maybe devoid of the flavenoid benefits if the cocoa has been processed.
Magnesium is a mineral that is typically deficient in our modern diets, and essential to our health. It supports the functioning of the immune system, the cardiovascular and nervous system, digestion, blood sugar regulation, bone health, muscle function and is involved in myriad biochemical functions throughout the body. Its hard to get enough of it without supplementation.
The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. The plant was called coco by the early Spanish explorers. Coco means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means “nut-bearing.”
Coconut oil is also an extremely nutritious food. It is composed of medium chain fatty acids called lauric acid. The only other abundant source of lauric acid is in human breast milk. Lauric acid is very supportive and protective of the infant’s immature immune system. These vital fatty acids have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties.
Dietary fats come in the form of triglycerides, each containing three fatty acid chains. These chains can be anywhere from 2 – 22 carbon atoms long. Most of the fatty acids in Western diets are long chain, with 12 or more carbon atoms in the chain. Medium chain fatty acids have between 6 and 10 carbon atoms. Because of their shorter length they are metabolized differently. They enter the blood stream faster and are taken directly to the liver, where they are used as an immediate source of energy. Less MCTs are converted to fat than longer fatty acids.
Another source of medium chain triglycerides is palm oil. I just listened to a fascinating podcast on Sean Croxton’s Underground Wellness about this other extremely nutritious tropical oil. Palm oil is very rich in Vitamin E and carotenoids, which possess Vitamin A activity. Sean interviewed Bruce Fife, who wrote a book called The Palm Oil Miracle. I ordered some virgin red palm oil after listening to the podcast, and will try to make my chocolates with it. I don’t know yet how it will taste. I will let you know.
Here is the recipe for the chocolates:
Equipment: Silicone Ice Cube Tray
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil
2/3 cup raw cocoa
any unsulfered dried fruit: dried blueberries, very small pieces of dried cherries, raisins, pieces of dried prunes, whatever you like.
Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and mix in the cocoa. Put a piece of dried fruit in each of the ice cube tray compartment. Fill the compartment with the melted coconut oil-cocoa mixture. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.