February was made for chocolate. Of course, Valentine’s Day is next week, and we all know by now the benefits of chocolate on heart health. And because February is American Heart Month, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about chocolate everywhere you turn in the coming weeks.
The problem is most chocolate you find in stores is loaded with sugar, oils and sometimes a host of artificial ingredients. Any benefit from the actual chocolate is quickly outweighed by all the junk. And of course we can’t recommend any of these traditional chocolate products for our patients.
But hope is not lost! It’s still possible to get that chocolate flavor – plus all of its healthy benefits – while still staying true to an anti-cancer diet. Chocolate comes from cacao, the dried seed of a tropical tree that grows primarily in Central and South America. Cacao is the source of cocoa solids and cocoa powder, which then gets turned into chocolate.
Cacao seeds are chock full of goodness. In fact, the raw variety contains more antioxidants by weight than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates and goji berries put together. The beans are also filled with vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, manganese, vitamin C, Omega-6 fatty acids and calcium—not to mention healthy fat and protein. Plus, cacao contains healthy doses of chemicals that improve and regulate mood.
One of my favorite ways to add cacao to my diet is in a smoothie. The bitterness of the cacao is balanced by the sweetness of the fruit, and the result is a delicious indulgence I think you’ll really love! Buy cacao in either whole beans, nibs (pieces) or powder. Powder works really well in a blender for a smoothie, but you can also grind up the whole beans and nibs in a coffee grinder and they’ll work just as well. Let me know what you think!
- 1 cup cherries, pits removed
- 1 medium banana
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or other leafy green)
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 4 to 6 ounces of filtered water
- Start by adding the water, followed by the fruit and cacao.
- Add the greens to your blender last.
- Blend on high for 30 seconds or until the smoothie is creamy.
(Recipe adapted from Incredible Smoothies)