Beetroot baked oatmeal with raw cacao powder (gluten free)

This week’s habit is all about eating more chocolate. Oh yes! But not the typical chocolate from the store. We’re going to check out how amazing it is to eat raw cacao powder so we can take advantage of a wondrous superfood that is one of the most nutritionally complex foods on the planet. Cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.
(Another reason why this week is quite special for me – I can’t believe this is my 100th post on The Confidence Kitchen! Thank you to all my wonderful readers for all your support. I love hearing from you on the comments and over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. This healthy community means a great deal to me, and really enriches my life.)

Cacao can improve your mood, help you lose weight, protect your heart and cardiovascular system, and affects almost every body system in very positive ways including some lovely protection against premature ageing.
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What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao?

Cacao pods are large football-shaped fruits that grow off the trunk and limbs of the cacao tree. Cacao beans are found inside the pods. The beans are harvested, fermented and dried. If the processing stops there, it is often sold as “raw cacao powder”.

Unfortunately the cocoa powder you buy at the supermarket has been taken through several more processing steps that turns cacao into “cocoa” which has fewer health benefits. So whenever you have a choice, choose raw cacao powder.

There is a large volume of research supporting cacao’s strong health benefits. One 2012 meta-analysis found that eating chocolate could slash your risk of cardiovascular disease by 37 percent and your stroke risk by 29 percent.

You’ve probably already heard that eating dark chocolate is good for you. The thing that isn’t often communicated is whenever we eat cocoa or cacao powder combined with milk (aka chocolate), the dairy and sugar actually inhibit the absorption of antioxidants from the raw cacao. Sadly most, but not all, store bought chocolate is quite useless from a health perspective. But we love chocolate, so one of the best ways we can still enjoy that yummy chocolate taste (and exceptional health benefits) is by mixing raw cacao into easy home baked treats.

After oral intake of cocoa, both the flavanol content and the total antioxidant capacity in plasma increase. These effects appear to be markedly reduced when cocoa is consumed with milk or if cocoa is ingested as milk chocolate” – Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health, Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine

A prospective study of 34 489 postmenopausal women (known as the Iowa Women’s Health Study) who were free of cardiovascular disease and had completed food-frequency questionnaires over 16 years, found that foods rich in flavonoids were associated with a decreased risk of death caused by coronary heart disease. Furthermore, a borderline significant inverse association was noted between cardiovascular mortality and chocolate intake (ie. less mortality with more chocolate intake, woot woot!)

The Dutch Zutphen Study of 470 elderly men showed that cocoa intake was inversely related to blood pressure, and in a prospective analysis, intake was associated with a reduction of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
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How much cacao should you eat?

General guidelines seem to recommend frequent, smaller amounts of chocolate so that you keep the nutrients flowing steadily in your bloodstream. Studies even show  that people eating tiny amounts of chocolate 5 times a week have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indexes). Most experts agree that the recommended “dose” of dark chocolate is approximately 30g to 60g/day (roughly 1 to 2 ounces).

So if we reach for a typical 100g bar of very high quality, organic, dark chocolate, then we should nibble roughly a third of it every day (as an example, something like this Green and Black’s Organic 85% Cacao Bar would work).

Choose a dark chocolate with more than 70% cocoa powder or cacao solids (the higher the better)
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Here is a indication of the different chocolate types and what % of beneficial cocoa solids they contain:

Name of chocolate Percentage of cocoa / cacao Health Benefit
Unsweetened dark chocolate 85-100% cocoa powder YES!
Bittersweet 65-80% cocoa powder YES! Stay on the higher side of 70%
Semisweet 35-60% cocoa powder NO! The sugar and dairy inhibit the absorption of most of the moderate amount of cocoa flavanols that are there
Milk Chocolate 10-20% cocoa powder NO! The hi