I have a confession to make. I’ve been terribly sick this last week or two! I don’t know what anyone knows about Chron’s Disease or Colitis, but I’ve been suffering on and off since 2012. It’s an illness that really doesn’t have a voice in medicine, and millions of people suffer every day from this painful intestinal disease. When I’m super sick, solid foods are super difficult to digest. That’s why I’ve been making and posting so many shakes, pureed soups, and other easy to eat foods.
After making many smoothies and soups, I wanted something sweet and creamy. Since ice cream is definitely not something I can handle right now, I was forced to get a little creative. Enter bananas! I know that frozen banana ice cream isn’t anything new (the Paleo diet makes this a staple in their dessert recipes). However, I thought it would be cool to add raw cacao nibs!
What Exactly IS Cacao?
“When I went out there, I found the little Oompa-Loompas living in tree houses. They had to live in tree houses to escape from the whangdoodles and the hornswogglers and the snozzwangers. And they were living on green caterpillars, and the caterpillars tasted revolting, and the Oompa-Loompas spent every moment of their days climbing through the treetops looking for other things to mash up with the caterpillars to make them taste better — red beetles, for instance, and eucalyptus leaves, and the bark of the bong-bong tree, all of them beastly, but not quite so beastly as the caterpillars. Poor little Oompa-Loompas! The one food that they longed for more than any other was the cacao bean. But they couldn’t get it. An Oompa-Loompa was lucky if he found three or four cacao beans a year. But oh, how they craved them. They used to dream about cacao beans all night and talk about them all day. You had only to mention the word “cacao” to an Oompa-Loompa and he would start dribbling at the mouth. The cacao bean,’ Mr Wonka continued, ‘which grows on the cacao tree, happens to be the thing from which all chocolate is made. You cannot make chocolate without the cacao bean. The cacao bean is chocolate.”
-Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, page 26
Why would I include a quote like this in today’s post? Because Roald Dahl was on to something when he described the Oompa Loompas’ fascination with chocolate. Despite creating a fictional tale, our cultural obsession with chocolate is by all means a reality.
Cacao is the most widely eaten nut in the world–except no one actually thinks they’re eating a nut. Millions of people eat chocolate bars and chocolate candies every day. Very few realize it’s a nut grown in the Amazon and other rain forest regions of South America. When cracked, these cacao nuts reveal a white fleshy substance that is used in a variety of recipes, including chocolate. Here are some other interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about cacao, specifically the benefits of eating it raw:
- Cacao was originally cultivated by the Aztecs and other South American civilizations. It was considered so valuable, natives would use it as a currency to buy, sell, and trade in their communities and economies. The explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries did not understand, however. Christopher Columbus wrote in his diary about the natives’ strange fascination with “almonds.”
- The word ‘cacao’ is perhaps one of the oldest words in any language or linguistic system. Hernan Cortes took this word from the Natives’ language and used the same term when describing this precious nut. It is estimated that the word ‘cacao’ could be 15,000 years old.
- Raw cacao has 15 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, 20 times the antioxidants of green tea, and 300 times the antioxidants of red wine.
- Organic raw cacao is the richest source of magnesium. Magnesium is the number one mineral deficiency in the United States.
- Organic raw cacao is also the richest source of phosphorous, iron, and manganese. Medical experts are now saying that the key to healthy bones and preventing in osteoporosis lies in phosphorous levels, not calcium.
- Raw cacao has high levels of Oxytocin and other ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain. However, heavy metal machinery and heat destroy many of these chemicals, making all processed chocolate essentially vapid of most nutrients.
For more information on chocolate, check out David Wolfe’s TED Talk on raw cacao. He’s a natural foods advocate and the godfather of chocolate research. I got a lot of my research from him and recommend any of his work.
How to Use Raw Cacao in Your Recipes
If you’ve been keeping up with me, organic raw cacao is clearly the way to go. It’s the most nutritionally dense and best way to consume cacao. Use raw cacao nibs as part of a trail mix, or even throw it in your guacamole (this is a traditional Mexican recipe). But at the end of the day, we all know chocolate belongs in dessert! Try this ahhhmayyyzing ice cream recipe. It’s super simple and has only TWO ingredients! You won’t miss the dairy or processed chocolate syrup one bit!
Vegan Banana ‘Ice Cream’ with Raw Cacao Nibs
4 bananas, peeled, cut into chunks, and frozen
1/4 cups cacao nibs plus more for garnish
1. Blend the bananas in a high speed blender until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Mix in the cacao nibs. Freeze for another 30-60 minutes. Garnish with other toppings such as banana or dried goji berries.
What’s great about this ice cream is you can make almost any flavor! Swirl in almond or any nut butter for gourmet flavor. Add different fruits like strawberry or blueberry and broken bits of graham crackers for a cheesecake flavor. I chose to make my super healthy, topping it with goji berries and more banana. Like I always say, it’s your body and it’s your ice cream. Do what you want. Use a little innovation and the possibilities are endless!