Tag Archives: raw cacao

Sample Some Superfoods From This Southern Treasure Chest

I remember quite clearly when the catchphrase of all the campaigns to save the Amazon Rainforest from widespread clearing, was that we were destroying the World’s Pharmacy.

But now it appears this was only a part of the picture. As more and more fantastic Superfoods appear in the West it seems that the entire South American continent is a veritable treasure chest of foods as medicine. Perhaps we now need to say instead that the entire South American continent is the biggest room in the World’s Pharmacy.

So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet come out of the countries of South America.
So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet come out of the countries of South America.

So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet to either replace problem foods, or simply to send our health zinging, come out of the countries of South America. Foods such as quinoa, maca, raw cacao and chia all have their origins in that part of the world.

The superfood heartland, where chia, quinoa and other superfoods are cultivated in terraces around Cusco, Peru  Photo credit: Liana John
The superfood heartland, where chia, quinoa and other superfoods are cultivated in terraces around Cusco, Peru
Photo credit: Liana John

Following on from last weeks postabout free radicals, here are twelve wonderful Superfoods from the South and Central American treasure chest that would be fantastic additions to your menu.

Quinoa  Credit: Alisha Vargas
Credit: Alisha Vargas

Quinoa (keen-wa) has swept into our diets as a fantastic replacement for gluten grains.  Only a few years ago it was quite difficult to find but it is available on every supermarket shelf now. It has been grown for at least 6,000 years in the Andes of Peru. It was sacred to the Incas and famous for giving the Inca warriors super-human strength. It is gluten free and a great source of magnesium, iron and phosphorous as well as rich in fibre and folate. Technically it is not a grain but a seed, but it can be used just as you would a grain in your cooking. It’s really easy to prepare and quick to cook so makes a great addition to the menus of busy working families.

Chia seeds
Chia seeds

Chia Seeds were originally grown by the ancient Aztecs, Incans and Mayans for health and strength. They are chock-full of omega 3 (the one you need more of), actually one of the highest sources around, as well they have lots of fibre (4 teaspoons provide 30% of the daily requirement) and calcium. They are the highest source of protein compared to other seeds and grains. They are easily absorbed and this enables you to take in lots of the nutrients. They help with tissue growth and regeneration and are great during pregnancy and lactation, as well as for athletes.   

Amaranth plants
Amaranth plants

Amaranth (Kiwicha) has been around for a long time, and was a staple food for the Incas.   I remember a fellow Community Garden member experimenting with it about ten years ago. The next season every single plot in the garden had amaranth growing in it, so there shouldn’t be any difficulty of you would like to try growing some yourself here in Melbourne. Like quinoa, amaranth is a pseudograin, not really a grain. It has been used in its puffed form in health snack bars for some time and the flour, which has a rich flavour, is also available. Nutritionally it is similar to quinoa – high in protein and all amino acids, but also amaranth is rich in iron with 29 percent of the RDI of iron in just one cup, making it a great addition to a vegetarian diet. It also contains the minerals manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and copper.


Lúcuma is another fairly new food to appear in our markets. It is a large, sweet fruit  with a creamy citrus flavour, from the highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Equador, where it has been harvested from ancient times. It is considered one of the lost crops of the Incas but is still very widely eaten today. Its fruit tastes a little like maple syrup and sweet potato and it makes a wonderful low-sugar sweetener. It is very nutritious, rich in beta-carotene and niacin (vitamin B3), iron and calcium. The fruit is dried and ground to a powder. I have to say it is YUM combined with raw chocolate!

Lepidium meyenii
Lepidium meyenii (Maca) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maca Powder is another of the superfoods of the Incas and grows at 4,000m above sea level in the Andian highlands of Peru. It has been a medicinal food in that area for over 2,000 years. The harvested root is loaded up with protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, vitamins and all the amino acids. Maca has some amazing health benefits as it is an adaptogen which supports and heals the adrenal glands. It is great for offsetting the effects of stress, gives an amazing energy boost, and can improve insomnia. But one of the most common uses is for balancing hormones when there is an overabundance of environmental oestrogens involved. It is also a powerful aphrodisiac.

Just note that there are certain contraindications for Maca. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or being treated for a hormonal issue consult your practitioner before using it.

Acai berries Credit: Cametaora
Acai berries
Credit: Cametaora

Acai (ah-sigh-ee) grows only in the Brazilian rainforest and coastal Colombia. This small purple berry is related to the blueberry and cranberry, and like them, is very rich in antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress. They stimulate the immune system and boost your energy. They can be helpful in preventing heart disease and cancer, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. They are associated with reduction of blood sugars, and assist with cognitive and mental function. It is frequently used in many healthy foods as well as smoothies and juices. Lots of beauty products now contain acai oil due to the high antioxidant content.

Ripe raw cacao pods
Ripe raw cacao pods

Raw Cacao can be considered a superfood, a healthy food, which was originally found in the Amazon Rainforest! It has been cultivated for over 3,000 years by the Incan, Mayan and Aztec peoples. Unlike the highly processed, fat-full, dairy-full, high sugar versions made by Cadbury etc, raw cacao is good for you. It comes as a powder or cacao nibs and can be used through your cooking as well as eaten raw. Keep milk away from it as many studies show that milk neutralizes the healthful properties.

Raw cacao really can be considered a true superfood. (woo hoo! Love my chocolate) It is very high in antioxidants as well as minerals which help with mental alertness, heart health and physical stamina. In addition it increases serotonin uptake in the brain which creates a sense of euphoria and counteracting stress.

I like to think of it as my favourite vegetable.

Dried camu camu seeds
Dried camu camu seeds

Camu Camu is another amazing food from Peru and like the acai, it is a berry. It provides  great support to the immune system and helps to ward off viral infections, especially when you are more stressed or anxious than normal. It contains bioflavonoids, amino acids, vitamin Bs (thiamin, niacin and riboflavin), plus it has sixty times more vitamin C than an orange. It will promote healthy gums, eyes, skin and supports the nervous system (brain) and the circulatory system (heart).

Macqui berries Credit: Mona Vie
Macqui berries Credit: Mona Vie

Maqui (mock-ee), Chilean Wineberry, is yet another powerhouse berry and comes from the Patagonia region of Southern Chile. It is known for its detoxifying properties and the benefits bestowed by its  antioxidants. It was used by a tribe of warriors, the Mapuche Indians, who were attributed with great strength and  endurance. The deep purple berries are loaded with antioxidants, with more than three times those found in acai. Maqui berries are very powerful so you only need half as much maqui as you would other berries. They have the highest ORAC score of any berry in the world. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit, ORAC value, or “ORAC score” is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements.

The Maqui berry protects your immune system, skin, cardiovascular system, bones and joints. It also detoxifies the digestive system and restores metabolism to maximum capacity. They renew cells and help improve many diseases as well as fighting the effects of ageing.

Purple corn Photo credit: Randen Pederson
Purple corn
Photo credit: Randen Pederson

Purple Corn has been grown in Latin America for thousands of years. It is another food very rich in antioxidants, containing more than blueberries. Its gorgeous colour has been used as a naturalfood colouring, and it is often used in Peru to make chichi morada – purple corn drink.

Mesquite pods
Mesquite pods

Mesquite is actually from Central America, Mexico. The long pods are ground up into a low-glycemic, gluten free flour with a sweet nutty taste, which bakes up just like wheat flour – use it instead of half the wheat flour in the recipe. It can be used in raw desserts as it doesn’t need to be cooked. You can even add a spoonful to smoothies for a sweeter flavour. It is rich in soluble fibres and a great source of calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and lysine. Because it is in fact a legume and not a grain it is higher in protein than grain flours. It sits low on the glycemic index and won’t cause blood sugar spikes.

Inca Berries, or goldenberries, are golden berries about cherry size, which resemble    a raisin when they are dried. They are high in phosphorous, vitamins A, C, B1, B6 and B12, and are very high in protein for a fruit (16%)

In order to get the most from your South American Superfoods buy only ones that are organically certified. If the foods have been commercially produced they will carry chemical residue and much of the benefits will be lost.

You now have lots of information about some magic foods you can try out. If you need some ideas about how to use them there are lots of recipes and ideas out on the web so do a search.

But, you also need to actually get your hands on some of these magic goodies. I don’t normally recommend specific products but this week I am making an exception. The Loving Earth  company stocks most of these brilliant superfoods from the South American Treasure Chest, as well as creating a range of wonderful products that make use of them. Plus, on their website they have some amazing, delicious recipes which use all these foods. They also sell many of them in their raw state, including Maca powder, Raw Cacao, Camu Camu Powder, Purple Corn Extract and Chia seeds.

They also operate from an ethical basis. From their website…”The company is based on the philosophy that the earth is a living organism, (and) eating foods in their pure, minimally processed states, foods that are grown organically in a sustainable way, is one of the most significant ways in which we can live this philosophy.”

They support Fair Trade 100% and most of their foods are Australian Certified Organic.

Just in case you are wondering, I don’t take any payment from Loving Earth, in fact they don’t even know that I have written this about their products. They are just some products that I’ve tried and loved and I believe they are a company well worth your support. You can find their products in Health Food shops or can buy online.

Superfoods are the way of the Health Future. However, taking superfood supplements on their own are never going to be enough to turn around ill health. But by including a range of them as some of the dietary changes that are part of wider changes you make to build your own great health, they are certainly a powerful and effective addition.

Do you have a favourite South American Superfood? How do you use it? Post it in the comments below…we’d love to hear.

South America is a treasure chest of wonderful superfoods
South America is a treasure chest of wonderful superfoods


All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles













Take A Different look At Chocolate, The Superfood Vegetable

Chocolate can be good for if it is the right kind of chocolate
Chocolate can be good for if it is the right kind of chocolate

Have you thought that your favourite vegetable might actually be chocolate? I have to admit it rates high on my list. Chocolate has been recognized as having health benefits for quite a while due to the wonderful antioxidants it contains, in fact more than any other fruit or vegetable. Raw cacao is an excellent source of antioxidants and has an extremely high ORAC score as one of the top antioxidant foods.

With Easter just around the corner I thought I would bring you a bit if happy news this week…Chocolate can be good for you! But only if it is the right kind.


Antioxidants In Chocolate

I’m pretty sure you have heard those media reports about how chocolate is a good source of flavonoids which have antioxidant activity. Well it is absolutely true, in particular epicatechin and resveratrol. But, there is quite a lot of confusion about just what makes good and bad chocolate so here are a few guidelines to help you make your Easter chocolate choices.

Chocolate comes from Theobroma Cacao beans which in their pure form are quite healthy. The name actually means “food of the Gods” and cacao is loaded with wonderful compounds, including magnesium which is a muscle relaxant that helps you feel calmer, and sulphur which helps build strong hair and nails.

Cacao pods
Cacao pods

Cocoa is made by grinding the cacao beans to a powder from which most of the fat is removed. Cocoa butter is the fat component of the seed, and chocolate is the sweet that is made from the roasted seeds. If the sweet is made from seeds that are not roasted then it is ‘raw chocolate’ and like most other vegetables, ‘raw’ chocolate is much healthier than the version made from roasted beans.

Chocolate has a long therapeutic history. Originating in South and Central America it was originally drunk as a bitter drink to bring energy and vitality and bore little resemblance to the sweet, sticky versions that we love today.

Chocolate when consumed in a way that is closer to the traditional ways still provides wonderful benefits. The Kuna people of Panama, for example, consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week and have less than a ten percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Compare this to the risk of developing these diseases here in Australia and other parts of the Western world where they are the most prevalent of diseases. There are a number of studies that have shown that eating chocolate can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke significantly, as well as lowering insulin resistance, reducing blood pressure and LDL’s.

However, this benefit only occurs if you eat the right amount – too little or too much leads to no benefit or even to problems. It seems that eating small amounts at frequent intervals gives the best result.


Benefits Of Chocolate

Here are some of the benefits chocolate can offer:

  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Free radical protection
  • Decreases stress hormones
  • Improves the mood
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Heart health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Help reduce blood clot formation
  • Liver protection
  • Eases PMS
  • May help control appetite & stop cravings
  • Improves insulin resistance
  • Improve gastrointestinal flora
  • Contribute to chelation
  • Reduces the risk of colon cancer
  • Neuroprotective
  • Boost memory and cognitive function & lower Alzheimers rise



Most commercial chocolates are highly processed foods, which combine roasted cacao beans with various amounts of sugar, milk, fat and other ingredients. In many the flavonoids are removed because they taste bitter, but they are where the health benefits originate so removing them also drastically reduces the health benefits.

Basically, the higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the more bitter the flavor and the darker the color. A dark chocolate with at least 75% cacao is likely to offer most health benefits as the concentration of antioxidants will not be overwhelmed by the sweeteners and fats. Those Bittersweet chocolates are the way to go.

The sweeter the chocolate the less the health benefit….  

Organic raw cacao is the best way to eat your chocolate if you want all the antioxidants. So search out chocolate products that are both made from this and not heavily sweetened.


Unhealthy Chocolate

When you select your chocolate try and choose ones that avoid these ingredients:

  • Chocolates sweetened with cane sugar, fructose or high fructose corn syrup, and especially artificial sweeteners. Instead look for chocolate sweetened with honey or stevia which are much better choices. Coconut sugar is a low GI option if you do not have any problem with fructose.
  • Genetically engineered cocoa beans (GMO). If the chocolate is certified organic it won’t contain GMO ingredients, but most other chocolate does.
  • The right type of fat in chocolate is OK because it slows down sugar absorption. The best is cocoa butter, which is what occurs in the cacao plant. Coconut oil would be the next best fat. Make sure to avoid soy oil, vegetable oils and trans fats.

And by the way, WHITE chocolate is heavily sweetened and has NONE of the phytonutrients.



Have you wondered why eating some sorts of chocolate can make you feel so good? Cacao also contains the ‘bliss’ chemical anandamide which leads to feelings of excitement and alertness in our body, and improves your mood and reduces depression. Unlike caffeine, Anandamide is not addictive and does not have the side-effects of many drugs.

One compound in chocolate that may be a problem is theobromine which stimulates the central nervous system and dilates blood vessels. It has about 25% of the stimulating power of caffeine, and like caffeine it is a mild diuretic. But in some people theobromine can cause them to feel hyped-up which is then followed by lethargy. In others it causes headaches.

Hot Chocolate

An average cup of coffee contains up to 175milligrams of caffeine which is about what there is in a 50gram piece of dark chocolate. In comparison a cup of hot chocolate has only about 4-5 milligrams of caffeine, substantially lower than coffee. But some scientists believe that chocolate does not actually contain caffeine and that it is the theobromine that causes the caffeine-like responses. Theobromine is also the component that makes chocolate so dangerous for dogs, because they lack the enzymes needed to metabolize it.

I have a new favourite Raw cacao treat. It is Loving Earth’s ‘Organic Single Origin Drinking Chocolate’. It is made from raw cacao and raw chocolate, but it is sweetened, although it is with coconut sugar which is one of the better forms of sugar.

I heard of an awesome idea for this healthy breakfast for Chocoholics the other day from David Wolfe. How about a chocolate smoothie?

Superfood Smoothie

  • Fill your blender with water, coconut water, orange juice or tea (or a mix).
  • Blend in some spirulina powder and gogi berries.
  • If you live anywhere in the world other than Australia or New Zealand add some hemp seed protein powder (incredibly it is still illegal in both those countries) If you live in Australia or NZ you could add some ground flax, chia or pumpkin seeds instead.
  • Add some chocolate (raw cacao powder would be perfect) and some cacao nibs for extra yum.

And there you have it….A SUPERFOOD SMOOTHIE for chocoholics

One thing I used to love before I went Dairy-Free was Chocolate Mousse, so I was delighted when I first found this easy recipe (which is also vegan) that combines a few superfoods on the Australian Permaculture website.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

  • Scoop the flesh from 2-3 avocados into the blender
  • Add 1 heaped tablespoon of raw cacao, a small handful of cacao nibs (optional) and around ½ cup of coconut palm sugar (or substitute another sweetening agent of your liking.)
  • Add a splash of vanilla essence and pour in enough water to cover the ingredients
  • Blend in short bursts. Some more water may be needed to be added to ensure the mousse draws down and is properly blended.
  • Pour into a bowl or jug (depending on thickness, if it is thicker a bowl is better) and serve



In case you are wondering about why you should only ever buy Fair Trade Chocolate take a look at this film from The CNN Freedom Project about the slave trade that exists in the cacao industry.  Fair Trade chocolate isn’t perfect but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

So go ahead and indulge your love of Fair Trade chocolate, in small amounts, with a dark organic variety, preferably with no added sugar. Look for Raw Cacao in the ingredient list, and avoid all those sweet, milky varieties – they are not good at all!

What do you think, will you be adding this superfood to your eating plan?

Go ahead and enjoy some raw organic chocolate
Go ahead and enjoy some raw organic chocolate


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles: