With Daniel Peter’s innovative addition of milk to the mix, chocolate became more sweet and creamy. It also brought the cost of chocolate down, helping it to become a mass market product rather than an expensive treat.
While sales of milk chocolate boomed around the world, perhaps no-one noticed that the once-prized central ingredient of all chocolate, cacao, had taken a back-seat in favour of chocolate recipes consisting mainly of milk and sugar.
If we think back to the famous milk chocolate brands we grew up with, did we ever wonder what that chocolate was made of and where it came from?
But this has all changed in recent years; pictures of cacao pods, farmers and their beans now feature everywhere in the chocolate world. Cacao is regaining recognition and becoming the hero ingredient of chocolate once again.
So how did all this come about?
READING THE LABELS
Today people are becoming a lot more interested in what’s in their food and where it’s come from, and brands are responding by being more transparent about their supply chains and how their products are made. Which is great news!
EMBRACING THE DARK SIDE
With new discoveries about the health benefits in cacao, dark chocolate is receiving a healthy image and consequently sales of dark chocolate have soared, growing a whopping 96% in the UK between 2006 and 20081! All these new discoveries champion the cacao part of chocolate rather than milk and sugar.
CACAO AND FAIR TRADE
Whether you agree or not with how Fair Trade works, the certification has done loads to raise awareness of where cacao originates and who’s growing it. Fair Trade brands frequently feature pictures of farmers and cacao in their marketing. And revelations about child slavery in West African cacao plantations have led to mainstream global brands signing up to the programme, bringing even greater awareness to the origins of chocolate’s primary ingredient.
See below about Ombar and fair trade.
RAW FOOD MOVEMENT
Back in the early 2000’s the raw food movement (where you eat only raw food; i.e. nothing cooked) was gaining steam. Superfoods, juices and cleanses were all the rage but there was something vital missing – chocolate! As human beings cannot survive for very long without chocolate, the raw foodists swiftly set about making their own creations using raw (unroasted) cacao.
Although all health food shops now sell cacao nibs, it was a revelation at the time that the raw materials that all chocolate was made from could be obtained and new, healthier chocolate creations made.
By the way, that’s exactly what we did when starting Ombar, along with a number of other start-ups across the land. And of course, from the beginning, cacao was and is the hero ingredient.
As well as budding raw food chocolatiers, many small, artisanal chocolate companies have emerged over the last 10 years. Often bean-to-bar (which means processing right from the cacao bean stage through to the finished chocolate bar), the cacao beans are front and centre of what they do. These brands will also prize the origin and flavour notes of the cacao they’re sourcing.
Did you know Ombar is a nib-to-bar chocolate? Which is almost the same as bean-to-bar, except that we get our friends in Ecuador to break the cacao beans into pieces (nibs) and remove their husks. They’re much better at doing that than we are.
Recognising cacao in chocolate is a wonderful development bringing us closer to this amazing food and where it came from. It’s not quite the sacred reverence the ancient civilisations had for cacao (see our earlier blog), but this newfound respect not only improves the lives of people in the growing countries, it leads to better chocolate!
A NOTE ABOUT OMBAR AND FAIR TRADE
We want Ombar to be the best chocolate in the world and that means on every level – from ethical sourcing through to outrageously good flavour. All our cacao is organic and purchased directly from co-operatives in Ecuador.
We form long-term partnerships with co-operatives and have traceability right back to the family farms where the cacao trees grow. The prices we pay are always considerably higher than market rates and every co-operative we work with has signed up to fair trade programs.
But we want to take it further. So that’s why we’re working toward Fair For Life accreditation – a program that delves much deeper into the supply chain than most fair trade programs and one we think will provide the most benefit to our partners in Ecuador. We’re aiming to achieve Fair For Life accreditation before Summer 2018.
Mother's Day is here and it's our turn to look after our mums and show them just how much we love them. So we've put together the ultimate, healthy-yet-delicious breakfast-in-bed recipe to help you treat your mum. Packed full of fresh fruit and organic, raw cacao this breakfast combination is sure to help start your mum's day with a smile.
Chocolate and Banana Power Smoothie with Chocolate Fruit Salad
Raw Chocolate and Banana Power Smoothie
We love this smoothie because it combines the superfood goodness of raw cacao with that all-important Omega-3 from the chia seeds and magnesium from the almonds and pumpkin seeds. Now that's a smoothie with a healthy dose of natural goodness! With all these important nutrients included, this smoothie is sure to boost your mum's morning.
1 ½ bananas (or 3 mini bananas like we used!)
1 ½ cups of almond milk
1 35g bar of Coco Mylk Ombar chocolate
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp almond butter
1 pitted Medjool date
1 bag of Coco Mylk Ombar Buttons
1. First, break up your chocolate into chunks, place in a heatproof bowl and place over a pot of simmering (but not boiling) water. Stir and watch the chocolate gently melt. This is our favourite bit, getting to watch the chocolate slowly melt. Yum! Be careful not to overheat it or you'll damage its raw nutritional goodness.
2. Put the bananas, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, Medjool dates anic and almond butter into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.
3. Add your melted Ombar chocolate and almond milk and blend.
4. Pour into a glass then chop some Ombar Buttons to drop in as chocolate chips!
5. This recipe makes enough for two glasses, so both you and your mum can enjoy together. After all, you've got to keep the chef fueled, too!
Chocolate Fruit Salad
What's better than waking up to a bowl of fresh fruit? Well, waking up to a bowl of fresh fruit with melted organic chocolate, of course! We love this recipe as it makes a classic fruit salad that much more indulgent, with chocolate drizzled over the top and a pot of molten chocolate to dip your fruit into. Yes, please!
2 x 70g Coco Mylk Ombar chocolate bars
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp almonds
1 punnet of strawberries
1 banana (or 2 mini bananas as we used)
3 mandarin oranges
1. First, break up your chocolate into chunks, place in a heatproof bowl and place over a pot of simmering (but not boiling) water. Stir the chocolate as it melts.
2. Chop all the fruit into bite size chunks and place in a bowl.
3. Once the chocolate has melted drizzle some of it over the fruit. Pour the rest of it into a small dish to dip the fruit pieces in.
And there we have it ... a simple, yet delicious and nutritious Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed recipe so you can start your mum's day the right way!
If you’ve read our previous posts, then you know that cacao has many potential health benefits. But did you know it could be particularly good for the brain and cognitive function (meaning mental processes such as memory, learning, reasoning and attention)?
In a recent article in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, Italian researchers reviewed several studies focusing on the more immediate effects of cacao – as in, what happens just after consuming it. Although some of the studies showed no benefits, others found that cacao could improve working memory, reaction times, attention,visual information processing (how fast people processed and reacted to something they saw) and tasks such as subtraction.1,2
As well as these immediate effects, cacao could have longer-term protective benefits for the brain and memory, even into old age. In one study on 90 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (a condition that can lead to dementia), consuming high-flavanol cacao for eight weeks seemed to improve their cognitive function3. And in animal studies cacao has been found to help prevent changes in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease4. So, cacao could help us ward off memory problems as we get older too.
So, what is cacao actually doing to help the brain?
It’s the flavanols in cacao that are thought to have the most powerful action. (To read more about flavanols – what they are and what they do – see our previous post here.) It’s been found that cacao flavanols can get into the brain and accumulate in areas responsible for learning and memory6. And when they get there, they could help the brain in several ways:
Cacao flavanols have been found to trigger production of proteins that protect nerve cells in the brain4.
2. Helping to grow your brain!
As well as those protective proteins, flavanols seem to increase levels of a complex-sounding substance called ‘brain-derived neurotropic factor’5. This is a protein that stimulates growth of nerves in the brain and the connections between them, and helps to repair nerves after they've been damaged.
3. Boosting blood circulation to the brain.
Consuming high-flavanol cacao seems to improve blood flow in the brain by helping dilate the blood vessels2. It may even encourage the growth of new blood vessels6. This could have immediate benefits for cognitive processes such as attention and focus, but could also help longer term by improving delivery of nutrients to the brain.
4. Reducing insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Because high blood sugar can have a damaging effect on the nerves – including in the brain – it’s thought that insulin resistance can be a factor in brain ageing and problems such as dementia. Studies have suggested cacao can improve sensitivity to insulin7, so it could be helping in this way too.
5. Anti-inflammatory action.
Last but not least, cacao flavanols may help long-term cognitive function by having an anti-inflammatory effect2. It’s thought that inflammation plays a role in problems such as cognitive impairment or dementia, and so anything that helps bring down or control inflammation could be beneficial for the brain and keeping our memory sharp.
Why raw is best
All cacao, cocoa and high-cocoa chocolate may have benefits for the brain. But because it’s specifically the flavanols in cacao that are thought to be responsible for its brain-boosting and brain-protecting action, raw cacao or raw chocolate could have an advantage, as the gentle low-temperature production process used in manufacturing raw chocolate helps to preserve the maximum content of flavanols.
Socci V et al. Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids. Front Nutr. 2017 May 16;4:19.
Lamport DJ et al. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on cerebral perfusion in healthy older adults during conscious resting state: a placebo controlled, crossover, acute trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Sep;232(17):3227-34.
Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) study. Hypertension. 2012 Sep;60(3):794-801.
Williams RJ, Spencer JP. Flavonoids, cognition, and dementia: actions, mechanisms, and potential therapeutic utility for Alzheimer disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jan 1;52(1):35-45.
Neshatdoust S et al. High-flavonoid intake induces cognitive improvements linked to changes in serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor: Two randomised, controlled trials. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2016 Oct 27;4(1):81-93.
Sokolov AN et al. Chocolate and the brain: neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Dec;37(10 Pt 2):2445-53.
Mastroiacovo D et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study--a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):538-48.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we can’t look anywhere without seeing hearts and chocolate. Sure, both are strongly linked to the romantic notion of love. But it turns out that the connection between hearts and chocolate is so much more. Cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate) can physically and emotionally open our hearts! So what’s this connection all about?
Cacao and the energetic heart
Dating back to 1900 BC, raw cacao (the pure, unroasted form of cacao) was used as a ceremonial medicine by the Olmec people in South America. Traditionally used by ancient Shamans and now experiencing a revival, for centuries raw cacao has been used to unlock euphoric states, to release negative emotions and to connect to ‘pure heart energy’2.
When taking part in a cacao ceremony (where you ingest pure, liquefied raw cacao) people often experience a heightened sense of their physical and emotional body, including awareness of their deepest sense of self and of their heart3. The emotional impact can be profound and can feel as if your heart is literally opening like a flower. It’s powerful stuff!
“A cacao ceremony opens the door to the depths of the heart, allowing us to witness and unleash our innermost desires and conflicts for clarity and profound healing.” – Diahann, Ceremony Host, Urban Avatars
You see, cacao contains many natural, active chemicals which help release ‘feel good’ emotions. Theobromine, one of these active chemicals, increases the release of dopamine, or the ‘pleasure’ hormone, to the brain1. Phenethylamine, the chemical that is released in the body during emotional euphoria, is also found in cacao and is known to help relieve stress or depression1.
But beyond the chemistry of it all, cacao is thought to affect our heart energy, our emotional centre, by opening our heart chakra3. The concept of chakras stems from the esoteric traditions of Indian religions and is centred on the idea that we have two types of body: the physical body and the so-called ‘subtle body’, or psychological, emotional body4. There are thought to be seven centres (chakras) of subtle body energy, and the heart chakra in particular represents our emotions of empathy and love.
Here love is not thought of in the romantic sense, but rather goes beyond the limitations of the ego to open a compassionate acceptance of all that is, as it is4. It’s all about connecting and relating. This emotional energy or chakra can become blocked and lead to feelings of jealousy and isolation. But cacao is thought to help cleanse these blockages and can leave you feeling more connected to the world around you!
Cacao and the physical heart
Cacao’s positive impact on the heart works not only on an emotional level, but also on a physical level. Studies have shown that regularly consuming cacao is good for the physical health of your heart and can reduce your chances of suffering from heart disease. In particular, cacao can improve the functioning of blood vessels, reduce insulin resistance, reduce blood pressure and reduce both LDL and HDL cholesterol5. These findings were confirmed in a study by The American Medical Journal of Clinical Nutrition6, which found that cacao has statistically significant effects on the above risk factors for heart disease. The reasons for this are still being investigated, but it’s thought that the high concentrations of flavanols and antioxidants found in raw cacao are the cause7.
“…the Kunas consume enormous amounts of cocoa daily… Clinical studies revealed that [they] indeed have lower blood pressure values…”7
Interestingly, there’s an isolated, native population called the Kuna living on an island near Panama7 who consume 3 to 4 cups of homemade raw cacao beverage every day. The Kuna have been found to have healthier hearts than average, with astoundingly rare cases of high blood pressure and heart disease8.
Studies show that the healthier hearts of the Kuna are a result of environmental rather than genetic factors, as those who migrate to the urban mainland and consume less cacao no longer show these traits8.
Keep it raw
It’s important to remember, however, that not all products made from cacao will contain the same degree of these energetic and health benefits. Roasting the cacao or heating it to high temperatures, as is done in conventional chocolate making, can have a damaging impact on the ‘feel-good’ chemicals and flavanols within the beans. So your best chance of getting the maximum energetic and physical health benefits of cacao is to consume it raw.
The number one reason why people go vegan is because of a love of animals, with people changing their diet in an effort to curb animal cruelty. But apart from animal welfare, there are two other important reasons why we believe a plant-based diet is best: improving our health and protecting the environment.
We’ve addressed the health benefits of choosing a plant-based diet in our blog ‘8 Health Benefits of Going Vegan’. Now let’s take a look at the benefits of a vegan diet for our environment…
Environmental Benefits of a Vegan Diet
As we all know, the environment around us is facing increasing stress and damage, often caused by human actions. But did you know that the production of meat and other animal products, in particular, places a heavy burden on the environment in a number of ways1?
1) Cut Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The impact of animal agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions goes a lot further than just cows producing methane gas. Meat production requires vast amounts of energy. Not only do you have to grow the crops to feed the animals, but fossil fuels are also burnt in the raising, slaughtering and transportation of animals. In fact, livestock and their by-products account for 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions2. So if you choose to eat meat, your greenhouse emissions can be twice that of someone on a plant-based diet3.
Alongside this we need to remember that livestock consume much more protein, water and calories than they produce, as most of the energy taken in by animals is used for their bodily functions and not converted to meat, eggs or milk. In fact, as Cornell University found, producing one calorie of food energy from beef requires 40 calories of fossil fuel energy, whilst producing one calorie of human-edible grain takes only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy4!
2) Preserve Habitats and Species
Eating animals is the largest contributing factor in habitat loss and extinction5. First, producing meat requires large amounts of land to raise animals on. Every second, an area of rainforest equivalent to a football field is cleared to rear and graze animals6! It is estimated that 1lb of beef is equivalent to 200 square feet of destroyed rainforest7. And overall, it’s estimated that eating meat requires three times more land than is needed for a vegan diet8.
Second, poorly managed animal waste products from the meat industry are polluting our environment and destroying habitats. Many pollutant waste products get washed into our water systems, the nitrogen and phosphorus found in this waste causes algae to grow on the water and starves the fish of oxygen. This process leads to the creation of ‘dead zones’, places where few species can survive9. As of 2011, 530 marine areas were identified as dead zones10.
3) Conserve Water
Whilst it may seem that water is plentiful, especially on very rainy days, fresh water is actually a very scarce resource. Only 2.5% of all water on our planet is fresh water, and only 30% of that is available to us and not frozen as ice11. Water scarcity is a very real issue, with over a billion people living without sufficient access to clean water.
Food choices can have a big impact on water demand. Unlike the majority of plant-based foods, raising animals requires vast amounts of water. This is because animals need water to drink, wash, clean their living spaces and cool themselves during hot periods12. In fact, a study comparing the water footprint of different foods found that whilst a soy burger has a water footprint of 158 litres, a beef burger has a water footprint of 2,350 litres, which is over 14 times as big13! This situation begs the question: if so many people are living in areas without access to fresh water, why are we wasting so much of it producing animal products when we can get all the nutrients we need from plant-based foods?
The production of plant-based foods is a more efficient use of our resources, as it requires less energy from fossil fuels as well as less land and water. By removing animal products from our diet we can play our part in reducing humanity’s damaging impact on our environment.
1) The Vegan Society. (2018). Environment. [online] Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/environment [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
3)Hedenus, F., Wirsenius, S. and Johansson, D. (2014). The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets. Climatic Change, 124(1-2), pp.79-91.
4) Pimentel, D. and Pimentel, M. (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 78(3).
5) Oppenlander, R. (2012). Comfortably Unaware :: Biodiversity and Food Choice: A Clarification. [online] Comfortablyunaware.com. Available at: http://comfortablyunaware.com/blog/biodiversity-and-food-choice-a-clarification/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
6) Veganuary.com. (2018). You’ll save wildlife. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/environment/youll-save-wildlife/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
7) Rainforestconcern.org. (2018). Rainforest Concern - Why are they being destroyed?. [online] Available at: http://www.rainforestconcern.org/rainforest_facts/why_are_they_being_destroyed/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
8) The Vegan Society. (2018). Food security. [online] Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/environment/food-security [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
10) World Resources Institute. (2011). New Web-Based Map Tracks Marine "Dead Zones" Worldwide. [online] Available at: http://www.wri.org/news/2011/01/new-web-based-map-tracks-marine-dead-zones-worldwide [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
11) World Wildlife Fund. (2018). Water Scarcity | Threats | WWF. [online] Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
12) Unesco.org. (2018). World Water Assesment Program |Agricultural use | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. [online] Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/facts-and-figures/all-facts-wwdr3/fact2-agricultural-use/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
13) Veganuary.com. (2018). You’ll save water. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/environment/youll-save-water/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].
14) Ercin, A., Aldaya, M. and Hoekstra, A. (2012). The water footprint of soy milk and soy burger and equivalent animal products. Ecological Indicators, 18, pp.392-402.
Once being a vegan was widely associated with animal activism and remained very much an alternative lifestyle. Now it’s the fastest growing food trend in the UK, as people are realising the health and environmental benefits of going vegan, as well as a growing awareness of some of the ugly realities of the meat and dairy industries.
Here’s a quick round up of some of the most important health benefits of going vegan…
1) MORE HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
When following a vegan diet, you typically eat more of the good stuff – your diet is filled with lots of lovely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, which are full of nutrients and minerals.1
2) REDUCED RISK OF CHOLESTEROL
One of the biggest killers in the West today is high cholesterol levels, which leads to heart disease2. But studies show that vegan diets can effectively lower people’s cholesterol levels. In the western world the average cholesterol level for a non-vegan is 25% higher than the average cholesterol level of a vegan2. This marked difference suggests that adopting a plant-based diet could lead to a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease.
3) REDUCED RISK OF OBESITY
Obesity is currently a very serious problem, with one in every four adults, in the UK, classed as obese3. A study in 2015 comparing different diets for weight loss found that “vegan diets may result in greater weight loss than more modest recommendations”4. In fact, studies have shown that, on average, vegans have a healthier Body Mass Index (23.6 BMI) compared to omnivores (28.8BMI) and vegetarians (25.7 BMI) 5.
4) NO MORE MIGRAINES
Moving to a vegan diet can also help reduce migraine pain! Evidence shows that migraines are often tied to a person’s food intake. One of the main causes of migraines is chronically high levels of inflammation6 and meat products are known to contain inflammatory properties7.
5) AVOID CARCENOGENIC FOODS
In 2015 the World Health Organisation announced that red meat and processed meat can cause cancer8. So by eating a plant-based diet you’ll be avoiding a food that the WHO has classified as a carcinogen.
6) BETTER SENSE OF WELLBEING
Many vegans report feeling lighter and happier compared to when they were omnivores. And they’re not just imagining it. A 2010 study showed that a vegan diet can help with stress and anxiety, with vegans “reporting significantly less negative emotion than omnivores”9.
7) SIDESTEP SOME NASTY INFECTIONS
Going vegan also means you avoid some of the negative side-effects of modern animal farming techniques, which, as it turns out, can dramatically impact your health. In modern agriculture animals are often overcrowded, meaning that infections spread more easily. For example, the majority of chickens in the UK are packed into overcrowded buildings which they can never leave, and they spend their whole lives standing in the filth from thousands of chickens10!
Campylobacter, a type of bacteria found in poultry and red meat, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and it’s considered to be the cause of over 100 deaths each year9. According to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey, 61% of chickens on sale in 2015 were contaminated with campylobacter11.
8) DISCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUPER BUGS
In order to combat the rapid spread of infection in farms, animals are given lots of antibiotics, regardless of whether they are unhealthy or not12. This overuse of antibiotics is one of the major health concerns with animal agriculture, as it is contributing to the development of drug-resistant bacteria (or superbugs) that can cause hard-to-treat human disease13. In fact, in 2015 the UK Government released a statement that “antibiotic use in farm animals threatens human health”14. So by switching to a plant-based diet we can help to discourage this practice by not contributing to the demand for animal products.
Changing to a plant-based diet can clearly have a significant impact on our health. By focusing on the good stuff, such as nutrient-packed fruit and veg, we can reduce our risk of suffering from chronic diseases and avoid the negative side-effects of the unnatural, intensive conditions of modern day animal agriculture.
3) Renew Bariatrics. (2018). United Kingdom Obesity Statistics, Figures in 2017 - Renew Bariatrics. [online] Available at: https://renewbariatrics.com/uk-obesity-statistics/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
4) Turner-McGrievy, G., Davidson, C., Wingard, E., Wilcox, S. and Frongillo, E. (2015). Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition, 31(2), pp.350-358.
5) Tonstad, S., Butler, T., Yan, R. and Fraser, G. (2009). Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(5), pp.791-796.
6) Selfhacked. (2018). The 3 Main Biological Causes of Migraines (Vascular) - Selfhacked. [online] Available at: https://selfhacked.com/blog/migraines-and-headaches-causes-and-solutions/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].
8) World Health Organization. (2015). Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].
9) Beezhold, B., Johnston, C. and Daigle, D. (2010). Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults.
11) Public Health England (2015). A microbiological survey of Campylobacter contamination in fresh whole UK-produced chilled chickens at retail sale. Crown Copyright.
12) Veganuary.com. (2018). Antibiotics in Modern Animal Farming. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/health/antibiotics-in-modern-animal-farming/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
13) DeNoon, D. (2018). FDA: Antibiotics in Livestock Affects Human Health. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20100628/fda-antibiotics-in-livestock-affects-human-health [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
14) nhs.uk. (2018). Antibiotic use in farm animals 'threatens human health'. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/medication/antibiotic-use-in-farm-animals-threatens-human-health/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
Here at Ombar, we believe that chocolate can be a healthy, nourishing food rather than the sweet confection that normally passes for chocolate. Well, it might just be that history is on our side…
Did you know that for decades chocolate was celebrated as a nutritious drink – even considered a medicine by doctors? And that in London drinking chocolate houses were more popular among the super-elite than coffee houses?1
So what happened? How did chocolate go from nutritious drink to junk food?
Chocolate arrives in Europe
In our blog ‘History of Chocolate: The Early Years’ we mention that cacao was first discovered by ancient South American civilisations who relished it as a cold, frothy drink and used it as both medicine and currency.
Fast forward to about 1000 years later when Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, and his crew captured a canoe full of cacao beans just off the Central American coast and became the first Europeans to encounter chocolate2. It wasn’t until forty years on, though, that chocolate (as a beverage) was first officially introduced to the Europeans by Mayan nobles brought over to Spain. Being too bitter for their tastes, the Spanish adapted the recipe, replacing the maize (corn) and chillies with another one of their favourite colonial resources, sugar2.
The Spanish kept the secret of chocolate to themselves for a long time. But luckily for us, during the mid-1600s chocolate found its way into coffee houses in England3.
Chocolate as a health food
When chocolate first became popular in Europe it was seen as a health food – a view supported by scientists, doctors and researchers of the time. There were over 100 recorded medicinal uses for cacao2! Doctors prescribed chocolate to treat a wide range of afflictions, from stomach and intestinal complaints to kidney disease, liver disease and weakness4.
Europeans most valued chocolate for its nourishing and energising qualities. They even saw it as a food that could solely sustain a person or even prolong life2! Even the British Medical Journal stated that chocolate is “one of the most nutritious, digestible and restorative drinks”4.
So what happened to change our perception of chocolate so dramatically?
Mass production of chocolate
Producing chocolate on a large scale was a very labour-intensive and expensive process in the 18th and early 19th century, meaning chocolate remained a delicacy reserved mainly for the elite3. But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution new processing techniques were being created that would change the way we enjoy chocolate.
Remember, at this point, chocolate was still consumed as a beverage. One of the issues with chocolate at the time was that excessive oils found in cacao beans caused chocolate drinks to have an unpleasant texture. So many chocolatiers added extra ingredients like potato flour (and even brick dust!) to their chocolate mixture to mop up the fat3. Yum.
But in 1828 a Dutch chemist called Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented a cocoa press that could reduce the fatty content to nearly half, making it easier to mass produce cocoa powder and reducing the need to add extra ingredients3.
Then in 1847 the British chocolate company Fry & Sons invented a ground-breaking new product3. After much trial and error, they finally combined the right amounts of cocoa powder with cocoa butter and sugars, creating the first solid chocolate bar which was called ‘eating chocolate’.
But it was Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter who arguably changed the face of chocolate in the biggest possible way with his invention of milk chocolate in 18753. Thanks to his friendship with Henri Nestlé, who had just developed a milk powder, Peter managed to make a milk chocolate that didn’t go rancid.
These innovations helped chocolate consumption soar. The great news was that chocolate changed from being something only the elite could afford to something available to every household across Britain3. But these developments also steered chocolate down the path of being something much sweeter and creamier than before, and over time the cacao content was reduced in favour of more milk and sugar, making it more of a confection than a nutritious food.
Chocolate has been defined today by these relatively recent developments that have occurred over the last 200 or so years. In today’s mass-consumed milk chocolate cacao is still present, but in very small amounts, and it’s there really only as a flavouring agent. This is a stark contrast to the ‘restorative drinks’ of our past where cacao was the front and centre hero ingredient.
1) Green, D. (2018). How the decadence and depravity of London's 18th century elite was fuelled by hot chocolate. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/surprising-history-of-london-chocolate-houses/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2018].
2) Dillinger, T., Barriga, P., Escarcega, S., Jimenez, M., Lowe, D. and Grivetti, L. (2000). Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(8).
3) Cadbury, D. (2011). Chocolate wars. London: HarperPress.
4) Watson, R. and Preedy, V. (2010). Bioactive foods in promoting health. Amsterdam: Academic.
If you’ve read much about cacao – the main raw ingredient in chocolate – you’ll know it’s been linked with various health benefits, including for mood, energy, heart health and even memory.
As if you need more reasons to treat yourself to your favourite raw chocolate bar, did you know that eating raw cacao could have benefits for your skin, hair and nails, too?
Here are four ways in which eating raw cacao could help keep you looking beautiful…
We know that raw cacao is rich in powerful flavanols – plant compounds thought to help stimulate our body’s antioxidant defences. (Read more about cacao flavanols here.) Well, research has found that eating chocolate high in flavanols could help protect skin against sun damage, as well as improving skin hydration and reducing roughness and scaling in skin exposed to UV light (i.e. sunlight)1.
Remember that for the antioxidant benefits, it’s always better to go for raw cacao or chocolate. The roasting process used in making conventional chocolate – no matter how dark it is – can reduce the content of those all-powerful flavanols.
Minerals for hair and nails
Cacao is rich in minerals, too. Although magnesium is the one we talk about most often (more on this below), others include zinc, selenium and iron2. We only need very tiny amounts of zinc and selenium, but both are vital for healthy and strong hair and nails. And iron affects nail shape: lack of this mineral can cause nails to grow abnormally, becoming flattened or indented with raised edges – although this may not happen until iron deficiency is severe.
Magnesium… for healthy skin?
Although magnesium isn’t the first nutrient we think of when it comes to beauty, getting plenty of if in our diet could help keep skin clear and young looking.
First of all, magnesium may play a role in balancing sex hormones – both oestrogen and testosterone – which could help prevent troublesome hormonal breakouts.
Secondly, magnesium is associated with helping to manage stress and support sleep. Either an overload of stress or lack of sleep (they often happen together!) can lead to dull, tired-looking skin. Basically, magnesium can help you get your beauty sleep! But a word of warning: eat that raw chocolate earlier in the day to build up your magnesium stores, as its mild stimulating effects could affect your sleep when eaten in the evening.
Copper for maintaining skin and hair colour
As if this all weren’t enough, cacao is also a source of copper3, which is required by an enzyme that produces melanin, the pigment that maintains our skin and hair colour. It helps us get a tan and stops our hair going grey!
From skin-protecting antioxidants to minerals for healthy, strong hair, skin and nails – could raw cacao be your new beauty superfood?
Heinrich U et al. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6):1565-9.
Cinquanta L et al. Mineral essential elements for nutrition in different chocolate products. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Nov;67(7):773-8.
It’s Christmas! Which means it's time for advent calendars...
We've been so busy making chocolate this year that we haven't time to make an advent calendar to sell. So instead we decided to get our ‘Christmas Craft’ on and make our own homemade advent calendar! We've put together a quick 'how-to' guide and provided you with a printable PDF so you can get crafty and make your own Ombar Advent Calendar too. Happy crafting!
Place an Ombar inside the folded wings and use either double sided tape or a glue stick to seal the pocket. Repeat for all 25 pockets.
Attach your string so that the pegs can be hung off the line. You can do this in any way you like, really. It can be hung in a straight line between objects, hung on a pin board, or we opted for a curvy shape and secured our string to a background poster.
Ombar DIY Advent Calendar - Adding Bars - YouTube
Use the wooden pegs to attach the pockets to the line and pop in your Ombars!
Bask in the glory of your beautiful creation and wake up each morning during the lead-up to Christmas with a delicious Ombar!
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
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