This past weekend, I enlisted the help of a powerful superhero named Cacao to fight the “bad guys” who are always trying to damage my skin. Cacao did just that, and does every time I turn to it. How did it work? Well, Cacao, as you might already know, is chocolate in its original form, and chocolate–especially in its original form–is actually considered to be a “super food.”

Personally, I hardly ever eat candy bars or “cheap” chocolate. I usually stick with 70% chocolate or raw chocolate, but I will occasionally indulge in a Lindt milk chocolate bar. (I also like Max Brenner, but usually leave feeling sick.) This is because, while the additives and ingredients found in “cheap” chocolate are usually completely unhealthy, the cacao, or cocoa, used to make chocolate is a health food.

Cacao does lots of wonderful things for the body. The number one thing that makes chocolate a health food is the antioxidant level found in cacao.  Cacao has more antioxidants than virtually any other food, “super” or not. These days, most people probably have heard that antioxidants are good for the skin, but I’ll go over the technicalities anyway. Basically, antioxidants are the “good guys” that defend your body against free radicals, which are the “bad guys.” Free radicals are known to prematurely age skin and even cause cancer. They tend to be found in burnt food, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, pollution, and cigarette smoke. They do this by attacking and then mutilating the cells in your body–including your skin cells. Free radicals aren’t fun to have around.

Antioxidants, however, can actually either kill or repair the mutilated cells in your body, depending on the particular antioxidant. That’s why it’s so important to ingest many different antioxidant-rich foods. (If you’re interested, other antioxidant-rich foods include raw berries, raw broccoli, green tea, and pomegranates.)

Cacao also has many vitamins and minerals that promote health and beauty, in similar ways to antioxidants. Cacao increases blood flow, which promotes cellular healing, and even has the actual clinically-proven effect of lowering stress hormones. This is also important, because, besides being another cause of free-radicals, when you’re stressed, you’re wrinkling your face in unsightly ways that don’t look good now, and certainly won’t look good down the road when, as your mother always warned, “your face freezes that way.”

It’s extremely important to remember, however, that quality is king when it comes to cacao consumption for health and beauty purposes. While it’s true that there are many antioxidants even in milk chocolate, it is also true that there are other ingredients in milk chocolate that actually cause free radicals, the very thing you’re trying to get rid of. The fact is that the best cacao products to consume are the ones that have at least 70% cocoa content, and, if you can get them, I really recommend raw cacao over cocoa products, even the ones that are 70% and up.

Raw cacao is just that–raw. While the chocolate products found in supermarkets are made using roasted beans, raw cacao has been minimally processed without heat, and is usually also organic. this is important because the heating process actually kills most of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in the cacao product, rendering it much less effective against the “war against wrinkles.”

Never fear, however. Raw Cacao is something that can be found in most health food stores, as cacao powder, nibs, or even whole beans. The packaging will always say if a cacao product is raw. You can find raw cacao products in Eden, and I got my own powder from an independent health food store. In case you’re wondering how on Earth you are supposed to utilize it, don’t worry! I am here with my very own raw cacao bar recipe. It’s easy to make, and tastes great. I can definitely feel the difference in my own body when I’ve been eating this.

Rachel’s Raw Cacao Bar

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons raw, organic cacao powder
3 tablespoons raw, organic, cold-pressed coconut oil*
3 teaspoons raw, organic honey (sub raw, organic agave nectar to make it vegan)
up to 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a glass or metal bowl with a fork. If it’s warm outside, this shouldn’t be a problem. If it’s cold outside, your coconut oil will be solid, so in this case, place your bowl into another bowl containing lukewarm water. The lukewarm water will loosen the coconut oil, while maintaining the raw qualities of all involved ingredients.

Using a spatula, smooth the chocolate mixture onto a flexible dish. (I just use a clean, plastic box top from restaurant leftovers.) Go ahead and lick the spatula. You know you want to. As a side note, in this liquid-like form, this chocolate mixture can also be used as an ice cream topping.

Put the smoothed chocolate in the fridge to harden. After about a half an hour, you can break a piece off and enjoy. You can also experiment with other flavors and even add ingredients such as dried berries, raw nuts, or even cacao nibs sprinkled on top. Be sure to keep the chocolate in the fridge, as the coconut oil is quite temperamental in terms of staying hardened.

*A note about the coconut oil:

Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil in its raw, cold-pressed form is very good for you, with lots of healthy fats that your heart actually needs to perform well. Additionally, in a study where cows were fed coconut oil in order to fatten them, it was shown that the cows actually lost weight and were more energetic when on the coconut oil diet. They gained the weight back when they went back to a canola oil-based diet. I’m a scientist, and I’m also not a science experiment, but I also noticed that, when I incorporated coconut oil into my own diet, my body responded in the same way.

This is the exact raw cacao bar recipe that I make and enjoy on a regular basis, and I hope you will enjoy it as well! If it’s not your favorite, there are plenty of other raw cacao recipes out there, just waiting for you to Google!

(Note: I apologize for any strange editing/text sizes that may have appeared in this post.)