f you are looking for healthy, organic food, it is probable that chocolate is not the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, some may decide to go on a quest to improve their diet after deciding they’ve had too much of the stuff and need to do something about their waistline.

This being the motivation for many people, it may seem strange to see organic raw chocolate among the products we offer. But the reality is somewhat different. Firstly, chocolate in its pure form has many health benefits. Secondly, these are diminished not by the chocolate itself, but by the various extras that go into the bars you can buy in a shop, such as added sugar, milk and vegetable fat.

A good way to think about chocolate is to consider how it was originally consumed. Long before anyone on our side of the Atlantic could sink their teeth into a Mars Bar, the Mayans used to take chcahuatl beans and grind them down to make a drink, rather like coffee. And like coffee, this was not a sweet drink, especially when mixed with chilli.

The name given to these beans by the Spanish was cacao, from which the English word cocoa arises.

With stimulants and apparent aphrodisiac properties (particularly in the view of the Aztecs, who used it a lot in wedding celebrations), cacao was treated as a gift from the gods and the beans were used as hard currency.

Of course, as we know, the import of chocolate to Europe led to new uses being developed and with sugar also being imported from colonies in the Americas, the combination of these two substances became popular.

Since then we have seen the development not just of chocolate as a sweet hot drink, but in bars with all the fattening additional ingredients. The latter, we should note, was a mid 19th century British invention, by J.S. Fry and Sons – later Cadbury’s. Swiss firm Nestle took things further and created milk chocolate bars in 1876.

Even in bar form, however, chocolate can have many benefits. For instance, dark chocolate contains flavanols and other antioxidants. Flavanoids help break down fatty deposits in arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease, which might be rather helpful after all that milk chocolate. It is also full of minerals and fibre, plus healthy fatty acids that lower cholesterol.

Other benefits that come from the flavanols found in cocoa include better brain health and protection of the skin against the sun.

These antioxidants and stimulants are exactly what you can get if you buy raw cacao powder and make your own drinks with it – or add it to your baking – without piling in excessive amounts of sugar and fat. You can get all the health benefits without adding in the negatives usually associated with chocolate.

Finally, it is worth noting that most cocoa still comes from the developing world, so it is good news for them that people are still buying it, especially now Fairtrade campaigns have successfully managed to get major chocolate manufacturers to pay a reasonable price for it.

For all these reasons, you can not only enjoy chocolate with a clear conscience, but gain considerable health benefits from it.

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