Light and Dark Chocolate | Santa Fe Monthly - January 8, 2013

"From the age of antiquity to our modern times, cacao has been called the 'Food of the Gods' "

Dark chocolate and white chocolate point to the obvious, they are opposites. But, before we indulge in their distinctions, first let us acknowledge that they are manifested from a single plant: the Theobroma Cacao. This tree is a slender Dr. Seuss-like evergreen that grows in tropical environments north and south of the equator.

I love cacao! It's been almost a decade since I've been cultivating a relationship with chocolate. Cacao has brought me to plantations, jungles, cloud forests and bushmen huts. I've worked in specialty chocolate shops and holistic kitchens refining and applying the knowledge and experience I aquired through these experiences. 

Today it is clear that there is much to say about chocolate. So, lets begin with the basics. Dark chocolate is defined as containing 58-100% cacao bean mass. White chocolate contains no cacao bean mass—it's primary body is made of cacao butter. This is why white chocolate has its ivory white color and yields very little "chocolate" flavor. The other crucial ingredient that white chocolate lacks is chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor is a fermented liquid produced from the roasting and grouding of cacao beans, it acts to enhance flavor. Pretty simple, right?

What about the health benefits of chocolate? One of my most treasured educational experiences on the matter was with a medicine woman in Central America. She told me that cacao is a heart medicine. In the process of preparing chocolate elixirs she spoke, "These chocolate drinks nourish the blood of the women of my village who are menstruating." This story is just one reflection of the benefits of chocolate.

What this woman knew is that dark chocolate is high in iron and magnesium. The presence of these two essential minerals in cacao's nutritional makeup is a vast subject on the esoteric level as well as the "physiological " science of cacao, and nourishment in general. In the name of time, let us agree that dark chocolate is a healthy food.

Now, white chocolate, on the other hand, is primarily cacao butter and refined sugar. Refined sugar robs the body of vital nutrients like iron and magnesium. This doesn't make white chocolate the optimum choice for the maintenance of a healthy body. Cacao butter in its purity offers our bodies a number of antiozidants and healthy fats. Point being, try using cacao butter as a supplement to stews, sauces, tea, hot chocolate, baked goods and raw food treats. This being said, when you have a craving for some of the sweet things in life such as white chocolate, indulge in moderation, with intent and a guilt-free attitude. From the age of antiquity to our modern times, cacao has been called the "Food of the Gods." I invite you to creatively explore the many ways you can cultivate your relationship with the world of chocolate!