The passion for cocoa is common to many, but not everyone knows the benefits of unroasted seeds, i.e. cocoa beans. Roasting, in fact, exposes the cocoa to very high temperatures, modifying the molecular structure of the seed, reducing the nutrients. Raw cocoa beans, on the other hand, are simply dried in the sun and fermented at room temperature, preserving the nutrients and antioxidants. In particular, this version of organic cocoa beans preserves the properties of raw seeds even better, coming from organic crops.
Raw cocoa beans: properties and benefits
The benefits that cocoa brings to our body are many, especially in its primary form, the seeds or beans. They have a tonic and metabolic support action thanks to theobromine. A substance with energizing properties, considered excellent for a tonic effect on the body. Theobromine also gives cocoa beans diuretic qualities. Cocoa contains a series of beneficial substances, including flavonoid antioxidants, which cause positive effects as vasodilators, acting on blood pressure and in favor of the heart. Strengthens blood vessels and protects against degenerative processes through antioxidants such as catechins, epicatechins and polyphenols. Its antioxidant properties are useful for counteracting the activity of free radicals in cells, in an anti-aging function. Even the high content of vitamin B present in cocoa beans has a beneficial effect on the body in this sense. Furthermore, cocoa beans contain substances useful for improving mood and emotional state, relieving stress conditions. Theobromine is an energy compound that fights fatigue and has a positive effect on the nervous system. It works in combination with magnesium, contained in a greater quantity in raw cocoa; a mineral that counteracts fatigue and gives feelings of well-being on the mood. Other substances that are present in raw cocoa help regulate mood, such as anandamide endorphins and tryptophan. On a dietary level, if chocolate is not recommended during a slimming diet, raw cocoa beans help reduce appetite if taken in moderation, and stimulate the metabolism. They can support mood during a reduced diet.
Origins and History of cultivation
The beans derive from the cocoa plant which grows mainly in South America and in the tropical regions of Central America. It was known since ancient times to the South American peoples, who considered it a sacred plant, from which chocolate was obtained, defined as "food of the gods" by the Aztecs. The drink made from the seeds was considered therapeutic and reserved for the few. Furthermore, cocoa beans were also used as currency, due to their value. When the Spaniards invaded the territory (present-day Mexico) in the 16th century, they found thousands of cocoa beans in the treasury of the Aztec emperor. They started exporting these seeds to Europe and today cocoa is grown in many parts of the world, such as Africa, Indonesia, Colombia and Malaysia. The plant has undergone several mutations over the centuries, and today there are several subspecies of cocoa including Cacao Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. In any case, cocoa is not suitable for intensive cultivation and the fruits are harvested by hand. Long regarded as a food treat, cocoa is now used by some people as medicine. Cocoa beans are used for intestinal infectious diseases and diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis and as an expectorant for pulmonary congestion. The seed coat is used for liver, bladder and kidney diseases, diabetes, as a tonic and as a general remedy. Cocoa butter is used for high cholesterol. There are many processes of raw cocoa, with different production methods. Processing at low temperatures is usually preferred, to preserve the properties of the seeds. Even better if you take organic raw cocoa beans, i.e. deriving from organic cultivation. The beans are collected and placed in large containers (fermentation boxes) in dark and airy environments. The broad bean is covered with a white, gelatinous substance, which triggers the fermentation process for about 5-6 days. Subsequently, the beans are dried in the sun to block the fermentation process. Depending on the choice of processing, the beans can be roasted at high temperatures and then refined (conching). As we have mentioned, at the expense of the original nutrients. From cocoa derives bitter chocolate - produced from toasted cocoa beans - then made palatable with the addition of sugar. Be careful not to confuse raw cocoa beans with other ingredients
entities such as cocoa powder, which is obtained by eliminating the fat (cocoa butter) from bitter chocolate and pulverizing it.
Plant and seeds
Cocoa beans are seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, of the Sterculiaceae family. They are found contained in the pods (the fruit of the tree) and are almond-shaped. The plant can reach a height of about 2 meters, from which the extension of the branches forms a top up to 3 meters. It bears fruit after 2-3 years, generally with two harvests, one before and one after the rainy season. Its habitat, in fact, is that of tropical forests, with a humid climate and abundant rainfall. It prefers slightly acidic soils, and grows up to 1,000 meters above sea level.
Nutritional values of raw cocoa beans
This seed contains fats, minerals, proteins and fibres, B vitamins and vitamin E. The nutritional values of raw cocoa in seeds show good levels of substances not present in roasted cocoa such as phenylethylamine, anandamide and tryptophan. Furthermore, cocoa beans make minerals such as magnesium and theobromine available to the body.
How to use raw cocoa beans in the kitchen or as a snack
They can be eaten raw as a snack, 4 or 5 a day is the average recommended dose to improve general well-being. You can eat them as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack; or an hour before training to energize the body. Alternatively, you can use raw cocoa beans in recipes or preparations – it is good to consider that the flavor is much more intense than classic chocolate, which is more bitter. They can be included in desserts such as fruit salads, reduced to grains, in mixes of dried fruit and cereals, in yoghurts, to flavor teas and infusions, in smoothies with fruit and milk. Cocoa can be added to dessert mixes, such as shortcrust pastry, to flavor creams or as a garnish. Cocoa beans are also suitable for creating energy bars.
Raw cocoa beans: side effects and contraindications
This food is safe for most people but excessive consumption should be avoided to avoid side effects. Excessive stimulation of the nervous system can lead to agitation, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, excessive diuresis, migraine. Additionally, excessive cocoa intake can trigger digestive and intestinal upset, nausea, and gas; you need to be careful if you have gastroesophageal reflux. Caution is advised in pregnant or breastfeeding women.