Here is a real treat for those on the SCD or GAPS diets. On these diets, chocolate is not allowed due to it’s chemical composition. However, the fat component of cacao, the pure cocoa butter is entirely fat and is perfectly fine on these diets. (GAPS does allow pure cacao powder in the advanced stages). Cacao butter makes a rich and deeply satisfying aromatic addition to desserts and chocolate recipes. For someone who has not eaten much chocolate because of the diet, this can be heavenly.
Where does cacao come from?
Cacao trees (Theobroma cacao) grow in the hot climates of Africa and Central America within a 20-mile radius of the equator. Mature plants range from 20 to 25 feet in height and bear flowers that bloom directly on the wide-spreading branches. These flowers produce the fruit which may reach up to 12 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter. The fruit pods contain cocoa beans, which are cultivated, fermented, dried and roasted.
How is cacao processed?
Cacao beans are fermented to alleviate bitterness, and processed at low temperatures for maximum nutrient retention. Once extracted from the pods, the beans are rinsed with water. The whole beans are peeled and cold-pressed to form a paste. The fiber is then extracted, in order to separate the solids from the rich oil, or cacao butter.
High quality chocolate is made from both the cacao butter and the solids (powder). Cheaper brands will use other vegetable oils or shortening as the fat component of chocolate and then add artificial flavors to disguise this. Chocolate made from cacao butter will melt in your mouth because cacao butter has a melting point very close to body temperature.
Nutrients in cacao
The main component of cacao is, of course the saturated fat. It contain three fatty acids that are present in approximately equal proportions: stearic, palmitic and oleic acid. These long chain fatty acids have been found to actually lower the LDL levels in the blood.
Cacao contains polyphenols with antioxidant properties that have many health benefits. A study published in Chemistry Central Journal, in February 2011, showed that cacao and chocolate have higher oxygen radical absorption capacity values (ORAC), total polyphenol content (TP (mg/g)), and total flavanol content (TF (mg/g) than many other antioxidants foods and powders that are touted as “superfoods.” I wouldn’t necessarily call it a superfood (we know that real superfoods are things like raw milk, fish roe and organ meats), but at least it has some nutritive value.
Cacao also contains trace amounts of essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid.
On these diets, snacks can be a challenge, especially for those on the go. You can feel good about eating cacao butter as there are no sugars and the antioxidant value is high. Enjoy it guilt-free!
These homemade energy bars are so easy to make — no cooking is involved and you can make 12 at a time, wrap them and freeze them.
Cacao Date Energy Bar
- 4 cups crispy pecans ( how to make soaked and dehydrated nuts) (where to buy soaked and dehydrated nuts)
- 10 pitted Medjool dates
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter (where to buy cocoa butter)
- 2 tablespoon raw honey (where to buy raw honey)
- Soak the pitted dates in a bowl of water for 30 minutes, or you can put them in a small pan with water and heat for 10 minutes until soft
- In a mini processor, process the dates until they are a paste
- In a small pan gently heat the cocoa butter on low until just melted — do not heat quickly it has a low smoke point and will burn
- In a food processor processor the nuts until they are a nut butter
- Add the date paste, honey and cocoa butter to the nuts and processor until smooth
- It should form a ball on one side of the processor
- Remove and using a 8 x 10 pan smooth out the batter to be about 1/2 inch thick
- Cover with wax paper and put into the refrigerator for a few hours to harden
- Use a pizza cutter to cut 3 on one side, 4 on the other for a total of 12 bars
- Individually wrap the bars in wax paper, put in a ziplock and freeze
Check out my video for making Almond Date Energy Bars.
It will show you the basic steps and give you an idea for another snack bar!