By Liana Werner-Gray
I am a strong advocate for the healing power of cacao—the main ingredient in pure chocolate before it is made into the treat as we know it. Usually, after cacao is harvested, it is heat-processed into cocoa powder. Because of the heat, cocoa does not have as many nutrients as a raw cacao powder. Raw cacao powder is very high in nutrients and minerals.
Cacao is super high in magnesium—a mineral that relaxes our muscles and eases pain in the body; it’s no wonder that we crave chocolate! Cacao contains polyphenolic compounds that are highly beneficial to our health. It has also been proven by the science community to be an anti-inflammatory with anti-tumor activities.1 Cacao has been shown to have many potential anticancer compounds because of its high antioxidant count (40 times that of blueberries!). It has the ability to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of obesity, and improve cardiovascular circulation.2
By the way, chocolate can be healthy so long as it’s eaten in a “clean” form—without all the added ingredients, like GMO dairy, soy lecithin, and refined white sugar. Raw cacao powder is a glorious gift from God, but it’s not for everyone because it is high in caffeine. If you want the antioxidant goodness of cacao in chocolate form, purchase a clean chocolate.
The physiological effects of caffeine and theobromine, the most abundant methylxanthines in cacao, are notable. Theobromine is a heart stimulant and vasodilator—meaning, it widens blood vessels. It is used to treat high blood pressure and is also a diuretic. All these benefits assist in keeping the body in a state less hospitable to diseases such as cancer. In fact, a study showed that theobromine might be extremely effective in preventing human glioblastoma (brain tumors).3
Caffeine from tea or coffee helps increase stamina and focus, and has a positive effect on memory, which can help you if you are experiencing “chemo brain,” the foggy thinking that is a side effect of chemotherapy. It also has many other known health benefits (as long as consumed in moderation) and has been observed to decrease risk of certain cancers, including endometrial cancer.4, 5
These health-promoting benefits are so remarkable that chocolate is being explored as a functional food, useful for improving cardiovascular health.6 Research is currently being done on the effects of cacao on aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis.7 It appears to have the potential for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease-related hypercoagulation due to hypercholesterolemia.8 One study revealed that cacao can help with significant reduction of body weight and body mass index (BMI).9 Along with a lower rate of obesity comes a lower risk of developing cancer.
Researchers investigating colitis-associated cancer found that a cacao treatment reduced inflammation, increased enzyme activity, and upped the presence of antioxidants. Although not definitive yet, the results suggest that cacao may prevent the development of colon cancer in humans.10
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease are at risk for developing ulcerative colitis–associated with colorectal cancer. However, another study of mice found that cacao significantly decreased tumor incidence and size. In addition to inhibiting proliferation of tumor epithelial cells, the findings also demonstrated that a cacao-rich diet suppresses the formation and growth of tumors.11
Chocolate is a huge industry, and major corporations associated with it have been found to use slave labor. You don’t want to support that industry or consume the energy of that.
Ways of Incorporating Cacao in Your Healing Kitchen
The quickest way to satisfy a chocolate craving is to add one to three teaspoons cacao to a nut milk (for example, almond milk or tigernut milk) with some ice and dates (remove the seed), then blend it into a refreshing chocolate shake! You can also add superfoods like chia seed, hemp seed, or flaxseed, which pair well with banana, almond butter, or peanut butter, and some honey. Absolutely delicious!
For a hot chocolate, simply boil some water, add a couple tablespoonfuls of cacao powder, and then some nut milk.
Sprinkle cacao powder on oatmeal, chia seed, cereal, or fruit.
Make a chocolate mousse by blending avocado and adding cacao powder and some maple syrup.
Health benefits of cacao can also be accrued from smelling the aroma of cacao powder. Always make a point to take a good whiff of the cacao before you add it to a recipe.
Caution: Cacao contains natural caffeine, just like coffee and tea. Caffeine is not for everyone, especially if you have over-consumed it for years or have adrenal burnout. Make sure to buy organic cacao that is labeled “fair trade.” 
Liana Werner-Gray is a holistic and natural-health advocate. After Liana healed herself of a 3.7-centimeter tumor by embracing a natural lifestyle, she created The Earth Diet and started lecturing and teaching internationally. Her recipes have helped people with acne, anxiety, diabetes, depression, heart disease, obesity, and more. Liana is the resident health and nutrition coach at Complete Wellness in New York City. Learn more at LianaWernerGray.com
Well Being Journal adapted this excerpt from Cancer-Free with Food by Liana Werner-Gray, published by Hay House, Inc, copyright © 2019. Reprinted by permission of publisher. Cancer-Free with Food can be found at all major retailers and on Amazon.
- SA Oyeleke, AM Ajayi, S Umukoro “Anti-inflammatory Activity of Theobroma Cacao L. Stem Bark Ethanol Extract and Its Fractions in Experimental Models,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol 222 (August 2018), pp 239–48, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29733944.
- Z Baharum, AM Akim, TY Hin, et al. “Theobroma Cacao: Review of the Extraction, Isolation, and Bioassay of Its Potential Anticancer Compounds,” Tropical Life Sciences Research, vol 27, no 1 (February 2016), pp 21–42, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27019680.
- N Sugimoto, S Miwa, Y Hitomi, et al. “Theobromine, the Primary Methylxanthine Found in Theobroma cacao, Prevents Malignant Glioblastoma proliferation by Negatively Regulating Phosphodiesterase-4, Extracellular signal-regulated Kinase, Akt/mammalian Target of Rapamycin Kinase, and Nuclear factor-kappa B,” Nutrition and Cancer, vol 66, no 3 (February 2014), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24547961.
- “Caffeine Has Positive Effect on Memory,” Johns Hopkins Medicine (accessed July 3, 2018), https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/caffeine_memory.html.
- M Hashibe, C Galeone, SS Buys, et al. “Coffee, Tea, Caffeine Intake, and the Risk of Cancer in the PLCO Cohort,” British Journal of Cancer, vol113, no 5 (September 2015), pp 809–16, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26291054.
- R Franco, A.Oñatibia-Astibia, E Martínez-Pinilla. “Health Benefits of Methylxanthines in Cacao and Chocolate,” Nutrients, vol 5, no10 (October 2013), pp 4159–73, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24145871.
- R Latif. “Chocolate/Cocoa and Human Health: A Review,” Netherlands Journal of Medicine, vol 71, no 2 (March 2013), pp 63–8, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23462053.
- SJ Kim, SH Park, HW Lee, et al. “Cacao Polyphenols Potentiate AntiPlatelet Effect of Endothelial Cells and Ameliorate Hypercoagulatory States Associated with Hypercholesterolemia,” Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, vol 17, no 4 (April 2017), pp 2817–823, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29668171.
- H Kord-Varkaneh, E Ghaedi, A Nazary-Vanani. “Does Cocoa/dark Chocolate Supplementation Have Favorable Effect on Body Weight, Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference? A Systematic Review, Metaanalysis and Dose Response of Randomized Clinical Trials,” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (March 19, 2018), pp 1–14, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29553824.
- AK Pandurangan, Z Saadatdoust, NM Esa. “Dietary Cocoa Protects Against Colitis-associated Cancer by Activating the Nrf2/Keap1 Pathway,” Biofactors, vol 41, no 1 (January 2015), pp 1–14, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25545372.
- Z Saadatdoust, AK Pandurangan, SK Ananda Sadagopan, et al. “Dietary Cocoa Inhibits Colitis Associated Cancer: a Crucial Involvement of the IL-6/STAT3 Pathway,” Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, vol 26, no 12 (December 2015), pp 1547–58, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26355019.