HealthySpirit Blog

What Is Cacao

Healthy Admin - Monday, March 14, 2016

What is Cacao?

I'm using raw cacao powder, which is extracted from the seeds of the cacao fruit. These seeds are usually referred to as "beans" and are found within cacao pods, which grow on cacao trees. Cacao beans contain a range of nutrients including: protein, fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals like magnesium, calcium and zinc. Cacao has a mood enhancing effect due to a range of "bliss" chemicals found in it. These chemicals help increase circulation and the availability of serotonin plus other neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result this helps improve mood and may be useful with combating issues like  depression.

Cacao also contains the alkaloid theobromine, which gives cacao its bitter flavour. Theobromine has a stimulant and diuretic influence like caffeine but helps relax smooth muscle, dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Cacao is also rich in antioxidants like resveratrol, which has been found to help strengthen and protect blood vessels from damage.

Cacao beans are rich in saturated fatty acids, which makes them very heat stable as a cooking fat. The beans also contain some monounsaturated fatty acids and small amounts of omega 6 fatty acids.

To make cacao powder, the cacao beans are usually naturally fermented first. Fermentation is an important step in my opinion as it helps to reduce anti-nutrients like oxalates and phytates, which are compounds of oxalic acid and phytic acid bound to minerals like magnesium, calcium and zinc making them unavailable for absorption during digestion. The fermentation stage also develops the characteristic bitter taste of chocolate. Unfermented beans have a much milder flavour. Look for cacao powder, which has been made from fermented beans if you wish to include the mineral benefits.

The next stage of processing involves cold-pressing to remove the fatty cacao butter. The heating temperature during cold-pressing for raw cacao, is still low enough to retain some enzymes and heat-sensitive nutrients. Any heating above 45OC , which occurs during the roasting of cacao beans for cocoa production degrades these nutrients but does help to reduce phytates. So there are pros and cons for choosing raw cacao and it all depends on your state of health and what you wish to achieve from consuming cacao.

The pressed cacao beans are then dried and ground up to create cacao powder.

Cacao and Cocoa - What's the difference?
Cacao is therefore the less processed form of cocoa. Cacao has been processed with lower temperatures and may have undergone a shorter fermentation period or the fermentation step was omitted. As a result cacao retains more nutrients like antioxidants but the bioavailability of certain nutrients like minerals may be lower due to the increased presence of phytates and oxalates.

Cacao powder like pure cocoa (cocoa with no added sugar/cocoa butter) has a naturally bitter taste. This helps to balance the sweetness of the dates. So if you find that the recipe is too sweet for you then add a little more cacao powder. However cacao does have a drying affect so if you add more cacao then you will need to add a little more water to help the mixture stick together.

written by Mussarrat Butt

Choosing The Right Cooking Oil

Healthy Admin - Sunday, March 06, 2016

Written by Mussarrat Butt 

If you have been following my recipes and articles you will know that I only use and recommend heat stable fats for cooking like coconut oil and organic clarified butter. These fats are predominately saturated with a very stable chemical structure, which can withstand cooking processes like baking, grilling, frying and so on. Don't be put off by all the negative hype about saturated fats. Modern oil production uses processes like hydrogenation, chemical solvent extraction, bleaching and interesterification. These highly processed oils are the real enemies to our health and contribute to many inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. See my previous article on the health impact of processed oils.

I use and promote fats and oils which have been traditionally used by mankind for years like coconut oil, butter and monounsaturated fats like quality virgin olive oil, which I reserve for dressings and pouring onto food after it has been cooked. I have noticed here in the UK a lot of people are using pomace olive oil.

Pomace Olive Oil

What's Pomace olive oil you may well ask? Many restaurants and Indian/Pakistani households in the UK use this oil thinking they are getting the health benefits of olive oil at a considerably cheaper price than virgin olive oil. However pomace olive oil is the most chemically refined type of olive oil you can buy. This oil is chemically extracted using high heat, chemical solvents and deodorisation and is made from the leftover pits and olive pulp after it has undergone multiple pressings to extract olive oil.


Read more about this highly refined and processed oil here.
My thoughts about pomace olive oil are don't touch it! It's on the same level as refined sunflower oil and canola/rapeseed oils. So one of the first changes I made at the Healthy Spirit Hub Cafe was to bin the pomace olive oil and bring in coconut oil for cooking. It had to go, after all, it was my duty as a holistic nutritionist and coconut oil is extremely beneficial for health and well being.

written by Mussarrat Butt

Main Benefits Of Coconut Oil

  • Around 50% of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. Coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth. Lauric acid is a powerful anti-viral. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride, which can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses.
  • Contains MCFAs caprylic and capric acid which are anti-fungal which could help to address fungal infections like an overgrowth of candida in the digestive system.
  • The medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are easily digested and readily cross cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat.  
  • Coconut oil is easy on your digestive system and does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream, so for a quick energy boost, you could simply eat a spoonful of coconut oil, or add it to your food.   
  • Coconut oil can withstand heating and satisfies both vegan and vegetarian diets. However some people don't like the taste of coconut coming through in dishes.  For cooking at the Healthy Spirit, I needed a neutral tasting high quality coconut oil, preferably organic, which still contained the health benefits of coconut's medium chain fatty acids.

After some research I chose an organic coconut oil by Biona, which has been deodorised by steaming to make it neutral tasting. This deodorised coconut oil contains all the health promoting medium chain fatty acids, is organic and satisfies the vegans too. Perfect for cooking.

So all dishes at the Healthy Spirit are now prepared with health promoting coconut oil. 

written by Mussarrat Butt

The Emotion Code™

Sarah Casey - Monday, June 09, 2014
With Rita Ennis

Saturday 19th July, Saturday 13th September

Do you ever feel that you are struggling under the weight of something that you can’t quite put your finger on? Or you may wish that something in the past had never occurred. You may even have an uneasy feeling that your present is somehow being held hostage by your past. People often sense they have emotional issues, but they don’t know how to get past them.
Developed by Dr Bradley Nelson the Emotion Code is the simplest, easiest and fastest way to find & clear emotional baggage (using muscle testing). Our emotional baggage consists of actual energies which we call Trapped Emotions and these are the driving force behind PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias and all manner of diseases.
In the same way that you cannot see the wind, yet you can feel its effects, trapped emotions are invisible but they can exert powerful forces upon you. Trapped emotions can affect you physically just as much as they can mentally and emotionally. It is my experience that a significant percentage of physical illnesses, emotional difficulties and self-sabotage are actually caused by these unseen energies. Even though this emotional baggage gets stuck in our bodies over a long time, it can take just one session to see encouraging results.

  • Try the Emotion Code™ if: 
  • You need help to get over your divorce 
  • You suffer from anxiety 
  • You are always exhausted 
  • You don’t know what’s wrong with you 
  • You are feeling depressed 
  • You have a phobia you want to be free from 
  • You have got aches / pains and soreness that won’t go away 
  • You can’t get a job 
  • You have problems with relationships 
  • You want to lose weight and keep it off

Taster sessions: £5 for 30 minutes. Advance booking required.