Is Cacao Good Or Bad?

Is Cacao Good Or Bad?

CacaoThis article may annoy you. I say this because I’m going to be talking about both sides of cacao – which means the bad side too.

It was interesting in my research to find very strong arguments both for and against cacao. Some writers were even quite bitter and aggressive towards the opposing side of their belief.

In the beginning I was fully prepared to belittle cacao and be one of those bitter and aggressive people. From the small amount of research I’d already done, cacao wasn’t looking too good and I was convinced the physical and energetic symptoms I’d been experiencing were entirely due to cacao. But the more I researched both sides of the argument the more I realized that cacao is a wonderful, beautiful medicinal food that needs to be treated with great respect. But it’s also a food that I’ve chosen to in future consume only very sparingly. And this article will explain why.

What’s the “problem” with cacao?

The problem isn’t really cacao. The problem is mainly to do with the Theobromine found in cacao. Sure cacao also contains mycotoxins, oxalic acid and cannabinoids which have their problems too, but the majority of the complaints about cacao seem to be pointing towards the Theobromine content.

The thing is, cacao is absolutely amazing, and I agree with David Wolfe that it truly is a “superfood”. It’s packed full of goodness including extraordinary high levels of magnesium, chromium and iron in addition to having one of the highest levels of antioxidants in any food source – only third to cloves and chaga mushroom that I’m aware of.

And a lot of research has also been done on cacao which has really helped the superfood stand out as one of the most amazing medicinal food sources on the planet. David Wolfe in particular has videos and articles all over the web which discuss the range of healing benefits found in cacao which are worth a read or a watch, just do a simple Google search.

But of course if you’re a chocolate lover then you already knew all of this. So let’s get into some of the information on the “bad” side of cacao which is perhaps the information that you didn’t actually know.

I’ve given up cacao. Well not given it up, more like taken a break from it for a month before I ease back into occasional use. Which may be once a week or once a fortnight at most, depending on how I feel about it. This is actually a big thing for me because I used to be a huge cacao advocate. I went as far as having a cacao dance party in my garden AND I ran a raw chocolate making workshop and lecture at my house. I’d become an expert in raw chocolate making and managed to convert most of my friends into drinking cacao smoothies and eating cacao beans on a daily basis.

But then things got a bit not quite so right. I was consuming an average of three very heaped tablespoons of cacao every day. And I began to recognize symptoms in my physical and energetic body that didn’t seem like me. I was up and down more than usual, felt overly hyperactive a lot of the time, and I had this insane feeling of irritation which would come out of nowhere. I then stumbled across a few stories of people both online and in my personal life who had to give up cacao for their skin. That’s right, the superfood that I’d always promoted as helping the skin was starting to show up as inducing acne for some raw foodies.

It’s all about the Theobromine

Like I mentioned above, it’s not the actual cacao bean that’s the toxic substance, it’s the psychoactive chemicals found in the bean. Theobromine in particular is found in the highest concentrate and is really what is causing the problems and the growing controversy within the raw food community.

You can think of it kind of like green tea. We know that green tea is so amazingly good for us, especially with consideration to how high the levels of antioxidants are in green tea. However, we also know that most green teas contain caffeine, and if you’re sensitive to caffeine or avoiding it, then you’ll likely avoid most green teas too.

Cacao is no different.

Theobromine is very similar to caffeine in how if feels when it’s in the body. Even though many very different chemical reactions are taking place, the actual physical and energetic feeling you get is quite similar to that if you’ve just downed a cup of coffee.

Interestingly I felt the effects of theobromine in cacao a lot more after I’d done extensive detoxing and cleansing of my body earlier this year. So the cleaner I am the more sensitive I am to theobromine which is something to keep in mind.

I actually love the feeling of the chemical in my body. It’s quite addictive! My heart beats a little faster, I feel hyperactive, more inspired, my mind is clearer, my body warms up a little and I have a strong motivation to do creative work. The problem is every high is followed by a low and these highs really are addictive. If you start to research cacao and theobromine you’ll come across a range of resources that say that theobromine does not actually give you that low but in my opinion it does. It’s the law of duality – you can’t really get one without the other. Sure it may not be as strong as the depressive low many often get after a night on an alcohol binge, but it’s there and it’s enough to perhaps encourage you to think twice about actually consuming cacao in the first place.

Theobromine in the body

While researching Theobromine I came across countless articles which clearly stated that Theobromine has a milder affect on the central nervous system than caffeine. While this is true, it’s also important to note that Theobromine stimulates the heart to a greater degree because it’s a myocardial stimulant as well as a vasodilator. This is why you may find that when you consume high quantities of cacao (or even small quantities for some), your heart starts to beat a little faster.

And just like caffeine, Theobromine can also cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness and anxiety. It’s also a diuretic so can increase the production of urine.

There’s a very excellent article by Steve Gagne which explains in beautiful detail how cacao works in the body as a diuretic, along with a few other interesting facts about what happens in the body when we consume cacao from a macrobiotic perspective. I encourage you to read the article when you’ve got time because it’s an awesome and unbiased resource of information on cacao – The Energetics of Cooling Foods.

In addition it’s not uncommon to experience adrenal fatigue after consuming high quantities of cacao. This has personally happened to me twice – once after a cacao dance party with David Wolfe in Byron Bay, and again after a cacao dance party in my own home. I remember David Wolfe telling us that we probably wouldn’t sleep that night and I just laughed it off, until it actually happened! I got home around midnight but was unable to sleep until around 3 am. My boyfriend at the time and I both experienced what we called a “cacao hangover” the next day. We were very tired and a little slower than usual. I also felt moody and depressed. We had our suspicions that this hangover feeling was because of the cacao but really we thought it was just because we hadn’t had enough sleep and that our insomnia was due to the adrenalin of dancing most of the night and being at a really fun party. You know, winding down time.

And then the same thing happened after my own cacao party. It was really fun during the party, we all felt super high. My house mate even started to get extremely hyperactive around midnight after eating a heap of raw chocolate and cacao beans. She was literally jumping out of her chair with over excitement!! But then most of my friends that came along couldn’t sleep that night, and we all woke up the next day with the same cacao hangover. It was then that I realized that the cacao hangover was a real thing and we put it down to adrenal fatigue. Still I was addicted and it didn’t stop me for the next couple of months.

Theobromine isn’t all bad

I realize that I’ve made Theobromine look incredibly bad which probably isn’t fair. Because aside from all the bad stuff mentioned above, Theobromine actually does have some good parts to it too. Theobromine is actually available as a supplement to help ailments such as angina and high blood pressure.

My personal thoughts on the consumption of cacao

I’ve been off cacao now for just over a week and I’ve felt a lot more even tempered and in control of my emotions. Interestingly this morning I had a craving for green tea which is odd because I haven’t had green tea in months because I avoid caffeine as much as possible. But the craving was there so I made myself a small pot of green tea. Not long after drinking a cup I started to get the same feeling that I used to get when I’d drink a cup of cacao or have a decent amount of raw chocolate. My heart started to beat a little faster and I felt overly excited and hyperactive. I jumped straight onto Google and discovered that yep, green tea in fact contains Theobromine too!!! I honestly feel that it was the addictiveness of Theobromine that gave me the craving for the tea. I knew that I wasn’t allowing myself to eat cacao so my body craved the next accessible thing it knew that contained the chemical.

And while sure, I do believe that Theobromine is addictive I also feel that this addictiveness varies from person to person. It would not have been a big deal for example if I’d not had a green tea today. But that’s not surprising considering when I gave up coffee years ago, I went from drinking at least one giant mugful a day to just giving it up overnight without even really missing it. On the other hand I’ve heard of many others who constantly struggle with kicking their coffee or caffeine habit. So I guess this really comes down to the individual and how the body responds to missing the “hit”.

Interestingly, cacao that has been heat processed (which we all call cocoa) contains much lower levels of Theobromine. So pure and raw cacao contains much higher levels of Theobromine. But it also contains much higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants too. Heat processed cocoa found in most confectionary chocolate bars while containing very little Theobromine is also quite nutrient dead.

What other foods contain Theobromine?

Theobromine is also found in 19 different plant species including green and black tea, acai, Yerba mate, kola nuts and even carob (but in very small amounts).

The energetics perspective

I strongly feel that aside from the Theobromine content, cacao has some kind of magical energetic element to it. This element is quite powerful which is why some of us have a “negative” reaction when we consume high doses. It’s almost like we’re messing around with or abusing a very special and scared food. I personally know that when I was on regular small doses of cacao I felt more inspired, creative and I got some of the best work done in my business. However, there’s a fine line between medicinal supplementation and overuse. As soon as I started taking regular high doses of cacao, the moodiness and depression turned up along with things not always turning out how I’d anticipated. Perhaps the cacao gods need to be given a little more respect than what we’ve been giving them for this very special medicinal food.

Is there anything else bad in cacao other than Theobromine?

Cacao contains mycotoxins, specifically alfatoxin. Mycotoxins are the waste produced by fungi and can cause a range of health problems in the body. However, after reading Dr Gabriel Cousens book Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine, I honestly feel that if you want to completely elminate all foods that contain mycotoxins from your diet then you’re going to be eating a very limited diet. In addition, for anyone that wants to actually do this (and kudos to those that do, I think this is a extremely healthy way to live), it would most likely be the type of person that wouldn’t binge on cacao anyway. So I don’t see much of an argument here.

The highest levels of mycotoxins are found in animal products, alcohol, corn, wheat, barley, sugar, peanuts, rye and hard cheeses. You can read more on mycotoxins at Dr Mecolas site, but I highly recommend you get your hands on Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine by Dr Gabriel Cousens. It’s one of those life changing books that explains mycotoxins better than anywhere else I’ve read.

Some articles against cacao claim that the oxalic acid content makes it unhealthy. And while this is true, amaranth, spinach and parsley actually contain more oxalic acid than cacao and nobody is standing up and telling us to stop eating these foods are they, because they’re good for us! So there’s no argument here really either unless you’re consuming a significant amount of cacao on a daily basis.

But just in case you were wondering, when high doses of oxalic acid are consumed it can inhibit calcium absorption.

Then there’s the cannabinoids content of cacao. Sound familiar? That’s right, cannabinoids is the same stuff found in cannabis (marijuana). In fact, cacao is the only other plant known of that contains cannabinoids apart from cannabis. However, I personally don’t feel that this is anything to be worried about considering it’s also only found in very minute amounts.

From my understanding of how smoking a lot of cannabis affects both the physical and energetic body, there are no similarities to eating a lot of cacao. Cannabis for example can make regular smokers lack motivation and a spark for life. I’ve had friends in the past that have smoked a lot. They’d spend their days talking about all of the cool stuff they wanted to do but they never actually did any of it. Cannabis can also cause the “munchies” after smoking. On lots of cacao I experienced a heap of motivation, a lot of action and thirst for getting things done (which I did). Cacao is also a hunger suppressant which doesn’t line up with the munchies at all.

Interestingly some medicinal cannabis manufacturers are now adding cacao into cannabis herbal mixtures because the cacao can actual amplify the physical medicinal effects of the cannabis.

I’ve read in many resources online that if you eat a minimum of 40 cacao beans you can start to hallucinate. I personally haven’t tried this or know of anyone that has so I’m not sure if it’s true. But it’s not like that’s something any of us would do every day anyway!

Lastly, there are claims that most cacao contains remnants of animal urine and feces. This is because when the cacao beans are left to dry and ferment, they’re left in the open air for any rodent or animal to climb all over and chill out in there for a bit. However, these same articles claim that no animal would touch cacao without being “tricked into it with milk and sugar” which aside from being a very random statement (has anyone actually tried this???), it just doesn’t make sense to me why a pack of rodents or any animal for that matter would hang out on top of a bunch of drying and fermenting cacao beans when they’re not particularly interested in them in the first place.

I’m sure cacao does contain some form of dirt, or soil or even a bit of animal poo. But it’s managed to pass through strict health and safety testing to be allowed to be sold in the US, Australia, the UK and many other developed countries. I also eat organic food direct from the farmers market and rarely wash them before I eat them, I spend a lot of time bare foot out in my garden and I swim in the ocean and water springs. I’m sure there’s plenty of animal waste in these environments that I’ve indirectly ingested in some way or another. So I’m not particular worried about it and neither should you.

Great articles to read about the negative side of cacao

I’m not posting these articles to scare you or turn you off cacao because that’s not my intention. To be honest I feel that eating cacao is as “bad” as drinking a cup of green tea. There are positives and negatives to it. What I encourage you to do is get in tune with your own body to see how you feel when you ingest it. Sit with both your physical and energetic body and watch for any changes after you’ve consumed it. It’s important to take note of both the good and bad. You might find that personally you thrive on cacao and it’s the best food ever for you. You may want to consume bucket loads of it every single day. But I encourage you to really take a good look at how you’re feeling, and to keep monitoring that. Because if you do start to find yourself feeling any sort of physical, energetic or emotional discomfort which doesn’t quite feel like you, then perhaps consider doing some experimentation with eating small quantities or cutting it out for a short period to see if it makes a difference. Keep in mind that my adverse reactions after eating cacao didn’t show up until I started consuming high quantities and had done a lot of cleansing.

I also would like to note here that a lot of the articles I read online that are against cacao don’t do a very good job at backing themselves up. This is unfortunate because it makes some articles lose their credibility.

In any case, I strongly feel that it’s not necessarily about what’s written down on a piece of paper or on the Internet that really matters. It really does come down to how YOUR body feels, what your intuition says and how comfortable you feel about it. Combine that with regular blood work to make sure the cacao is sitting well in your physical body and you’ll be okay with whatever path you choose.

Is Raw Cacao Really Healthy? – This article by Cynthia Perkins is a little too over the top against cacao in my opinion. However, she raises some great points including this paragraph which I love –

We could sum this up simply by saying that raw cacao over stimulates the heart, mind, nervous system and body. Over stimulation is never a good thing. It leads to burn out, malfunction and degradation.

Is Raw Cacao A Superfood Or Harmful Stimulant? – This article by Diana Stoevelaar is again a little too aggressively against cacao but at the same time it contains some interesting facts including which leading raw foodies are talking out against cacao, and why Jeremey Safron (who supposedly brought cacao into the raw food community before David Wolfe) now only advises cacao for sacred, medicinal or entertainment usage. I think Jeremy has the right idea.

The Energetics of Cooling Foods by Steve Gagne (as listed in the article) is an excellent article that I highly recommend you read. If you’re going to choose just one article I recommend you read this one.

60 comments… add one

  • Candice

    What a very well written article! I am a cacao supporter, but in very small doses. I used to consume it till the cows came home (3tbsp+ everyday), but knew it was too much. If you go back to the ancient Mayan days, cacao was like money to them and used for trading. And it was also used for medicinal purposes. If cacao was so valuable to them; there’s no way they’d consume like we do.

    For the past 2 years, I only have minimal doses, from 1tsp in my morning smoothie; or when I’m making raw chocolate (which is about 3tbsp per batch). I do get a little buzz from it and no ‘come down’ and bad symptoms.

    I do use a tsp for hot chocolate for the family, but the hot water does dilute it, but also kills the nutrients. Cocoa is too processed for me and carob sux :)

    I find in today’s society, we over-comsume foods and especially superfoods. The packaging usually suggests far more than we need.

  • Louise

    cacao can be very energizing for me and on the other hand it can put a short in my brain. I’m sooo confused / using cacao….

  • Interesting! I use cocoa powder literally daily, at least a tablespoon for various purposes.

    I will try cutting it out and listen to my body’s response. I’ll post here how it goes.

  • Mark

    I’ve developed allergy to anything I eat addictively. Unfortunately cacao is now on that list.

    • Mark, you sound like you might have Leaky Gut Syndrome. You might want to take a look at your gluten intake. It can wear down the intestinal lining which allows food to “leak” into your body where your immune system sees it and says “INVADER!” Then you develop an allergy. Sometimes if you avoid the food for 2 years, you can slowly add it back. Look into it. If this persists, you could develop multiple autoimmune diseases and that would be tragic. Good luck! :)

  • Tony

    Fran, EXCELLENT article. I am currently on a cacao break. I had two heaping tablespoons in a morning smoothie all summer long and man did I get some work done. Although I never had any problems that I recognized the first 6-7 years of eating cacao or cocoa I had many problems last year including major depression, headaches, a little irritation off and on triggered by little things, but when I took a break and came back to it this Spring I seemed to not have any of these problems.

    I also, instead of eating it every time I wanted a lift, ONLY had the one smoothie and no more chocolate the whole day unless it was an extremely difficult day and I didn’t get enough sleep or something. For the first time in a couple of decades I started sleeping consistently throughout the night (have MAJOR insomnia issues), I had endless energy ALL day every day from the minute I had my smoothie until I went to bed. Slept great EVERY night all summer long. I had no arthritis issues like normally when I do tons of heavy intense hard work, my pulled muscle which limited me to getting work done prior to this didn’t seem to bother me and I just worked like crazy everyday non stop getting things done that I had put off for years. I did this for 3 months straight without one day off! Sure some days I worked a little lighter but i wa s on the go from the minute i got up until I went to bed.

    I also rarely ate throughout the whole day. Every time I got hungry I just chugged down a large glass of water, some times two and I just wasn’t hungry after that but energized . I absolutely LOVE the stuff but then I started feeling some chest pains and started getting concerned which led me to more researching. I then got a cold as it kind of went around the house with almost all the kids so I have been cacao free for 4-5 days now. I have been doing intense cardio daily (yes even with a cold) just to try getting half the energy and good feeling I had when I ate the cacao (or cocoa). It helps a lot but I still don’t have a quarter of the motivation I had not to mention the well being that cacao gives me.

    Prior to this I had wondered why I was even on the planet for the past few years just watching them roll on by. But when I was able to eat cacao again and discovered a way to incorporate it into my diet in a different way (on an empty stomach, first meal of the day) I felt so darn good and glad to be alive, I couldn’t wait to tear into some of these projects that I have been procrastinating on for the past ten years. I stopped eating cacao after I got the cold because it gives me super unbelievable amounts of energy and motivation and I didn’t want to tear my immune system down by overdoing it while being sick plus the chest pains were concerning me and the research claiming it’s toxic. I hadn’t done any cardio the whole summer and not much prior to that so that very well could be the cause of the chest pains as well as heart disease does run in my family.

    I would get up some days feeling like Oh Lord, I don’t even want to walk out to get the mail. But 5-10 minutes after the cacao smoothie I’m out tilling my garden. Next thing you know it’s 4 hours later I’m thinking “Wow! Is that the time? Didn’t I wake up feeling like I was 90 years old and hit by a truck? I better get in the house and start he dishes and laundry” lol. This would be the same every day all day.

    I tried replacing it with coffee because of the negative articles I’ve read on cacao and that it should not be eaten on a daily basis but that only lasted a little over an hour and I was back to my sluggish self again. All I can say is, definitely a SUPER food. I did feel the aftermath when I stopped eating it but it wasn’t too bad considering a three month straight venture although it lasted a few days. Probably because of the restricted amounts only once a day and early in the day. I probably flushed a lot of stuff out each day drinking all that water, who knows. All I know it when I eat it in this manner it is nothing short of a miracle to me. I am hoping to find a way to supplement it on a daily basis as it seems to readjust and and level out everything from my melatonin levels to my serotonin levels but it’s supposedly toxic and not to be eaten on a daily basis so the quest goes on…..

    • Tony

      I should also mention that my fat intake was through the ceiling. I didn’t eat all day long after the cacao and worked like mad through the whole day but had a bad habit of eating too much before bed and was going through a minimum of a half jar of almond butter on almond crackers every night for that whole summer as well. Many nights I would polish off a whole jar and this was after a salad with a fair amount of olive oil. All healthy fats but waaay too many of them. So I am also taking a break from almond butter and I suspect those huge amounts evrry day are more likely the cause of the chest pains rather than the cacao. I have issues with some foods when I start eating them I can’t stop so I have to stay away. I fell into this habit because I wouldn’t gain any weight regardless of how much I ate but when I resorted to grains or cereals I would put on weight immediately so almond butter was my preferred food before bed plus it helped me sleep but being divorced and alone I tend to be an emotional eater and binge when I eat certain foods so I had to stop eating it. Just thought I’d add this as it didn’t come to mind when I submitted my post and I’m not convinced 2 tablespoons a day of cacao could cause chest pains especially when I was extremely physical throughout the whole entire day and drank about 5-6 large glasses of water every day.

      • Tony, that’s waaay too many almonds! Raw almonds are actually acidic (not alkaline as many think). The antidote to eating too much almond butter is celery juice. Next time you binge, make sure to have some celery on hand. :)

  • JohnZimmerman

    I drink about 4 heaping tablespoons of cacao mixed with hot water daily, and don’t have any issues with irritability, hyperactivity, or acne.

    It definitely excites my body when I drink it, and I feel a little crash afterwards, but it’s short-term and nothing compared to a caffeine crash.

    I’m not sure if I feel overall better or worse drinking so much cacao, but I enjoy the taste, the slight “high” feeling, and health benefits.

  • Craig

    Sounds like your a junky to me!
    You ate way too mich, Iike drinking 20
    Cups of coffee a day the ammount you took!
    I drink coffe and have mo problem with it
    But if I drank 20 cups I would be a mess.
    Seariouly , if you take anything that’s a stimulant
    and overdose on it you will likely not feel well.

  • Luis

    I have just recently started consuming 2 teaspoons of raw cacao in hot water per day, on the recommendation of a health-nut friend of mine – as a suggestion to battle cravings while on a restricted eating plan to lose some weight (which has worked for me, by the way). I can’t say that I have felt any major changes in my body or mood – yesterday I was especially happy, but that may have to do with other positive factors as well. However, your article was informative and balanced, thanks for that – I will certainly moderate my cacao consumption moving forward. For me, the moral of the story is that, with some exceptions of course, everything should be consumed in moderation. Everything is good for you, and yet too much of a good thing is bad for you. It’s called life.

  • Shawn Gibson

    Very helpful and balanced article. On the comment that there were claims that animal won’t eat the beans without being tricked with sugar, etc. this is definitely not true. I just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. We saw a large number of wild cacao pods in the rainforest that were eaten by wild animals. They would gnaw a hole in the pod and eat the beans out of the inside.

  • cuando es teutonic plata

    I have to say I love raw cacao, but am forced to give it up due to excessive anxiety, restlessness and insomnia caused by the stuff. I think it’s like potatoes where uncooked it can be toxic in some ways. I don’t know, but after two weeks of daily use – 2 -4 tablespoons I’ve decided it’s the chocolate causing me these issues, mainly.

  • Eduard

    Hi Fran,

    nice article, nicely written and as an article coming from someone who had to quit raw cacao it is not too biassed. What I read and see is someone contemplating and learning.

    You quote Cynthia Perkins saying: “We could sum this up simply by saying that raw cacao over stimulates the heart, mind, nervous system and body. Over stimulation is never a good thing. It leads to burn out, malfunction and degradation.”

    My question here: what was the dosis she took. Over what period of time? What circumstances? How was her health situation before she started taking it? Was her adrenal system/body strong or already weak/overstimulated (as with most people). How was the rest of her diet? Her habbits?

    I’ve been using raw cacao, apart from rest cycles, on a daily basis for over 2 years now. I use it moderatly, am not trying to get high. It works miracles for me.

    I slightly overused it the first months which resulted in some minor complaints at that time. After correcting myself I never got problems again.

    It’s a powerfull superfood, it’s like a sportscar, you have to get to know it, get to know it’s power. You have to learn.

    In my experience and opinion cacao doesn’t over stimulates anything unless you consume to much of it.

    A lot of people are trying to fix their bad health situation. They discover raw cacao and overdue it, don’t realise it has it’s limitations to.

    A lot of people are abusing raw cacao trying to get high (every day).

    If you can’t handle raw cacao, using it moderatly, and keep overdoing it in an attempt to heal yoursel instanly or to feel high, ask yourselves what is the real problem?

    Have some patience healing your body and your traumas.

    Work on your spiritual growth. Raw Cacao can help you immense with that, nurturing you fysically, emotionally and spiritually… But it can’t do the job for you. It’s not an instant blue Disney pill that takes away your problems.

    So I don’t agree on trying to get high, that always causes problems in the end.

    I do agree on working to be healthy and being high on the miracle life :0)

    Use and dose cacao with moderation and respect and observe cycles of rest and you may be able to enjoy its benefits your whole life.


  • Ross

    I think maybe you are allergic or intolerant to cocoa:

    “My heart beats a little faster, I feel hyperactive….”

    I have Coeliac disease and when I used to eat gluten I would get the same feeling!

    I am a big cocoa fan and I don’t get that feeling at all.

    I eat a mix of coconut oil and cocoa powder. Just a tiny bit when I wake up (to start my metabolism) and a few more times during the day. I am losing the extra weight I have because this mix makes me feel satiated so I am hardly ever hungry. I also follow a very healthy, natural diet… very close to the Paleo diet but not to that extreme. I keep my carbohydrate consumption low and well I don’t eat gluten :)

    I will post again if I notice any bad side effects from consuming cocoa powder like this!

  • Ruthmp

    Thanks for this article. My doctor put me on vivance a few years back for ADD and it was amazing in how it helped me focus. But I hated the side affects, dry mouth, a tendency to have ticks and on and on. I tried cocoa nibs this morning and got pretty nauseous, but then very focused and relaxed. So maybe in times that I need to focus, it wont be too bad. The only problem? I hate chocolate, especially dark chocolate. It tastes like sweet soap to me. This stuff just tasted like pure soap. I had to hold my breath trying to eat the dang stuff in yogurt with fresh fruit. I guess that’s a sign?

  • Daniel

    This is a really great article and I’d like to thank you for it, especially since I read Perkins’ article first.

    Two points to contest though:

    1. The available scientific evidence does not support the claim that marijuana use causes amotivational syndrome (see, for example, “Cannabis, Motivation and Life Satisfaction in an Internet Sample,” 2006, or “Cannabis and work in Jamaica: A refutation of the amotivational syndrome,” 1976).

    2. It seems to me that green tea can be safely consumed more frequently than cacao. That’s just my own opinion though, and it’s based on anecdotes rather than empirical evidence. If this opinion is true then the “badness” of green tea and cacao aren’t the same.

    (As an interesting tidbit, caffeine in general can have long term benefits for the brain. For evidence, see for example, “Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance,” 2009).

  • Jill

    Funnily enough, I made some raw chocolates 2 days ago and eaten a few this morning and suddenly started to feel jittery. I googled and found this article. It is being relegated to the back of the cupboard because its not a pleasant feeling – I never drink coffee because of the effect it has on me. I am so disappointed that my promised superfood is poisonous to my body!

  • I started consuming 3 to four teaspoons a day of cacao. Then I found myself waking at 3 in the morning wide awake. Bored and bothering my wife reading my kindle. The next morning I would feel very tired. The only way to get to sleep was to stuff myself with food in the early hours.

    I thought it’s very similar to caffeine – the feeling I got. But I don’t drink any caffeine. I thought it may be a bug. But it continued. Three weeks and very little sleep.

    It took melatonin that did not help. It took a stronger dose and that did not help. And I continued with my cocoa drink spoonfuls whenever I could.

    Eventually my wife said it may be the cacao. I said no. But she’s normally right. And I googled. And yes….she is right.

    With two spoonful already I will be jittery today. but that’s the end of my relationship with cacao. I will get my oxidants somewhere else.

    BTW: thanks for the article.

    I have fun


  • Crackoa

    I have a food addiction. Any foods that i’m addicted to I have an intolerance to. This is one of them. Good-bye sweet cacao :(
    Greens and meat only. Your so good, but not worth the pain.

  • Paul

    You mentioned you experienced cravings for green tea after you stopped ingesting cacao. Both cacao and green tea contain epicatechin. Article on cacao that focuses on epicatechin: The truth is often bittersweet …: chocolate does a heart good. Alspach G. Crit Care Nurse. 2007;27(1):11–5 (

    The article states that epicatechin is a vasodilator in addition to theobromine: “enhanced flow-mediated vasodilation in conduit arteries, and augmented microcirculation.” And you did mention that cacao, “my body warms up a little”

  • G-Funk

    Cacao is playing a positive role in my life right now acting as a sort of ‘methadone’ to my sugar addiction. Munching cacao curbs my craving for thing’s like mcflurry’s which are probably many times worse for my body. I’ve toned up and and feel better, although, I do eat it too much. I would suggest using it to get off of refined sugars.

  • Kai

    Hi Fran,

    I really liked your article! I eat raw coca quite regularly.. I usually mix it up with a large bowl of plain sugar free yogurt, a heap or cinnamon and a tiny bit of stevia… I often have it several times a week. I have been aware it can over stress the adrenals… Fortunately I myself haven’t noticed any differences but I am now more inspired to eat it before I work on my website!

    Thanks for such an impartial and passionate view.

  • Jamie

    I had vivapura cacao and within 10 minutes was starting to see colors, nauseous, and my heart was racing. I thought I was going crazy. I googled it and the Native Americans use it as a psychedelic. Many people think because it is raw it is healthy. I don’t have these reactions to greens. I also never felt the effects of cacao until I had deeply cleansed my body. So I am in the camp that it is not the best for the body. A little is ok and just because you are not feeling the affects of it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening on a subtler level.

  • joseph

    just remember….everything in moderation, I Chew raw cacao (koko samoa) once a week – twice a week every month or two, and its done me more good than bad. But remember even stuff that is good for you can be bad when done in excess. (even hard-out exercise can increase the heart rate and trigger heart attacks in people with pre-existing disorders) so again monderation is the key

  • Wow! What great validation! The SAME thing had been happening to me and I knew it was the cacao but couldn’t quite prove it. And the healthier I got as far as my eating, the more potent the cacao affect appeared to be. I was only intaking a tablespoon first thing in the morning of nibs and it was enough to keep my mind very anxious in the evening to where I was only getting a few hours of sleep a night. Don’t get me wrong, this stuff makes me so happy, creative, and motivated! …But as you say it comes at a price or needs to be in moderation. Thanks so much for the info.!

  • M

    Hello and thanks for your article. I also decided to not repurchase cacao. My mind/nerves would become overly anxious and I would notice pain in my abdomen. The solution for me was to bake the cacao before using it. I guess this turns it into regular cocoa but this was the best thing for me to do. Cheers

  • Great article! I honour you for being brave enough to change your mind and share your new findings with the world. We’re the same way with our community and I also went through a similar experience, thinking Cacao was the best superfood on the planet and then feeling into my body energetically that something was just off.

    It wasn’t until we were up at Jeremy Safrons place in haiku when I really pieced it all together. I had been getting rashes and acne breakouts on my back and he was like “well do you eat cacao” and he was like yea, there you go. I have since then swapped out our cacao recipes for carob or put notes for people to check in with themselves before dosing up on it, and I think teaching others to continue learning and never be afraid to change your mind when new info presents itself is a very powerful thing.

    If we were never to change our minds about information we receive and put out, we would be stuck in the same mindset as we were hundreds of years ago. Women would be considered less intelligent than men and many of the liberations we have today would not exist. So really, the fact that you wrote this article gives you massive credibility regardless of what some of the comments above will say.

    Any person with a true desire to learn and grow will appreciate someone who can share from a non-biased, authentic and open minded place. Well done! I’ll be sharing your article with our community as well, you’ve put a lot of effort in here :)

    Love S

  • Stella

    i cut dairy, sugar etc. out of my diet a while ago but i didn’t feel a craving for sweets and chocolate at all. maybe because of the fruits i consume but i never was a sweets person anyway, well cheese on the other hand….
    initially i bought a bag of raw cacao nibs after reading how much anti-oxidants raw cacao contains. i was never a chocaholic to be honest, i mean i liked chocolate and ate it occasionally but i’ve never experienced a chocolate craving and eating a whole bar or cake like a madman. that’s why i’m extremely confused as to why i feel like i’m basically addicted to raw chocolate now! it’s so weird, i take a very small amount and immediately feel like eating the whole bag! i just have the bag for a week now but i’m already glad when it’s empty. i don’t really have any side effects tho, i sleep well, but the feeling to be literally addicted to something is so confusing and still i cannot stop and just put the nibs away!! ugh. the thing that concerns me is that i don’t even feel like it’s THAT tasty, you know, i’m just unable to stop. lol it sounds so dumb. definitely a sign for me to say goodbye to cacao after this bag.

  • The slip-up about “the food of the Gods “cocoa has been going on for a while. Raw cocoa powder is healthy and good especially when drean as a protein drink. Mixed with milk products, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients becomes unhealthy bomb. Naturally not all raw food is good for everyone. While some might not tolerate cocoa others will do. Try, taste and feel your body respond to it. There will always be a substitute to it. I also agree with Anne’s comment: “eat everything in moderation”. Cheers!

  • Kraken

    ” these same articles claim that no animal would touch cacao without being “tricked into it with milk and sugar” which aside from being a very random statement ” this statement is obviously a stab at human animals who eat cacao end product milk chocolate. we find the taste bitter and our taste buds are tricked to eat it with sweet milky taste. the cacao fruit taste delicious (the fleshy part) I went on vacation as a child and there were trees with big cocoa pods. they gave us the fruit to eat. similar to mangosteen with the cacao seed in the middle. do you know where we can buy the fruit?

    • Yes, I was lucky to be able to taste the fresh fruit while I was in Ubud, Bali. I don’t know of anywhere in the world that sells whole pods. But you can definitely track them down if you’re in Bali, Hawaii or certain parts of South America. It’s definitely wroth it. Bless..

  • yhan

    Theobromine is also of the metabolites from caffeine.
    I also find that my sleep lightens and it’s harder to fall asleep when I consume green tea or cacao products in the morning (even if used topically in sunscreens) so I avoid them. It’s strange that it happens. Maybe I am low in magnesium.
    I know deep sleep is too important for your health and maybe not worth sacrificing it for the ORAC claims. Sleep is also important for skin health.

  • Anne

    “Eat everything in moderation” is a very old, wise saying. Also I agree with eating everything when it is in season therefore having a varied diet.

    The “I want it now, I want lots of it and I want to keep having it” is not how the human body is built to take in food and it doesn’t matter if it’s a superfood or not.

  • Greetings friend!

    I appreciate your article on Cacao, I have been consuming cacao fairly regularly the past couple weeks and have started to notice that my gums are getting a bit sore. I have been eating other things besides cacao and I have a history of teeth problems but something is making me question whether or not it is the cacao that is responsible, and possibly the addition of the agave nectar which may also play a role.

    Any thoughts on this?

  • I think it is right to say that in everything there is bad and good but you have to weigh it to consider using it. If it gives more advantages to you then use it.

  • Tarsh

    Had a laugh,

    “your comment is awaiting moderation” is the network response to process comments made by general public before approving

    TOO FUNNY……..I thought this topic is all about moderation


    love n laughter

  • Tarsh

    Yep it all comes down to that little universal quote from Hippocrates

    “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

    and as the wisdom of the enlightened

    “in every moment”


    easy said than done, right! ;)

  • Dr Greger says spinach, beet greens, chard are high in oxalates

    even said something in his new 2010 about ‘eating too much dark leafies’ and iodine in an 88 yr old woman (7m13s)
    (her symptoms are lethargy and unable to swallow for 3 days, and she was trying to control her diabetes). also Dr Greger says cold tea is healthy and is better than boiled (and not to be taken with soy milk)

  • i think you meant to cite cannabinoids as a “good” thing in cacao! =)

  • Kendra- Yes of course :) Just read the article and take everything on board.

    Katie- As far as I’m aware, cacao beans don’t actually contain the enzyme inhibitors found in nuts so they don’t have to be soaked. Dehydrating is also unlikely to remove the “bad” stuff in cacao, which is the theobromine, oxalic acid etc. Although to be honest I wonder if the theobromine was missing if we’d actually still love eating cacao!

  • Katie

    Hey I was wondering if soaking and possibly dehydrating cacao nuts would remove some of the negative effects of the nut without killing all the nutrients? I’ve been soaking other nuts to get rid of the enzyme inhibitors and was curious about cacao but I haven’t been able to find any info on the web. Brilliant article though by the way!

  • Kendra

    Is cacao safe to consume for teenagers? Thanks :)

  • cbreez

    Thanks for the article Fran!
    I totally agree with you, that life is fluid and we are every changing and growing. I love learning with you :)
    At this stage, i’m happy to keep having cacao in moderation at that time of the month ;)
    Love, Peace, Sunshine

  • Mike

    Long life is not a goal. I did not say anything about the real human goal because it’s off topic – this blog is about health by means of foods, skincare.

  • Danielle

    Haha. I meant ‘doses.’ Whoopsie. >_<

  • Mike- For me it’s not about the end goal it’s about the journey. I don’t care how long I live, in fact living until I’m 120 sounds a little boring because my friends may not be around to live that long with me! For me it’s about how happy and comfortable I am in those years that I’m living. I rarely get sick, if at all, while most of my friends and family get regular colds, flus and whatever else comes their way. A healthy body also helps a healthy mind, which mind you I’m still working on.

    I think it’s absolutely beautiful that you’ve found peace and happiness in your life, and that getting rid of “rules” and restrictions around food has given you that amazing sense of freedom. That’s great :) x

  • Mike

    ‘we went a bit wrong with that one’ is because all the diet teachings are wrongs. I comletely agree with one of the posts above – parsley is not bad, and sugar is not bad, they are JUST parsley and sugar.

    Any type of ‘foodist’ or ‘-tarian’ is doomed to fight life long. Any fight means stress. What health are they talking about?

    I have rare acne. A month ago I went to a rural area as I was contracted to build a log cabin. So, I can’t eat ‘healthy’. I eat pasta, bread, canned beef, coffee with chocolate bars – what can be bought here in the rural place. I stopped bothering about acne developing food. Sugar is my friend now, not enemy. I am not in fight, I am finally free. Believe it or not, my skin is clear. The most amazing thing – it’s not even oily!!!
    Now I understand how ‘unhealthy’ people can live 100 years – they are free.

  • Kate- I think it’s my personality, I get over excited too easily … I also never thought of myself as being extreme at all. I thought I was quite mild in comparison to other health geeks!

    vivienne- Haha, yeh it’s not the first time I’ve been called a hippy. You should see the photos ;)

    Danielle- Wow, you’d probably have an easier time with Theobromine then, because after being off caffeine for years when I have a tiny bit now I get hyperactive when I’m on it.

    Shannon- Yep I’m human, life is fluid and nothing in my life is permanent. The wonderful experiences I had with cacao in the beginning turned out to be not so wonderful in the last few months which motivated me to dig a little deeper. I do feel sorry for many very well known health bloggers who are fearful about changing their minds on health topics because of reactions like this. Sometimes we come across new information and just get things wrong. Agave within the raw food community is a great example – all of us went a bit wrong with that one! Love to you x

  • shannon

    Yes this article is annoying,and not just because you go on and on about the “dangers” of Cacao (come on,it isn’t cocaine for gods sake) but more because of the fact you are constantly extolling the virtue of every last product/food you try (agave,OCM and now caco are just three that instantly spring to mind)-urging us all to try it etc,etc then doing a complete turn around later and saying how bad it is.If you want to be taken seriously in a health blog,do your research before going all orgasmic about your latest fad.You have lost all credibility for me.

    • Tony

      Talk about loosing credibility……I haven’t read any of your health articles Shannon but if you have any worth reading please post a link. Obviously by your rude criticism you can do much better than Fran, that is, unless you are just some kind of loose canon criticizing everybody else while you yourself do nothing to help anybody. This is by far one of the most informative, accurate and well written articles I’ve EVER read on cacao. I have been experimenting with cacao for over 10 years now and it can be VERY addictive. And yes, I have had my share of cocaine as well. Although two completely different types of addictions, nevertheless cacao, even though a food, can cause many types of issues and serious problems for many people when misused and again as Fran stated depending on the person and their sensitivity and body. As far as Agave goes, I haven’t read Fran’s article but I can tell you right off the bat that I know it was indeed promoted and touted as some kind of super excellent alternative to sugar and was supposed to be sooo healthy just to find out later that it’s basically 100% fructose which is just as bad in many ways according to the latest research I’ve read. Nothing in nature naturally contains even close to that much fructose. I think like cacao if used properly it may be a better alternative than sugarcane in some cases depending on the person, their personal sensitivities, and the way it;s used, but it’s certainly no health food in my opinion. You really should be a little more profession about criticizing people.

  • tziporra_simcha

    Amazing article Fran! I’m so impressed with all your research. I wonder why a natural (as opposed to processed) food has to be “good” or “bad”. I don’t think that morality is on either side of the cacao argument. As you eloquently point out in this article, some natural foods are right for us, some aren’t, and dosage is important. As a corollary, as a breastfeeding mother I am avoiding parsley in my green juices because it can be anti-lactogenic. Do I believe parsley is “bad”? Certainly not! I think parsley is an amazing food with lots of terrific properties. Will I resume adding parsley to my juices when I wean? Of course! Am I avoiding parsley entirely? No, I just am not putting huge quantities in my juices. I won’t freak out if I have a little in a salad. The idea that any natural food is “bad” makes it sound as if people who consume it are bad, and those who avoid it have some kind of extra virtue. I completely disagree with this kind of dietary dogma. Best regards, and lots of love.

  • Danielle

    This is a pretty cool article. I’ve never actually had cacao, but my body requires large dosages of caffeine and meds and sugar before they actually seem to kick in…both my dad and I have a really high tolerance for things like that (I’ve never had a sugar high in my life and tea has little to no effect on me. If anything, it HELPS me sleep. Very odd). So I’ll probably have to be extra careful in the future if I DO decide to consume cacao, because there’s the possibility that I either won’t be experiencing those effects or I simply won’t be aware of them till it’s too late.

  • Hi Fran.

    I’d love if you added this post to my Wholesome Whole Foods blog carnival! I reckon my readers would really like it!

  • vivienne

    Wow, you can be a cacao professor Fran! Well done with the article. I learned a lot. I think we just need to eat everything in moderation unless we’re supplementing a certain thing for a certain reason.

    By the way, your cacao party sounds so…well, hippyish! LOL! Just imagining from what you wrote:)

  • I have small amounts of raw cacao beans daily on my cereal – I peel around 6 or so and crush and put on my cereal. It has been totally fine with me, I love it and think it’s great. Like lots of things in life, having it in excess amounts can’t be too good. Like your experience with Maca, or too many detoxes etc. You seem to be always going into something full on in your life, and I don’t know how you do it to be honest.

    Have you thought that your body is reacting this way because you push it into such situations? I think any changes to be successful need to be gradual whether it’s weight loss, detoxing, trying new supplements, skincare etc

    I do love your blog and your insights into different things, it’s just a thought.

  • Allie M

    Thanks so much for this post. Most of the other articles I have read have been nowhere near as thorough. I have been consuming Cacao daily and there have been a few odd things going on that I had not pinpointed the cause of. Think I will pull back a tad and make it more of a treat rather than part of the daily diet. Upon saying that, its clearly great for a dance party ;)

  • Thanks fran! EPIC post!

  • Kylie- I know!! I have the biggest bag of cacao nibs and powder that you’ve ever seen here in my kitchen that I bought before I considered all of this stuff. I’m thinking that I’m going to have to either sell them or give them away. Or just use them over ages and ages :)

    Paula’s Choice can be a bit of a hit or miss. Interestingly I used to have great success with it but now I can’t stand having it on my face. After cleansing and detoxing the chemical content really bothers me. Weird. I bet nobody else can see these whiteheads. They may not even be whiteheads, they may just be oil in your pores – it’s common to confuse comedonal acne with just regular facial oil.

    And thank for your kind words, you’re beautiful!

  • Kylie

    I bought a big bag of raw cacao powder after watching your video about it, and I only had made one mug of hot coco before I saw your tweets about your own cacoa ban! I’m in no way a choco-holic and I really only bought the cacoa for it’s high levels of antioxidents so I think I’ll keep eating cacoa once and a while.
    While I’m here commenting, I might as well say that I love your website Fern and I’m so glad I stumbled upon your videos on youtube! Reading your articles and checking out the links you reccomend has really made me think more about overall health and diet. A lot of my family members are really interested in health and fitness but I’ve never really taken an interest (not to say I don’t live and eat well, because I do!) untill I found High on Health. Keep doing what you’re doing, love you!

    ps- I ordered that Paula’s choice gel that you recommend for whiteheads and definitely noticed a more smooth appearance to my skin after using it once. On the other hand, it hasn’t seemed to be really helping my whiteheads because I’ve had these whiteheads very deep under my skin around my chin for what feels like years… I really don’t know what do to about them any more! I’ve been gently exfoliating everyday/2nd day for months and months and MONTHS now but the whiteheads are not surfacing and clearing, they just seem like they’re still deep under my skin.
    Do you have any advice that comes to mind?

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