The Tree of Life
The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means "monkey face" because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing."
The coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. On many islands coconut is a
staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food eaten. Nearly one third of the world's population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures the coconut has a long and respected history.
Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.
Coconut In Traditional Medicine
People from many diverse cultures, languages, religions, and races scattered around the globe have revered the coconut as a valuable source of both food and medicine. Wherever the coconut palm grows the people have learned of its importance as a effective medicine. For thousands of years coconut products have held a respected and valuable place in local folk medicine.
In traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.
Coconut In Modern Medicine
Modern medical science is now confirming the use of coconut in treating many of the above conditions. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, may provide a wide range of health benefits. Some of these are summarized below:
See Research to read some of the published studies regarding the above mentioned uses of coconut products.
While coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fiber and nutritional content, it's the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine.
Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food.
Coconut oil has been described as "the healthiest oil on earth." That's quite a remarkable statement. What makes coconut oil so good? What makes it different from all other oils, especially other saturated fats?
The difference is in the fat molecule. All fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. There are two methods of classifying fatty acids. The first you are probably familiar with, is based on saturation. You have saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Another system of classification is based on molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid. Fatty acids consist of long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. In this system you have short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).
The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids you consume are LCFA.
The size of the fatty acid is extremely important. Why? Because our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. So the physiological effects of MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from those of LCFA more commonly found in our foods. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids. Both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, milk, eggs, and plants (including most all vegetable oils) are composed of LCFA.
MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. MCFA help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is primarily due to the MCFA in coconut oil that makes it so special and so beneficial.
There are only a very few good dietary sources of MCFA. By far the best sources are from coconut and palm kernel oils.
Copyright © 2004 Coconut Research Center
This website is for educational purposes only. The information supplied here comes from a variety of sources and authors and not every statement made has been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Shelf Life of VIRGIN Coconut Oil?
Our producers have had samples of VIRGIN coconut oil have not shown any signs of rancidity even after 3 years.
2. Is Coconut Oil a Seed Oil?
No. Coconut oil is classified as a vegetable oil, even if the coconut fruit that matures is actually the seed from which the new coconut tree will grow from.
3. What is the difference between VIRGIN & COPRA?
If you buy regular coconut oil, chances are it came from dried copra. This usually sits in a warehouse and gets oiled after a few months. This is bleached and deodorized. This is why there is no coconut aroma. High heat is also used which is why this type of oil is yellowish in color.
VIRGIN coconut oil is cold-pressed immediately upon opening of the coconut. The oil is extracted before the fermentation process sets in. It is normally bottled or packed within 8 hours from the time the nut is opened. This is not bleached nor deodorized, maintaining the freshness and the faint sweet coconut scent It will also be clear as water in liquid form because no high heat was used in it’s processing. If heated too much it will have caramelized sugars and have too srtong of a coconut smell and a buttery texture.
Some people still use the old fermentation process, which is expelling the coconut milk then letting the coconut milk sit for 20 to 36 hours to allow the natural fermentation process to separate the oil. This process turns the oil sour and has a short shelf life due to the high moisture content. This home made oil is alright for home use, if the oil will be used immediately. The shelf life of this type of oil is two weeks to a maximum of two months. This type of oil turns rancid in a short period of time because of the high moisture content.
4. What is Organic VIRGIN Coconut Oil?
Organic VIRGIN Coconut oil is Oil produced from a Certified Organic Farm . The process should have also been Certified as Organic. The processing plant is also inspected and certified to have used only food grade equipment, usually only stainless steel. That the processing is natural with no chemical preservatives or additives.
All Philippines coconut trees used to be ORGANIC. Today however, we are SAD to SAY that the Philippines Coconut Authority has started promoting the use of fertilizer on the coconut trees to improve the yield of nuts from the coconut trees.
If you are buying ORGANIC, ask for the Organic Certification.
If you are purchasing VIRGIN COCONUT OIL then the VCO must be clear as water and have a sweet coconut scent. If is not clear as water and does not have a mild coconut aroma then you know it is not VIRGIN COCONUT OIL.
Fermented Coconut Oil will have a Sour and Rancid smell. Some producers will also try to filter their fermented VCO in charcoal to try to remove the sour smell but instead that process gives the VCO a burnt smell and taste.
So, do a smell and taste test.
Not all Virgin coconut Oil are alike. Just like not all Coconuts are Organic.
5. What are the attributes of Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is one of the most stable oils and is highly resistant to rancidity (It is the unsaturated fats in the common seed oils that are easily oxidized and susceptible to rancidity). It is stable because of its high proportion of saturated fats. Coconut oil is mild on the skin and is widely used in the tropics. Film-forming qualities allow it to act as a skin moisturizer and a protectant against moisture loss. Its natural detergency and lathering capabilities give a double purpose as a cleansing agent for soaps and shampoos.
Specific Product Information
Most dried coconut has had much of the juice pressed out before drying. This is from the whole nutmeat. For great coconut milk blend it in water with 25% Macadamia or other nuts to emulsify. Certified Organic, Unheated.
Creamy smooth made right here from whole coconut meat. Tastes like fresh coconut. Certified Organic. Unheated
Coconut flour is a good source of dietary fiber. It contains 7% coconut oil and 58% total dietary fiber. It is made from fresh coconut meat. Unheated, Certified Organic from Philippines, Comes in vacuum sealed 1 lb bags
Cold Pressed from Philippines Extra Virgin, Certified Organic
Awarded "Best Organic Virgin Coconut Oil"
no preservatives, no transfat, First pressing only
COCONUT PALM SYRUP (more info)
Unheated Evaporated nectar from the flower stem of coconut palms. The taking of this nectar does not interfere with the coconut crop or hurt the tree so it is very sustainable. Very low glycemic index. Rich in minerals. Keep cool
COCONUT SUGAR (more info)
Made from the sap or nectar from the coconut palm tree flower similar to the way maple sugar is produced, coconut sugar or palm sugar, has a unique creamy, caramel sweetness. One of the lowest glycemic index sweeteners on the market, Coconut palm sugar is highly nutritious and ecologically beneficial with a great taste.Coconut sugar is rated low glycemic at 35 compared to honey at 55. Certified Organic. Heated but we still think it is one of best sweetners.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I gratefully acknowledge the authors of the book Sweet Gratitude (Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipo) for the following information on Irish Moss.
Irish moss (Chrondrus crispus) is a type of seaweed that is purple to green when fresh; when cured and dried it turns to a yellow-brown transparent colour. Other common names for Irish moss are pearl moss, carrageen, red seaweed, or chondrus. This algae appears at low tide on all the shores of the Atlantic and comes from a genus of about fifteen species of marine algae. These plants, ranging in size from 3-12 inches, are collected wild, growing on rocks and stones in pools and shallow saltwater, and may be harvested by boat using a rake and by hand from the submerged rocks. It is found along the shorelines of Canada, New England, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Like all sea vegetables, Irish moss is rich in minerals and has astonishing detoxifying properties. One of its common names, carrageen, is derived from a village in southeastern Ireland (Carragheen) where the seaweed is plentiful. During the potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century, thousands of beleaguered Irish saved themselves from starvation by eating the humble, bushy seaweed known as Irish moss. Irish immigrants who found it growing in Canada and on the New England shores were the first to harvest and use it in America, and this is how the plant became known as “Irish moss.”
The entire plant, which is dried and then soaked to swell back to its original size, is used medicinally and for culinary purposes. Used commercially, it is included in cosmetics as a skin softener in creams and lotions and as a rinse for dry hair. Irish moss is a stabilizing agent for the food industry in dairy products, desserts, salad dressings, and sauces. It is used in the pharmaceutical industry to stabilize cod liver oil and toothpaste, and has a wide variety of other commercial uses in the textile, leather, brewing, printing (as an ink), and paint industries. Irish moss has a high mucilage content, sulphur compounds, protein, iodine, bromine, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, gel-forming polysaccharides (known as carragheenans), pectin, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
Respiratory System: Irish moss has a soothing effect on virtually all the mucous membranes throughout the body. This sweet, salty, mucilaginous herb has a softening effect on tissues and helps many respiratory problems including bronchitis and pneumonia. It is especially effective for pulmonary (lung) conditions, with its ability to absorb liquid and eliminate it from the body. As an expectorant, Irish moss relieves dry coughs, and the high mucilage content alleviates catarrh (inflammation) of the nasal passages and eases sore throat.
Digestion and Thyroid Function: Irish moss soothes the mucous membranes of the digestive tract, and the high mucilage content helps to ease gastritis, dyspepsia, nausea, heartburn, and indigestion and is also used to prevent vomiting. Irish moss is a mild and effective laxative and soothes inflamed tissues of the intestinal tract, providing help for intestinal disorders. In addition, Irish moss is said to absorb toxins from the bowel and draw radiation poison from the body. Irish moss is rich in iodine, supplying the nutrient throughout the intestinal tract. Iodine is highly important in supporting good thyroid gland health and relieving the many problems associated with poor thyroid function and iodine deficiency (goiter, fatigue, inability to tolerate cold, slow heart rate, low metabolism, poor skin and hair condition, etc.).
Weight Loss: Irish moss helps to reduce the appetite by virtue of its ability to absorb moisture, increasing the feeling of “fullness.” The raised metabolic rate caused by improved thyroid function (resulting from Irish moss's iodine content) helps to increase energy, burn fat, and may be helpful in weight-loss regimens.
Blood Pressure: Because Irish moss contains blood-thinning properties and is considered an anticoagulant, early research has claimed that Irish moss can reduce high blood pressure and the risk of arteriosclerosis.
Skin Care: Irish moss is wonderful used externally. It softens and soothes the skin and other exposed tissue. It eases sunburn, chapped skin, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes. It counters premature ageing when used topically for smoothing wrinkles.
Pregnancy: Irish moss is great for pregnant women. It is highly beneficial in supporting the healthy production of amniotic fluid. After birth, the baby benefits from the nourishment it adds to breast milk.
Basic Directions for Using Irish Moss
Soaking Irish Moss
Properly soaking the Irish moss has a huge impact on the entire recipe. Closely following these directions will result in an ingredient that is as consistent as possible for the best results in the finished product. Irish moss soaked according to these directions and stored covered with water will last for at least a week when kept in the fridge in an airtight container. After one week you may see a difference in colour and size. The Irish moss may look transparent and swollen. If this is the case you will need to add an additional 1/4 – 1/2 ounce of Irish moss to each recipe. Soak only the amount you think you will use for one week.
Unsoaked Irish moss will last in an airtight container in the fridge for months.
All preparation steps for Irish moss use cold water only. Rinsing or soaking in warm or hot water will cause the Irish moss to lose its mucilaginous gelling properties, making it less effective in these recipes.
Directions for Rinsing/Soaking Irish Moss
- Thoroughly rinse small amounts of the Irish moss under cold running water. Ideally use filtered water. This process should remove any presence of sand, other seaweeds, or any small little plastic treads (usually light blue or red in colour) which are left over from harvesting.
- As you wash the Irish moss one piece at a time, place rinsed pieces in an empty container. Whatever size container you container (if the container is too small, shake well with lid on to create friction and release more impurities. Drain the water and repeat two more times. The water from the re using, do not fill it up more than three-quarters of the way.
- Once finished with rinsing, fill the container with water. With your hand mix the Irish moss in the last rinse should be really clean. If not, repeat one more time.
- Now fill the container with water again, completely covering the Irish moss. Put lid on container and place in fridge for at least 24 hours before using.
- Don't rinse the Irish moss after the soaking process is complete, and don't drain or replace the soaking water.
Using Irish Moss in the Recipes
Irish moss needs to be blended extremely well. All recipes using Irish moss specify the amount of liquid (usually 1 cup total) along with the measurement (in weight) of Irish moss. These ingredients are blended first until the Irish moss is completely broken down and smooth. This is what we call the “initial blending phase.” Then the remaining ingredients can be added and the recipe completed.
Irish Moss Blending Directions
- Using a scale, weigh the amount of Irish moss called for in the recipe. When measuring Irish moss always double-check the weight. Remove from scale, dry any excess water from the scale top, and weigh the Irish moss again. The first measurement may contain up to a 1/4 ounce of water, and this will affect the recipe.
- Coarsely chop the Irish moss and add to blender.
- Add to blender the specified amount of liquid required for the initial blending phase.
- Blend until mixture becomes smooth and jelly-like, and there are no visible small pieces of irish moss. The amount of time this requires will vary greatly, depending on what kind of blender you are using and/or how sharp the blade is.
- There will always be small pieces of unblended Irish moss on the sides of the blender and underneath the lid. Stop blending and with a spatula scrape down the sides of the blender, as well as underneath the lid. Resume blending until all the Irish moss is completely broken down.
- Stop blending and add the remaining ingredients of the recipe you are making, unless the recipe calls for coconut oil and lecithin, which always go in last.
Whole-food Irish moss is available but usually hard to find unless you are looking on the internet. It should come covered in sand and salt and have a strong oceanic smell. This is perfectly normal. If properly prepared, the flavour and odour of the Irish moss become totally unnoticeable with all the other flavours it is being combined with.
More widely available is the flaked and dehydrated Irish moss. This form of Irish moss has the same gelling abilities as whole-food Irish moss. Whole-food Irish moss should be stored in the fridge, and it keeps very well.
For an easy way to use Irish moss medicinally, try gelatinizing some water. Simply blend 1 ounce Irish moss with 1 1/2 cups water. Blend until Irish moss is completely broken down. You can keep this in a container in the fridge for at least two weeks. Add 2-3 tbsps or more to juices or smoothies and blend it up briefly before drinking. This is a great way to benefit from the healing powers of Irish moss without making some elaborate raw creation.
Recipes that call for Irish moss always set better in the fridge than in the freezer.
About Theobroma Cacao
Swedish Scientist Carl von Linnaeus officially named the chocolate tree Theobroma cacao back in 1753. Literally translated “cacao, food of the goods,” he named the genus exactly what the Central Americans called it.
Cacao trees thrive best in tropical/subtropical climates and can grow anywhere from 10-30 feet high when mature. The tree flowers and produces fruit all year. The flower/fruit grow straight out of the trunk and large branches. Once pollinated, the flower develops into a pod-like green fruit that matures into the characteristic red, orange, yellow, and even blue and purple pods, depending on the variety. It takes 5-6 months for the pod to ripen. The ripe pod is about 18-20 cm long and contains 20-50 almond-like seeds surrounded by a sweet white pulp. These seeds are the cacao “beans.” Cacao is indigenous to Central/South America but now grows in most tropical climates in the 20-degree latitude zone around the world. Cacao will grow on its own but thrives best under a canopy of other mixed trees (in partial shade) in a jungle type of ecosystem.
Main Varieties of Cacao
The three major varieties of cacao that are heavily cultivated are called Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. The Criollo cacao pods are longer and deeply ridged, and are red/yellow but sometimes blue/purple. Criollo is prized for its amazingly rich, pronounced flavour and aromatic nuances. Compared to other varieties, Criollo is prone to disease, ripens late, and has small harvests, which accounts for why this variety makes up only 5% of the world cacao crop. Because of its lower productivity, Criollo is used only in very high-end chocolates since it has the best flavour. Criollo is mainly grown in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Forastero was cultivated later than Criollo, and it has fruit pods that are yellow/orange, rounder, and less ridged than Criollo pods. Forastero cacaos are more vigorous, hardy trees that are very disease-resistant. Originally from the Amazon basin, they are mainly cultivated in Africa and Asia today, comprising 80% of the world's crop. The flavour of Forastero beans is less refined and complex than Criollo, but the plant is so much easier to grow.
Trinitario is the natural hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero subspecies and was domesticated in the late eighteenth century. Trinitario is the best of both worlds; it has the rich flavour and complexity of Criollo and the robust strength of Forastero. Trinitario is mainly cultivated in South America and the West Indies and accounts for 15% of the world cacao harvest.
Cacao vs. Cocoa
A slight changing of the letters represents a very major difference. “Cocoa” was the British term for cacao. The current association with the word “cocoa” is the defatted, alkalized powder form of chocolate invented by the Dutchman Coenraad Van Houten in 1828.
As early as 1815 in his Amsterdam factory, Van Houten had been developing a very efficient hydraulic press that squeezed the oil out of cacao. This new process reduced the fat content of cacao to 27% (from 50-55%), and primed it to become ground into powder. He eventually treated his cocoa powder with alkaline salts (potassium or sodium carbonates) in order to have the powder dissolve well in water. Van Houten created what would eventually be called “cocoa” or “cocoa powder.” This processing of chocolate became known as “Dutching,” which “cooked” the chocolate, giving it a darker colour and a diluted flavour. Dutching made it possible to create large-scale manufacturing and distribution of cheap chocolate, eventually available to millions of people worldwide in powdered and solid forms.
The nutritional value of cacao was further lessened then “milk chocolate” was invented due to the efforts of two Swiss men: chemist Henri Nestle and chocolate producer Daniel Peter. In 1867, Nestle developed a process to powder milk via evaporation. This single discovery has led to Nestle becoming the largest food corporation in the world. Then, in 1879, the first milk chocolate bar was produced after Daniel Peter experimented with adding the milk powder to chocolate. Although generally praised as a great milestone in the evolution of chocolate, it was this addition of powdered milk that blocked the body's absorption of the healing nutrients of cacao. The occasional person who thinks they have an “allergy” to chocolate is, with the ultra-rare exception, usually allergic to the pasteurized dairy, refined sugar, or caffeine that is in most chocolate.
Benefits of Raw Cacao
Magnesium: This is one of the most essential minerals, yet studies say that more than 80% of the US population is deficient in magnesium. In nature, the most concentrated source of magnesium is raw cacao! Other good sources of the mineral include certain nuts and any chlorophyll-rich green veggies. Magnesium is found at the center of the chlorophyll molecule. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brainpower, relaxes the muscles, increases flexibility, causes healthy bowel movements, and helps build strong bones. As one of the body's primary alkaline minerals, magnesium assists the normal functioning of several chemical enzymatic processes-facilitating more than three hundred different detoxification and elimination functions.
Chromium: This mineral helps balance blood sugar levels, and cacao has ten times the amount of chromium as whole wheat, a chromium-rich food, making it the highest food source of this mineral.
Antioxidant Power: Raw cacao beans are super-rich in antioxidant flavonols. They contain 10,000 mg (10 grams) of flavonol antioxidants (that's a 10% antioxidant concentration level!). Thai makes cacao possibly the best source of antioxidants, with 20 to 30 times more than red wine or green tea.
Vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, C and E are all present in significant quantities in raw cacao.
Other Nutrients, such as fiber, iron, niacin, phosphorous and hundreds of other chemicals and phytonutrients, are found in cacao.
As stated earlier, cacao is highly complex in its structure, and not all its constituents have even been identified yet. It is clear that there are very special and unique properties in cacao, especially in relation to human brain chemistry. On the next page are listed the four main chemicals that are found in high amounts in cacao and certainly produce noticeable effects.
The “Happy Brain” Chemicals
Theobromine: The base chemical theobromine is sparsely distributed in teh plant kingdom, occurring in only nineteen known species, but you may have heard of these other popular theobromine-containing substances: coffee, tea, yerba mate, and the kola nut. Yes, theobromine is the sister molecule to caffeine; however, it is much milder and has only about a quarter of the stimulating power that caffeine has. Theobromine dilates blood vessels, has proven to be an effective cough remedy, and has shown cariostatic effects (it destroys the bacteria that causes tooth decay). Depending on the study, caffeine has been found in low amounts, or not at all, in the cacao bean (or in the shell and not in the bean). This inconsistency is considered to be the result of confusion between the two very similar molecules, theobromine and caffeine. One thing is for sure, cooked chocolate definitely has caffeine, a result of the chemical transformation of theobromine to caffeine when it is exposed to heat.
Phenylethylamine (fennel-ethel-uh-mean) or PEA: This is sometimes called the “love” of “happy” chemical. The brain releases PEA naturally when we are really excited, happy, or sexually aroused. PEA is the structural molecule behind catecholamine neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in parts of teh brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert. When the brain is flooded with EPA, different chemical reactions take place that make one excitable, joyous, and focused! So our brains naturally produce this wonderful chemical, but it is also found pre-made by nature in (only) two amazingly synergistic raw foods: raw cacao and blue-green algae (E3Live!).
Anandamide (uh-non-da-mide): This neurotransmitter known as the “bliss” chemical is an endogenous cannabinoid naturally found in the human brain. It is a type of brain lipd (oil) that is released when we are feeling really good. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” meaning bliss. Cacao and cannabis (marijuana) are the only plants known to contain cannabinoids, chemicals that lock onto certain receptor sites in the brain in a “lock & key” system. The result is the feeling of being elated or high.
The chemical our body produces that normally fills the cannabinoid receptors is anandamide. Anandamide is highly involved in the chemical regulation of things like mood, memory, appetite, and pain perception. Sometimes the body releases anandamide to help cope with the stress and pain of intense exercise (like runner's high). Cacao also contains anandamide inhibitors, two structural cousins of anandamide. What these chemicals do is inhibit the metabolism of anandamide, meaning they decrease the body's ability to process anandamide. This means that natural and/or plant-derived anandamide lingers in the body longer, drawing out the elated sensation.
Tryptophan (trip-tow-fan): Cacao contains significant quantities of the essential amino acid tryptophan. Obtaining tryptophan in the diet is necessary for the production of serotonin, a major neurotransmitter. Tryptophan reacts with vitamins B3 and B6 and, in the presence of magnesium, serotonin is produced. Since cacao contains all those nutrients (tryptophan, B3, B6, and magnesium), regular consumption of cacao ensures healthy serotonin levels. Serotonin is our “stress-defense shield” and typically lowers anxiety and increases our ability to fend off stress. Tryptophan also triggers production of other tryptomine neurotransmitters such as melatonin and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), both of which are associated with sleep. Large doses of cacao will usually produce such results, despite all the stimulating qualities cacao also possesses. Tryptophan is highly heat-volatile and is usually destroyed or severely damaged by cooking.
Raw, Organic, Fair-Trade Cacao
When choosing what kind of cacao beans/nibs/powder/butter to purchase, make sure the products are raw, organic, and fairly traded. Cacao comes in whole-bean form, shelled, and broken up “nib” form, and in the form of cacao powder that has had all the fat removed from it, but without additives and cooking. Cacao powder is the most versatile of the three forms, and the most accessible as it really delivers the full-on chocolate flavour. If purchasing whole beans, check for mold contamination as this can sometimes happen.
All three forms have their own various applications, and it is nice to have all of them on hand if you are serious about cacao and raw desserts. Also available is cacao butter, with is the same as “cocoa butter” only raw. Regular, even expensive cocoa butter is generally produced using very high heats and chemical solvents like hexane. Cacao butter is produced at a raw temperature and without chemicals. This stuff is amazing and has all sorts of uses, especially for making white-chocolate-themed desserts.
Cacao should ideally be stored in airtight, glass jars. Don't keep cacao in the fridge, except for cacao butter, as the moisture can trigger mold formation.
Please support fair-trade organic cacao growers, as more than 80% of the world's cacao crop comes from West Africa, where horrible working conditions, including child slavery, degrade humanity on a daily basis (not to mention the pesticides). All the big candy companies get their chocolate from these West African growers, so vote with your dollars for fair-trade, organic cacao!
Cacao is one of the main crops contributing to the preservation of the rainforest. Since cacao naturally thrives best underneath the canopy of larger trees in a jungle setting, organic cacao is a sustainably grown crop. It is at the forefront of many plants that are helping to make the rainforest more valuable intact rather than destroyed. We can eat the most delicious, natural chocolate and save the rainforest at the same time! But only when the cacao is organic and fairly traded.
The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers, native to the Middle East. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut.
Almonds are classified into two categories: Sweet (Prunus amygdulus dulcis) and Bitter (Prunus amygalus amara). Sweet almonds are the type we eat; and bitter almonds are used to make almond oil and flavouring agents for food and liqueurs such as amaretto. Bitter almonds are mostly inedible by themselves, as they contain several toxic substances (these toxins being removed in the processing of the oil). Almonds are notorious for being a crop that needs a lot of love and attention, thus making them one of the most pesticide-sprayed crops. This is the reason why organic almonds are so expensive. Support organic, raw almonds!
Nutritionally, almonds are a power food. Just one ounce (~23 almonds, or a medium handful) contains 6g of protein, 7.3 mg of vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), 19% of the RDA for magnesium, and 14% of the RDA for phosphorous. Almonds are also a good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), containing 17% of the RDA in just one ounce. Just one ounce contains 80 mg of calcium (7% RDA), and 1 mg of iron (6% RDA), as well as 4g of fiber (the highest fiber content of any nut or seed). Almonds are generally believed to be the most alkaline of all the nuts. They are also high in potassium and tryptophan (an essential amino acid which aids in sleep). Almonds are a great source of manganese (one ounce contains 32% of the RDA) and copper (one ounce contains 14% of the RDA), two trace minerals essential for the production of the key enzyme superoxide dismutase. This enzyme disarms free radicals produced within our mitochondria (which is known as the “energy production factory” in our cells), thus helping to keep our energy level high.
Almonds contain 54% oil, of which 78% is monounsaturated oleic acid (omega-9) and 17% is polyunsaturated omega-6. The oil is commonly used on the skin during massages, and can be a good subsitute for olive oil in the kitchen. In Ayurveda, almond is considered a nutritive for the brain and nervous system. It is said to induce high intellectual level and longevity.
A one ounce serving of almonds contains a similar quantity of polyphenol as ½ c of cooked broccoli.
As almonds contain vitamin E and monounsaturated fat, they aid in reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
I also read that the raw unpasteurized almonds contain cyanide, which is apparently why the US govt insists on pasteurizing almonds before sale (small growers have a loophole, which is how we get unpasteurized ones). However, I cannot confirm the accuracy of this claim.
All the almonds are unpasteurized, certified organic, from California. The #1 almonds are either the Aldridge, Nonpariel or Carmel varieties (usually Aldridge) and have few marks from shelling. The #2 almonds are the Butte/Padre varieties and have scratches and marks from shelling. They are still very flavourful, though smaller than the #1s.
The almond meal is sprouted and dried, unpasteurized and certified organic. Must be kept cold.
Almond butter is more nutrient-dense than peanut butter. It contains half the amount of saturated fat, less salt, and eight times as much calcium, half the protein, and one quarter as much niacin (4% of the DV). Sprouted almond butter is delicious! The almonds are sprouted for 1 day, then dried and ground at low temperatures. No oil is added and this almond butter is not dry. Made from unpasteurized and certified organic almonds. Glass jar.
Brazil nuts are native to South America. They are not grown on plantations, but harvested from the wild Amazon rainforest. The large trees (30-45m in height) live upwards of 500 years and are some of the largest trees in the rainforest.Brazil nuts are 18% protein, 13% carbohydrates, and 69% fat. The fat breakdown is roughly 25% saturated, 41% monosaturated, and 34% polyunsaturated. The saturated content of Brazil nuts is among the highest of all nuts, surpassing macadamia nuts, which are primarily monounsaturated fat, and the nuts are pressed for their oil. Because of the resulting rich taste, Brazil nuts can often substitute for macadamia nuts or even coconut in recipes, and make a great raw parmesan. Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, primarily omega-6, shelled Brazil nuts should be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Nutritionally, Brazil nuts are a good source of magnesium, thiamine, phosphorous and copper, and are perhaps the richest dietary source of selenium; one ounce can contain as much as 10 times the adult RDA. Proper selenium intake is correlated with a reduced risk of both breast and prostate cancers.
The brazil nuts are shipped and stored in vacuum packaging and kept cool to preserve freshness.
Cashews are a good source of Copper (31% RDA), Manganese (23%), Magnesium (20%), Phosphorous (17%), Vitamin K (12%), Zinc (11%) and Iron (10%). They also contain Thiamin, Selenium, Potassium, and vitamin B6. Their fat is comprised mostly of monounsaturated omega-6 fatty acids. One ounce of cashews provides 5g of protein.
Most cashews, although sold as raw, have been heated during the shelling process. Truly raw cashews are certified organic from Indonesia. Whole, uncertified organic, probably heated cashews from Vietnam are also available.
From our supplier: “Big Tree Farms works directly with small-scale cashew growers on the Isle of Flores to develop both ecological sustainability on these fragile volcanic lands and economic viability from this beautiful product. Our cashews are hand-picked from Organically Certified trees in Eastern Flores. The cashews are “cracked” open with traditional knives and hand-polished to remove the “kulit ari”, a thin skin protecting the kernel. The result is a truly raw cashew kernel so incredibly sweet, soft and white that you simply won't believe your tastebuds! Following this traditional process of hand-processing cashews is a labour of love that has nearly disappeared around the globe. Traditional producers on average can only prepare 2 kgs of raw kernels daily! But the difference between raw and conventionally processed cashews is unmistakable. By reinvigorating the market for raw cashews we are able to keep the high value work of processing “on-farm” and greatly increase the compensation that cashew growers receive for their efforts. More profit for growers means greater pride of product and more focus on the maintenance, harves and post-harvest handling of these wonderful nuts.”
The cashew shell contains toxins (urushiol, the same toxin found in poison ivy), which is why most cashews sold as raw have been heated – to kill any toxins that get onto the nut/kernel itself. Reactions are similar to those experienced after exposure to poison oak or ivy; cashew poisoning is, however, rare, mostly limited to the handlers of the seed pod.
So if you want truly raw, certified organic cashews, or uncertified organic, probably heated whole cashews, both are available.
Filberts or hazelnuts are local to B.C. They are high in the amino acid tryptophan and are a good nut to eat to aid in healthy sleep patterns. Hazelnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E (21% RDA); vitamin E stops nuts from going rancid.
Hazelnuts contain phytosterols, which is reported to aid in reducing LDL cholesterol levels. Hazelnuts are SUPER-high in manganese (one ounce contains 86% of the RDA!). They also contain copper, magnesium, phosphorus and iron, as well as potassium and zinc. One ounce of hazelnuts contains 12.8 mg of choline, often classified as a member of the B-vitamin family, and essential for maintaining mental alertness and cognitive functioning as well as elevating mood and assisting the liver in its functioning. Hazelnuts contain thiamin (12% RDA), folate (8%) and vitamin B6 (8%).
In taste, hazelnuts go well with chocolate. Our hazelnuts are shelled, certified organic, and grown in BC.
Macadamia nuts come from both Hawaii and Kenya. Like hazelnuts, they contain phytosterols (~32 mg per ounce), which aids in reducing LDL chloesterol levels. They contain 58% of the RDA of manganese, and are a source of copper, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. As well, they are a good source of thiamin (22% RDA) and have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of ~6:1.
Our Hawaiian macadamia nuts are uncertified organic. They are fresh and taste great due to a unique process where they are dried and shelled right after harvest. This insures quality and enhances sweetness and shelf life.
Pecans are a very good source of manganese (63% RDA). They, too, contain phytosterols (which reduce LDL cholesterol levels). They contain 2.8 micrograms of flouride per ounce. As well, they are a source of copper (17% RDA), zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamin and choline.
Our pecans are unheated, uncertified organic, grown wild from very old trees in Missouri. They are small and sweet. Most pecans are shelled by soaking them in 180F water for 20 mins before shelling. These pecans are shelled without using heat.
Walnuts have the greatest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (2500 mg per ounce) and have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1. They contain phytosterols, which reduce LDL cholesterol levels. They are an excellent source of manganese (48% of the RDA), and are a good source of copper (22% of the RDA). As well, they contain magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, folate, thiamin, zinc and iron.
Our walnuts are mostly whole halves, from this year's crop in California. They are certified organic.
PISTACHIOSPistachios contain over 30 vitamins and minerals. They are rich in potassium (helps regulate the body's fluid balance), phosphorus (helps build bones and teeth) and magnesium (important element in the conversion of the body's energy), and are also a good source of vitamin B6 (aids protein metabolism and absorption) and thiamine (enhances energy and promotes normal appetite). They are cholesterol free and are high in monosaturated fat. They are high in fiber and iron and contain a large number of carotenoids and xeaxanthin which may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration (leading to blindness). They are a good source of vegetable protein and one serving (~50 nuts) contains only 160 calories, making them one of the lowest calorie nut snacks.
Almost all pistachios are dried at very high temperatures. The ones available through rawfoodsooke are dried at about 45C and are from a family farm in California. Certified Organic. In three flavours: natural/plain, lightly sea salted, and flavoured with local BC garlic.