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Chocolate and raw or organic foods

Organic chocolate, while not slimming, might be better than traditional candy.

Chocolate has found its way into the raw and organic food movements as a treat with health potential.

Since the 1970s interest in health and diet have grown exponentially to their current high plateau. Every type of food is scrutinized and evaluated for its potential nutritional impact. One of the offshoots of that movement is an advocacy of something called, appropriately enough, raw food. This is simply food not cooked above a certain temperature. Generally the upper limit is around 115°F/46°C.

While the nutrition pros and cons will continue to be debated for some time to come, one thing is already clear. Chocolate already fits neatly into that category. Its source in the bean from the Theobroma cacao tree, the way the bean is processed and the final product created, all cause it to fit well into the category of raw food.

The most popular form it takes today are the organic superfood bars popular with backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts. It's very low in sugar, often containing none at all, low in fat and contains all the nutrition of natural chocolate.

In some cases, actual raw cacao beans are consumed. Many will find them bitter, others enjoy the zing provided by the natural alkaloids in the unprocessed kernels. They're frequently crushed and combined with other great natural foods, such as raw walnuts and sesame seeds, vanilla powder, cinnamon and others.

Even those made without the added products can be super tasty and super nutritious. One superfood bar offers a 91% cacao content that is chock full of all the good things in natural chocolate - antioxidants, Theobromine, vitamin B1, magnesium and other compounds.

One of the best aspects of these organic chocolate foods is that they are fresh, fresh, fresh. Artificial preservatives are used in all kinds of food products to extend their shelf life. And while that keeps them safe and palatable for consumption months after being created, it sometimes doesn't ensure the best taste or nutrition.

But many chocolate products use only the natural preservative powers of the cacao itself. And they are designed to be consumed soon after being made so you get the freshest possible food.

They also rely solely on the natural sweetness found in the organic foods themselves. While chocolate has a naturally bitter taste, thanks to the alkaloids present, it's often combined with raisins, dates and other naturally sweet foods. And that amount of natural, complex sugar is not only tasty, but avoids the excessive rebound that can occur with highly sweetened foods using simple sugars.

A complex sugar takes longer to digest, so blood sugar levels adjust gradually. There's no sharp ramp up, followed by a too-quick drop. That allows the body to process it properly and avoids the headache, dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms that sometimes happen with high-sugar products.

Organic chocolate foods, such as superfoods or raw chocolate products, tend to be much lower in saturated fats as well. That's a benefit from a calorie standpoint and for overall health. For hikers a high carbohydrate, low fat ratio is often very desirable and these foods are high on the climber's list.

A 2 oz bar might contain an average of 200 calories with 28 grams of carbohydrate, but only 10 grams of fat. Quite a difference from the average commercial candy bar. Often only a third of the calories are from fat, with 10% of the fat in saturated form. 50% of calories from -mostly saturated- fat is the norm in the average candy bar.

Try a chocolate organic raw food or superfood bar and see if you don't agree that they taste great and provide terrific nutritional value.