Chris Kilham On Cacao
- Thursday, 04 August 2011
We chatted with Chris Kilham about his take on cacao. Here is what he had to say:
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): There are studies emerging touting cacao as the next big weight loss panacea. What is your take on it?
Chris Kilham: Cocoa, which is made from cacao, is probably the single healthiest substance we can put in our bodies after water. I am a huge supporter of cacao and its use.
The thing is, we see a lot of foods (chocolate, green tea, spices) that contain agents that modify blood glucose levels or tinker with calories -- and that’s great, but the fact is unless we have some studies showing that overweight people are taking cacao to lose weight and keep it off, then there’s just no proof that it’s working on real people as a weight loss supplement.
I’ve looked at Hershey’s science, and it is very suggestive that some compounds in cacao may help to improve weight, but nobody has ever lost a pound on this stuff.
Once again, like what happened with Acai and green tea, we are in the process of doing great harm to a wonderful product. Opportunistic hustlers have such a terrible desire to turn everything into a weight loss product.
What’s happening with cacao is what happened with green tea. It’s the same group of flavonols they’re studying. I keep saying, “show me the people who have lost the weight!” All the science says this should theoretically help with weight loss, but I am really skeptical of this.
Weight loss comes down to one thing: calories in vs. calories out. We are so insane about the whole weight loss category of products that people outthink themselves. It doesn’t matter what the science shows. If people aren’t getting thin, there is nothing there.
This weight loss category takes our entire field down, its’ bogus, full of hustlers, people come out with all these crazy ideas.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): In your opinion, what is the most effective way for people to lose weight?
Chris Kilham: Exercise. Go organic. Get off your couch and onto a bicycle and lose the pounds. Give up soda. Those will all help people lose weight, not chocolate or cacao.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Why is it when people go organic they lose weight?
Chris Kilham: A refined appetite mechanism comes with eating healthier. While it IS possible to eat a lot of organic junk food if you work at it, in general, if you eat cleaner foods you will be more conscious about what you are putting in your body.
Also, it is definitely the case that the pesticides and agri-poisons applied to the foods we eat disrupt and disable our normal body activities, including those in our metabolism. We are never going to eliminate chemicals from our foods at this point, but by avoiding as many as we can – by eating as much organic foods as possible – it will help us to reduce the extent to which our systems are being bombarded and taxed with these poisons.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Properties of cacao -- such as phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide -- the so called “bliss chemicals” are supposed to have mood-altering effects. Can cacao really be used effectively as an anti-depressant?
Chris Kilham: We know that many people can, and do, self-medicate with chocolate and cocoa and we see ample evidence in changes of brain chemistry in terms of mood brightening. The science is very, very good and we will see even more emerge in the near future. Cacao is certainly more effective than any antidepressant drug on the market (which don’t show any more effectiveness than sugar pills – documented by the American Journal of Medicine).
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What are the proven benefits of cacao?
Chris Kilham: Heart protection and immune function. However, there is just no treasure there in terms of weight loss.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What about the claims that cacao can boost energy?
Chris Kilham: Cacao certainly boosts energy. When you have a big whopping load of antioxidant compounds, like those in cacao, they work to enhance the efficiency of how our bodies utilizes energy. Mostly, it is this intense load of different antioxidant compounds that enhances the overall efficiency in the body.
As a rule of thumb, when you’re eating super concentrated nutrition (dark leafy greens, cocoa -- things ridiculously high in antioxidants per calorie) your total energy will naturally be boosted.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): For those who are new to cacao, how would you recommend they incorporate cacao into their daily diet?
Chris Kilham: I think eating cacao, as a FOOD, is a tremendous way to go. There are many ways to eat it. You can put some organic cacao powder in a blender to make a smoothie (and get a whopping load of antioxidants and beneficial compounds). Unless you are obese or diabetic, you can eat semi-sweet cocoa in a trail mix or straight up. A half a cacao bar a day won’t cause most healthy individuals any harm. The other way to take cacao is in new cacao based supplements that are beginning to get some traction. One example is CocoaWell by ReserveAge.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): We are familiar with ReserveAge as they are one of our sponsors. They make great products. What kind of cacao should we be buying?
Chris Kilham: Fair trade for sure. Because we can actually get certified organic fair trade cacao, we should buy that option whenever possible. There is no good reason not to, plus the certified fair trade cacao is not going to be made with child slavery which is a real issue in the Ivory Coast. There is a little bit of slavery in every bite of chocolate that comes from West Africa.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What is your favorite way to take cacao?
Chris Kilham: Here’s my recipe:
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 tablespoon of cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon of maca
- 2 dates
- Pinch of cinnamon and vanilla
Blend it up to make a great maca / cacao smoothie.