Chocolate: Superfood of the Gods, the new book by Linda Woolven and Ted Snider, cites over 100 published and peer-reviewed medical studies about the positive health benefits of dark chocolate. While being a comprehensive review of science, the book is also a super-enjoyable collection of legend and recipes to let you take full advantage of the magic of chocolate.
We sat down with the authors to ask some questions we thought fans of Camino chocolate might want to hear about.
La Siembra: The research that went into writing this book is impressive. How did you find so many studies on chocolate and how long did you research the findings for this book?
Linda Woolven &Ted Snider: We thought about writing this book for many years. Publishers kept asking us to write it. But we were reluctant because we always thought of chocolate as a delicious treat and not as a health food. Then, at some point, we noticed we had hundreds of chocolate studies in our database. This is really new stuff. That chocolate was a superfood – maybe nature’s most perfect superfood – was inconceivable until as recently as less than two decades ago. The first research hints started coming out in the year 2000. Then the studies started to pour in. Now the medical journals are full of them. So, we have been collecting research and thinking about this book for years. And the studies were all there for us in the most reputable medical journals.
La Siembra: This is not the first book you published together. Which other books have you worked on and how did those works inform your approach to Chocolate: Superfood of the Gods?
Linda Woolven & Ted Snider: This is our fourth book together. Our first book, Healthy Herbs: Your Everyday Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Their Use, looked at how you can use herbs as medicine and gave information on safety, including safety during pregnancy and breast feeding and drug interactions. Our second book was The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia, which is broken down into sections on health for children, for women, for men, for the whole family and for seniors. Our third book was Sex & Fertility: Natural Solutions, which looked at natural treatments for infertility and other reproductive disorders. Linda has also published a few books on her own, including her latest, The All-New Vegetarian Passport, which is a cookbook and health book all in one that focuses on eating for health.
All of these books discover the wonder of how plants and foods are such powerful contributors to good health. They are filled with the wonder that, when you understand the plants around you, you can find plants to eat for health and to take to treat you for health. The lore and science of chocolate is just full of that wonder.
La Siembra: One line stood out to me. “The observation that the Guna of the San Blas Islands received blood pressure protection from chocolate was the clue that ignited all the modern research into dark chocolate.” Can you tell us a little about what all that means?
Linda Woolven & Ted Snider: Ya. It’s an amazing story. In the 1980s, a Harvard doctor found some papers that belonged to a doctor who had worked among the indigenous Guna people of the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. What he had noticed was that high blood pressure was incredibly rare among the Guna and that they had surprisingly low rates of cardiovascular disease. But this was only true as long as they were on the island: when they left the island for Panama City, their blood pressure caught up to the Guna who lived on the mainland.
So, the protection wasn’t genetic: it was diet. What offered the magical protection on the island that was absent on the mainland? The traditional Guna diet featured a very natural, minimally processed, flavonoid-rich cocoa that was drank several times a day. But the multiple cups of chocolate drank by the Guna of the mainland was highly processed and low in flavonoids. So, the theory first emerged that flavonoids found in chocolate may protect the heart by lowering blood pressure.
A quarter of a century later, researchers figured out the science behind the magic: the flavonoids in chocolate increase levels of nitric oxide, and that dilates the blood vessels, keeping blood pressure low and contributing in a number of ways to cardiovascular health.
La Siembra: We love the use of cocoa as a savoury ingredient in so many healthy, plant-based recipes included in the book. Which recipe was the most surprising discovery for you?
Linda Woolven: I think what was most surprising was being able to use chocolate in main dishes, starters, soups and salads. We all know it’s great for dessert, and maybe even know molé, but it is also excellent in kale dishes (kale with avocado and slivered almonds, drizzled with chocolate molé sauce), quinoa dishes (stuffed peppers with quinoa and chocolate), lentils (coconut spiced red lentil soup) and beans, and, buckwheat (buckwheat with cocoa pieces, mushrooms and leeks). It’s really a great addition to many dishes: vegetable dish (stuffed mushrooms with a hint of cocoa; mushroom, avocado quesadillas with a hint of cocoa), soup or salad.
This interview has surely made our mouth water! Although chocolate seems to have many positive effects on our health, capturing its benefits is best done in moderation.