Part Two: Healthy Cocoa and Christian Theology
A Healthy Turning Point
A few years ago my gluttonous candy habit caught up to me and ruined my health, so I had to eliminate sugar (by which I mean sucrose) from my diet. As I contemplated the sobering reality that I might never be able to eat chocolate again if I wanted to stay alive, I felt weepy.
One maudlin day I picked up a container of Hershey’s cocoa powder and sadly looked it over as if preparing to bid adieu to an old friend. I knew that the troika of taste also constituted the triumvirate of evil—salt, fat, and sugar—so I checked for these three monsters of death as I examined the list of ingredients on the “Nutrition Facts” label.
Before I reached the troika, however, my dolorous eyes stumbled across some interesting information.
As a preliminary matter, I saw the serving size—one tablespoon. I made a mental note.
Not far below that, I read the line containing the calorie information:
“Calories 10 . . . Calories from Fat 5”
Really? Only ten calories per tablespoon? That was nothing compared to the exorbitant calorie counts for my favorite confections. Suddenly the firm steel of my curiosity struck a single vigorous blow against the hard flint of my despondency, and a spark of defiant hope leaped out of my gloomy heart to cast an optimistic challenge into the teeth of darkness.
I read further.
“Total Fat 0.5 g
“Saturated Fat 0 g
“Trans Fat 0 g”
What the—? Cocoa powder was almost a fat-free food? Another spark flew.
But I thought chocolate was fattening. Confused and disoriented, yet wanting to believe, I read more.
“Cholesterol 0 mg”
Interesting. Not a member of the troika, but cholesterol was bad, right? So no cholesterol must be good, right? More sparks. I feared my rising hopes, yet I could not suppress them as my eyes moved down the list.
“Sodium 0 mg”
Unbelievable. A green light on two out of three demons in the troika. Surely I would strike out on the third. I swallowed my trepidation and continued to read.
“Sugars 0 g”
Really! And the word was “sugars,” not just “sugar,” so that label excluded not only sucrose, but also fructose, glucose, lactose, galactose, etc.—the whole criminal gang! Though in truth, only sucrose was killing me. I mention the others merely to point out that cocoa powder contained no sugars of any kind.
I could hardly believe my eyes. A tablespoon of this cocoa powder included even two grams of dietary fiber. Nutrition ignoramus though I was, even I knew that fiber was good for you. By now my sizzling soul was churning out hopeful sparks with feverish intensity.
Gobsmacked and giddy, I felt like slapping my thigh and crying out a la Jed Clampett in a protracted, high-pitched whine, “W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ll doggy!” I might have even heard “Ode to Joy” echoing nostalgically somewhere inside my head.
At this moment, the scintillating spray of hopeful sparks landed smack dab in the middle of the pressurized oxygen cloud of my repressed cocoa lust, and the flames of passion raged again as an explosion of divine light flooded my narrow mind and lifted my simple heart from despair to euphoria.
A true epiphany burst upon me as my brain for the first time made a meaningful distinction between chocolate and cocoa. I realized afresh what I had probably already known but had not ascribed much significance to, namely that cocoa represented but an ingredient of chocolate, and the cocoa bore no fault for making chocolate unhealthy. The blame belonged primarily to the sugar, mixed in to sweeten the bitter cocoa. But the sugar was adventitious to pure cocoa. It was, in fact, a profane pollution, a sick and twisted sacrilege.
I grant that raw, unprocessed cocoa is indeed fattening, which could cause health problems for some, but in my case, the major harm from chocolate came not from the fat, but only from the sugar.
In somber Manichaean reflection about my sugar trouble and my insatiable love for cocoa, I pondered deeply, humbly, and sincerely. Eventually I drew some irrefutable philosophical conclusions that would have made even Socrates proud and someday will undoubtedly revolutionize Christian theology.
Sugar is bad.
Cocoa is good.
Sugar is evil and comes from the devil.
Cocoa is sublime and comes from heaven, which is why it is rightly described as the food of the gods. Even science acknowledges the divinity of cocoa by giving the cocoa tree the taxonomic designation Theobroma cacao, the genus name coming from the Greek words theos, meaning “god,” and broma, meaning “food.”
Sugar exemplifies the devil appearing as an angel of light: filled with sweetness, sugar presents itself as desirable, but in fact causes pain and harm, bondage and degeneration.
Cocoa represents a true manifestation of divine grace, for although it is bitter to the taste, it engenders wholesome pleasure and health, freedom and rejuvenation.
The forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden must have been loaded with sugar, for its specious sweetness caused the fall of humanity—in sharp contrast to the exalting bitter fruit of the paradisiacal cocoa tree of life.
And that pretty much sums it up: sugar is death; cocoa is life.
What joy returned to my existence as I learned that cocoa is actually healthy. It could still be a part of my diet.
Thus my soul had been dead, but was alive again!
All I needed was to find an alternative to sugar to sweeten my precious cocoa. Eventually I settled on raw honey. Problem solved.
The cocoa consumption resumed promptly. I experimented with cocoa in various forms, and ultimately I resorted to a beverage, hot cocoa, as my preferred delivery system when I needed a hit.
Little did I realize then that I was not the first to hit upon the health benefits of cocoa, which subject I will take up in my next blog post.