by Todd Walker
With winter over, at least in Georgia, you might be tempted to stash that can of cocoa powder in the cupboard for your spring and summer outdoor adventures. Leaving this viral elixir home, my friend, would be a costly survival mistake!
I’m kidding… or am I?
You see, the ancient Mayan civilization prized the wild cacao tree (Botanical name: Theobroma cacao) which means “Food of the Gods”, also dubbed “Black Gold.” So valuable in fact, early visitors to the New World noted that the cocoa bean was used as currency. Back then, money did grow on trees!
Cacao or Cocoa?
They’re the same thing… only different. Raw cacao seeds are harvested for the beans which are then dried, fermented, roasted, and ground into a powder. This process produces cocoa and heavenly chocolate.
For maximum health benefits, raw, cold-pressed cacao beans retain the living enzymes that are lost in the traditional roasting process. Even with high temperature processing (Dutch), there’s still plenty of goodness remaining in the cocoa powder.
No matter what you call it, simply add water to make an ancient, frothy energy drink sipped by royals, warriors, and elites… without all the crappy additives in a can of Red Bull. Drinking hot cocoa made with dairy inhibits the absorption of all the great enzymes.
All who drink in this manner gain strength, endurance, energy, mood-enhancement, and nourishment from this frothy concoction. Cocoa is more than a kiddy drink on cold nights.
The 11th C of Survivability
As a student of Dave Canterbury, I practice his system of survivability. I’ve written about the importance of carrying the 10 C’s of Survivability here and here. However, I submit to you an additional kit item, the 11th C… cocoa!
Each item in your 10 Piece Kit must have at least three uses other than its intended purpose. Otherwise it doesn’t meet the standard of Survivability and becomes a luxury item.
While it won’t make Dave’s official 10 C’s list, cocoa is more than a luxurious hot beverage sipped around the campfire. A tin of cocoa shouldn’t be overlooked as important in effecting your most critical survival priority…
Priority #1: Self-Aid
Staying alive in a wilderness survival scenario requires that you maintain common sense and avoid stupid stuff. Experts tell us to stay calm and formulate a plan for self-rescue or wait to be found. Easier said than done when your stress meter is pegged on red. This is the perfect time to STOP (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan).
If your situation allows, make a cup of hot cocoa. By the time you see the bottom of your cup, hopefully, you’ll not only have figured out your plan, you’ll have the energy to carry out said plan.
Benefits of Cocoa
- Energy – You’ll need the energy after the adrenaline and panic settles.
“This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.” – Anonymous conquistador
- Morale – Cocoa raises serotonin levels in our brains stimulating neurotransmitters to lift our mood, fight depression, and rejuvenate our spirit. Oh, and lowers your stress level and improves focus and alertness.
- Endorphins – These natural chemicals are released in the human body to relieve stress and pain. Cocoa triggers the release of these feel-good chemicals.
- Antioxidants – Your body undergoes “biological rusting” or oxidation. Antioxidants slow this process. Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate. [Read more cacao facts at Mercola.com] Granted, this won’t be your biggest concern for short-term survival but certainly boosts your overall health.
- ♥ Cocoa – Cocoa reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, cocoa consumption is associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age. – Source
Priority #2: Food
- Raw Cacao – Rich in nutritional value and solidly beats other antioxidant-rich super foods like green tea, blueberries, and pomegranate. Cacao’s nutrition profile includes protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.
- Flavonoids – Cocoa’s high flavonoid content helps to prevent your body from secreting excessive fluids… the cause of diarrhea. No fun in the woods. Unchecked, dehydration is close behind.
- Dark Chocolate – Cocoa butter, an extraction from the cacao bean, is found in high-cacao chocolate bars. Healthy monounsaturated and saturated fat helps maintain a feeling of being full. The dark chocolate I buy comes wrapped in foil… which can be used to make fire with the batteries from your flashlight.
Priority #3: Container
Of course, this one may be a stretch. But still, if you stow your cocoa powder in a metal tin, the container could be pressed into service for boiling water or charring material.
I enjoy an occasional cup of hot cocoa over an open fire with a pinch of cayenne pepper. However, after researching this article, I’m considering adding cocoa to my daily diet. The benefits of packing a 6 ounce metal tin of cocoa powder (not the sugary pre-mixed stuff) warrants the label… “The 11th C of Survivability“.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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I like my cocoa powder with hot water and teaspoon of coconut oil. It’s my ketogenic cocoa! If your readers find it hard to drink cocoa without milk they should give my coconut milk recipe a try. I find cocoa a bit hard on my digestion after a few days of consumption whereas coffee doesn’t have that effect… but everyone is different:
It’s interesting you are thinking about cocoa. I have been doing a lot of thinking about high density, high calorie rations. My goal was the highest calories for the least amount of weight and space. Here’s my ketogenic rations. I would expect to hunt and gather along the way to round out these rations.
My six pounds of ketogenic rations (80% fat and 20% protein) topped out at a total of 16,236 calories. This would last a theoretical male for 6.2 days at 2600 calories a day. (These ketogenic rations would last me far longer: 9.5 days on full rations of 1700 calories a day. If I needed to conserve my rations I could do every-other-day fasting, which would give me 12.7 days.)
Here are the original Ketogenic Rations:
1 pound homemade beef jerky (1860 calories)
1 pound butter (3252 calories)
1 pound raw hard cheese (1615 calories)
1 pound salted pork bellies or homemade bacon (2454 calories) (Collect the lard and reuse with wild crafted foods.)
1 pound creamed coconut (3104 calories)
1 pound coconut oil (3910 calories)
My husband and I spent part of the weekend talking about my new ketogenic rations. He thinks they will work very well for us. He had two suggestions which I thought added a lot to the rations and only increased the weight by 1 pound, though they add almost no extra calories.
1/2 pound sea salt (1/2 pound cocoa or coffee*)
1/2 pound maitake/shitake mushroom powder or 1/2 homemade mushroom broth powder
The reason for this addition is to have sea salt for seasoning food and preserving, wildcrafted fish and meats. (The sea salt is for people in the interior. If you are near the ocean, you can wildcraft your own sea salt.) The mushroom powder is very nourishing and is great for a quick, warming drink. The mushroom powder can be added to thicken soups and stews.
*I added the cocoa or coffee after reading today’s post. 🙂