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Hi everyone! Jim here with a really special treat for you today. I'm interviewing our friend Joe Prostko, who we've known for a good year or so through the Pittsburgh raw food meetup group. You may remember Joe from our cacao pod video a while back.

We just had a big raw food potluck costume party here, and Joe showed up as an Oompa-Loompa. At first, I admittedly did not get the deeper part of this joke. I simply thought it was a novel costume because it was a character from the Willie Wonka book / movie. Later, however, it really sunk in, as I decided to flip through the Willie Wonka book to read up on Oompa-Loompas. Here's a quote from Willie Wonka author Roald Dahl:

"Poor little Oompa-Loompas! The one food that they longed for more than any other was the cacao bean. But they couldn't get it. An Oompa-Loompa was lucky if he found three or four cacao beans a year. But oh, how they craved them. They used to dream about cacao beans all night and talk about them all day. You had only to *mention* the word 'cacao' to an Oompa-Loompa and he would start dribbling at the mouth. The cacao bean," Mr. Wonka continued, "which grows on the cacao tree, happens to be *the thing* from which all chocolate is made. You cannot make chocolate without the cacao bean. The cacao bean *is* chocolate." ~Roald Dahl, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

And then it all came together... I knew that Joe absolutely adored raw cacao. But, when I played back my mental video tape of a conversation I participated in at the party, I thought for sure I mis-heard something. There's no way, I thought, that he could consume as much chocolate as I thought I heard him say! So, we shared some emails to clear up this issue. I'll let you listen in on our exchange, as I think you'll enjoy this!

Jim

Okay, can you run over your current regimen for me?

Joe Prostko

I generally have two (or sometimes three) superfood smoothies a day, and each one has about 27 beans in it. This number was determined since it's around one ounce for 27 beans...well, that and I like the number 27. :) I know that weight can vary based on the size of the beans (sort of a misnomer, as they are nuts), but in general, I find it easier to count beans than to get a scale out. If I have nibs available instead of beans, I use 3 rounded tablespoons per smoothie, since that is about an ounce. Using these numbers, I consume about 14 ounces of cacao per week, or a little over 45 pounds of beans per year. (Hmm, I never thought about it that way.) [... So, I consume] about 54 beans per day, but have downed more than hundred a day on occasion.

Good Lord! I know a lot of people would be amped up for a week with a dose like that. What kind of bodily effects does that have on you? Do you sleep at night? Do you get jittery

"Cacao's role seems to be to help potentiate other foods/herbs, so that is the assignment I generally choose to give it."

I generally don't notice much of a dramatic effect from cacao consumption. Sure, there are times when I'll get a bit giddy, or just plain bliss-filled (depending on what else I couple the cacao with), but overall I feel it's just a staple food that I like to have as part of my diet consistently. I think it helps keep my mood leveled though, and that is certainly a good "side-effect." See, I think the problem with how a lot of people do cacao is that they either sit down with a bag of nibs and eat them alone by the handful, or else they make chocolate treats loaded to the hilt with cacao powder. I've been guilty of this myself, and this is when you get into trouble with being overstimulated. In my experience, I think cacao should almost always be consumed with other food, and that the powder should always be combined with equal parts of cacao butter or coconut oil so it doesn't blast the body full-force. Cacao's role seems to be to help potentiate other foods/herbs, so that is the assignment I generally choose to give it. I think the "right amount" of cacao varies from person to person, and depends upon what other foods/herbs it is coupled with, as well. I don't tend to have negative side effects from the way I consume cacao, but at the same time, I do believe there are people out there that can't consume much or any cacao, no matter how it is combined with other foods and herbs. To address another part of your question...yes, it's true that I don't sleep much, but I don't at all see this as an effect from the cacao, as it's something I am capable of with or without the cacao. I can eat cacao right before going to sleep and have no problem sleeping, so I know it doesn't affect me negatively that way. For those who aren't aware of my sleep patterns, I generally just head to sleep when I'm completely exhausted. Usually this ends up resulting in something like 3 to 4.5 hours of sleep, most days. Last night, for instance, happened to be 2.5 hours. I definitely couldn't do this all too readily before being raw for quite some time though, as I think being raw can bring out that "ability" in a person quite easily.

You know, I've had raw cacao beans before. If I had to guess their weight, I never would have guessed it takes 27 beans to make an ounce. I probably would have said 5, maybe 10! So, I guess that speaks to their content. They must have almost no moisture in them, which would mean that they're pretty much "all minerals" by volume, right
Yeah, on average, each packaged cacao bean seems to weigh a bit over a gram. Cacao beans by their nature are very mineral and antioxidant-dense. Pound for pound, I doubt you'll find so much human-compatible nutrition packed into a bite-sized package. Cacao is pretty much the king when it comes to minerals like magnesium, chromium, copper, and iron. Cacao also is the highest antioxidant food, probably with Chaga mushroom being the only other food in its league. Of course, cacao also has potentiators like theobromine that help deliver medicinal herbs to the body in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Anandamide, phenylethylamine, and tryptophan also come along for the ride and help to make one feel good, as well as boost one's stress-defense shield. ... Not to mention, cacao is a great source of soluble fiber, as well.

Aside from your 27 cacao beans, what else goes into your super smoothie recipe?

"I like to call my superfood smoothies my 'kitchen sink' smoothie."

Well, I like to call my superfood smoothies my "kitchen sink" smoothie. The recipe is rarely exactly the same, but I'll give you an idea of what may be in it at any point of time. Sometimes it may be most all of these, sometimes it may be a much smaller subset of ingredients. Please bear with the length of this list.
  • Either a tea (like Amazon Herb's Treasure Tea) or water base
  • Vitamineral Green or Sun is Shining
  • Pure Synergy
  • Revitaphi
  • AFA blue-green algae, or else spirulina
  • Goji berries and/or goji berry extract powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Camu camu powder
  • Noni leaf (dried from my trees) and/or noni powder
  • MSM (not always, depending on my goals)
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Vanilla powder
  • Sea salt
  • Schizandra berry powder
  • Shilajit
  • L-lysine powder
  • Astragalus
  • New Chapter Host Defense or Mushroom Science 5 Mushroom Formula
  • An isolated medicinal mushroom like cordyceps
  • Amazon Herb's Illumination (after evaporating the alcohol)
  • Tocotrienols (sometimes when I want a thicker smoothie)
  • Stevia leaf powder, or else some type of Sweetleaf liquid stevia
  • Raw honey, yacon syrup, or agave nectar (or none at all)
  • Bee pollen and sometimes royal jelly (Yes, I'm raw "beegan")
  • Hemp seeds
  • Maca (usually the red variety)
  • Lucuma powder
  • Carob powder
  • Mesquite powder
  • Zeolite powder or liquid (if I forget to put it in my drinking water)
  • Coconut oil or cacao butter, depending on desired consistency
  • Raw cashews or some other nut if I want some extra calories
How long have you been doing this?
I've been doing this for over a year fairly consistently, but I do take breaks from cacao from time to time. As an example, I just recently did a 10 day fast/cleanse where no cacao (or much of anything else) was consumed. So if you are wondering if I'm addicted to cacao, I'd say no. I don't have withdrawal or anything when I stop having it.

Are we talking raw cacao beans, as in -- right from the pods? Or, packaged raw beans? I know you've had both... Do you notice a difference
Most of the time I am having the packaged raw beans, with or without the dried pulp on them. I will always prefer the beans over the nibs, as I think they are more complete of a food, due to the nutritional value of the skins. That said, if I had my way, I'd choose the beans straight from the pod every time. That way you know you are getting the cacao in its freshest form, not to mention the fresh beans blend much more easily than the pre-packaged, dried beans. In the case of having fresh cacao available, I'd put a pod's worth of beans in each smoothie, most likely. In fact, I did just that when I last ordered pods. Hopefully one day I won't have to worry about getting pods, as my cacao trees will be big enough to provide me with a good portion of my cacao needs. :) Do I notice a difference between the fresh and pre-packaged beans? There is definitely a different flavor note, but the effect is pretty much the same. The fresh beans seem to blend much more completely and lend to a more creamy texture in the smoothie though, so I have a preference for that. They are also much more tasty if you decide to just eat the beans outright, as the bitterness from the cacao is balanced out by the sweet/sour taste of the pulp. As mentioned before though, one should be careful while doing this, as cacao seems best coupled with other foods.

On the medical side -- the physical health side -- what kinds of changes, if any, have you noticed since starting? Any notable blood work results? Any changes in physical condition or mental performance
I haven't been to a doctor since starting my raw journey back in the end of 2006. I've been eating cacao on and off since then, but it became a staple food more over the past year. For the record though, I lost over 80 pounds since going raw vegan, and I'm sure in some way the cacao helped with making that happen. I haven't gotten any blood work done, but plan on getting a live blood test done at my nearest convenience. Physically and mentally, I think my capabilities are better now than they've ever been. That said, there is still progress I'd like to make. I wouldn't say cacao itself is the sole reason for all of this, although it probably helps as much as anything else in my diet, I'm sure.
What about changes in emotional or spiritual awareness, etc. Consuming 54 beans per day for over a year (and still going) strikes me as more than just "a guy who likes chocolate." It sounds like either obsession on the one hand or, more likely, a kind of sacred vision quest of sorts. Care to comment on that

I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with cacao, but I do think it plays a critical role in my raw food journey. I wouldn't call it a spiritual quest either, as anybody who is close to me would say I'm anything but spiritual. Maybe some other word would be a proper descriptor? That said, yes, as I've been raw, I have certainly become closer to plants and feel my appreciation for others has increased. I even went back trying to make amends for relationships (friendships and otherwise) gone wrong that I surely wouldn't have even bothered with otherwise. I think cacao played an important role in that, but I think when a person purifies himself on raw foods, that would tend to happen anyways. So to summarize, I do love cacao and everything about its history, but to me it's just a potent tool in my arsenal to achieve the greatest possible health and happiness.

So, what would be a LOT of chocolate for you?

There were times when I was doing 16-20 Tbsp. (yes, tablespoons) per day of cacao powder across smoothies and chocolates I was making/eating, but yeah, I'm more of a whole bean person nowadays. I believe I recall Kevin [Gianni] talking about 2 tablespoons of cacao being "extreme" amounts, and found that a bit hard to swallow, personally. (Don't mind my bad pun :) ). As mentioned before though, I think tolerable consumption amounts definitely varies amongst people. With respect to the beans themselves, I have done smoothies with about 50 beans in them at a time. I didn't notice much benefit from doing that though, so backed down to the aforementioned 27 beans for my average smoothie. Often the actual pods themselves seem to average 40 beans each, so in those instances, I still opt to put the whole pod in a smoothie for convenience, even if that is more beans than my usual amount. If I had to guess, probably the most cacao I consumed in one day was around 150 beans' worth (three smoothies of 50 beans each).

Do you know others who consume as much as you?
I guess my consumption is nothing compared to the late Jeanne Calment, but it's still a lot. Then again, she was most likely consuming lesser grade non-raw chocolates that probably weren't even close to 100% cacao. I know my raw foodist neighbor, Tracey, (aka Errigalass) probably gives me a run for my money as well. Not to mention, I'm sure the "Cacao Boy", David Wolfe, would probably obliterate me in cacao consumption too. Maybe I'll get the chance to ask him when I see him in California later this month. :)

Well, there you have it. I don't believe there are many people around who consume more chocolate than Joe! I found this interview absolutely fascinating!!! Didn't you !

You can friend Joe on Facebook (just look up Joe Prostko), or email him at:

joe.prostko+cacao [at] gmail.com

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On November 3, 2009, Errigal_lass wrote:

OMG, Joe.........I just LOVE your costume!!! That is absolutely awesome! I am dying here enjoying every minute of your attire AND interview! You will have to take that out to California and meet up with Steve and the two of you (he with his Costume), what a team you would both make! What a blast of Raw Cacao Chow!

I am having too much fun here (must have been my cacao smoothie this morning, and boy did I make it dark and yummy!) And your recipe, Joe? You make me look like a beginner! Now I put in quite a few of what you do......but will have to explore even further all the delightful things you add to it! This great stuff!

Oh, and thanks for mentioning me, neighbor! How dear of you........but then I think you know how much I enjoy having gotten to know you over this past year and look forward to more of the same!

Nothing like living life in blissfullness! Love to all!

On November 4, 2009, razorim wrote:

I always look forward to you blogs each day and I am never disappointed. This one was fantastic. I never even thought to put cacao in my smoothies. What a fantastic idea. Thanks so much!!!

~Dara~

On November 4, 2009, tinaintheraw wrote:

Great post....thanks guys!

Hugs, Tina

On November 6, 2009, jprostko wrote:

Thanks everyone for the nice comments! It was fun doing the interview, and I hope there was something in there that everyone could take away from it. If you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to contact me via the methods above, or by posting back here.

Have an awesome day!