Hope & Main graduate is making delicious, healthy concoctions featuring superfood cacao

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 8/14/19

You probably remember the trumpets and rejoicing several years ago when "they" decreed that chocolate (and wine!) are good for you. Something about anti-oxidants. Unfortunately, that is a really …

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Hope & Main graduate is making delicious, healthy concoctions featuring superfood cacao

Posted

You probably remember the trumpets and rejoicing several years ago when "they" decreed that chocolate (and wine!) are good for you. Something about anti-oxidants. Unfortunately, that is a really incomplete story, and while most of us realized that "they" were not suggesting we eat (insert name of mass-produced, low-quality) chocolate bars with every meal, the fact is, that even the highest quality commercially-produced chocolates have plenty of less-than-ideal ingredients.

The word that should have been spread was that cacao is good for you. This is undeniably true. But in its purest state, cacao bears little resemblance to the cloyingly sweet, dairy-infused chocolate that the American consumer has come to expect. It actually tastes better — and more true — but for most of us, it takes some getting used to.

Sandra Giraldo, founder of Enjoyful Foods, is no stranger to cacao. Though she has lived here in Rhode Island for the past 20 years, she was born and raised in Colombia. "Cacao has always been a part of my life," she said.

A nutritionist in private practice, Ms. Giraldo was a 20 year-old college student in Colombia when she began to present with a variety of digestive and auto-immune issues, all directly related to diet. After being over-medicated for many years, Sandra decided to take control of her healing journey, going back to basics, and using food as her source of powerful medicine. She changed her eating habits, experimenting with many different diets and foods, but it was only when she removed gluten and dairy from her diet, that she began seeing improvements in her symptoms of fatigue, joint pain, digestive track issues and eczema.

Inspired by her own transformation, Ms. Giraldo became a certified integrated nutrition health coach and a detox specialist, helping women who are facing similar challenges redesign their diet to live a healthy fulfilling life. Based on the teachings from her mother and grandmother, Sandra has been medication free for more than 11 years.

Enjoyful Foods was born of the knowledge Ms. Giraldo gained observing how foods affect the body, mood, and energy levels. Her highly nutritious raw cacao mixes feature powerful, healthy ingredients free of grain, gluten, dairy, and sugar, as well as preservatives, thickeners, artificial flavors, soy and fillers. She calls her products "functional chocolate" — in which every ingredient has a purpose. She uses commonly known spices like cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric in some blends, and "ataptogenic" (meaning they help the body adapt to stressors) products like Lion's mane, reishi, and maca in others.

She is working on a new product that will soon be on the shelves: two varieties of nut-free free cacao chocolate butters. Once the weather cools down, she hopes to start experimenting more with bars and other products that don't produce or ship well in the heat.

Native to the Amazon basin, the cocoa bean or cacao is the dried, fermented seed of Theobroma cacao. Domesticated thousands of years ago it was consumed by pre-Columbian cultures throughout what is now equatorial Central and South America. These days, about 70 percent of the world's crop is produced in West Africa. There are actually about 15,000 varieties of cacao, sources from three main varieties of the plant: Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario.

Ms. Girardo gets her cacao from the Dominican Republic — she would love to use cacao from her native Colombia, but it's not widely available. But Dominican Cacao is available, and of excellent quality.

She spent quite a bit of time researching cacao sources, and not just simply for quality and availability. "There is a lot of child slavery," in the production of cacao. "It can be a very dirty crop," she said. "A lot of injustice." This is particularly true among producers in West Africa, where as recently as 2017, approximately 2.1 million children in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire were involved in harvesting cocoa, and were found to be carrying heavy loads, clearing forests, and being exposed to pesticides. To avoid that, she only uses 100 percent fair trade chocolate, sourced from small family farms.

Ms. Girardo and Enjoyful Foods left Hope & Main about a year ago, and is currently setting up shop in a space in Pawtucket that includes a kitchen as well as a retail and events space, but has fond memories of her Warren roots. "I love them, they are like family. They still support me like crazy," she said.

Enjoyful Foods products are available at retail locations including The Green Grocer in Portsmouth, Avenue N in Rumford, and Tom's Market and Nectar de la vida in Warren; cafes carrying Enjoyful Foods products include Borealis in Riverside, and Nectar de la vida and The Happy Snail in Warren.

For more information on locations, popups, fairs and festivals where you can find Sandra Giraldo and her products, visit her website at https://enjoyful-foods.myshopify.com.


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