David Wolfe recalls eating his first fresh cacao bean--the natural form of chocolate--while visiting friends in Hawaii many years ago.

"My friend said, 'Have you eaten one of these?' And as soon as I crunched into it, the cacao god downloaded me the truth about cacao beans in a millisecond," he said.

Wolfe, 35, a raw food expert who resides in Southern California, Manhattan, and Toronto, has degrees in mechanical and environmental engineering and political science. While trying to decide what to do with his life, he earned a law degree from the University of San Diego and became a minister in the Essene Church of Christ, a denomination which says it aims to restore Jesus' teachings on vegetarianism, reincarnation, and the feminine aspect of God. The Essene Church of Christ believes that these teachings were removed from the original New Testament.

But since his awakening in Hawaii, Wolfe has left his post at the pulpit and instead devoted his life to preaching the good word--about chocolate.

Wolfe has counseled celebrities including actor Woody Harrelson (whom Wolfe calls a "cacao head"), and actress Bryce Howard--Ron's daughter--on the raw food diet. His latest book, "Naked Chocolate," which was recently released by Maul Bros. Publishing, celebrates the cacao bean.

Along with his co-author, the British raw food enthusiast known as Shazzie, Wolfe explains the mythology that surrounds cacao, its chemical composition and nutritional capabilities, and its other "interesting" properties (it's a psychedelic). The book also lists dozens of recipes that call for raw cacao.

Wolfe has two other published books about the raw food diet, "The Sunfood Diet Success System" and "Eating For Beauty."

Raw foodists believe that eating uncooked, organic, plant-based food connects human beings to God. "I personally feel that one of the major reasons people are disconnected spiritually, emotionally, psychically, from the earth is because they are eating foods that have nothing to do with God," Wolfe says. He believes that the act of cooking food disconnects people from God.

Wolfe says his love of cacao led him to create a chocolate religion. "I nominated myself the Chocolate Pope," he says. "The only two requirements for joining the chocolate religion are you have to love cacao and you have to help us get a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" book into every hotel room in the world, because that is the chocolate Bible."

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  • Wolfe is serious about his love of cacao. Followers of his "nondenominational" religion will discover:

    -- People who love chocolate, but have allergies or develop acne reactions to it, will not have those problems with cacao.

    -- Cacao is a chemically complex food and has many nutritional benefits. Wolfe believes that cacao is the principal natural source of magnesium on Earth, containing 18 times more magnesium than blood. Yet, magnesium deficiency is the principal major mineral deficiency in the Western world and can cause heart attacks, he says.

    -- Cacao is higher in vitamin C than any other nut or seed, but 100 percent of cacao's vitamin C is destroyed in the processing of chocolate.

    -- Although chocolate is looked upon as a guilty pleasure, Wolfe says the scientific truth of cacao is quite the opposite. "Cacao is the number-one weight-loss food in the world," he says. "When Atkins comes out with a new bar that says 'new chocolate flavor,' they would make a chocolate flavor even if you hated it because it's an appetite suppressant."

    Wolfe explains that processed chocolate is the result of de-fatting and alkalizing the cacao bean. All the oil is squeezed out of the bean, and salts are added to increase the resulting powder's capability to be mixed. But the real problem to Wolfe is when milk is added because, he says, powdered milk blocks the antioxidant properties of cacao.

    But Wolfe maintains that cacao has a spiritual, as well as a nutritional, history. Some Central and South American myths feature cacao as a deity. One myth talks about the role cacao played in bringing balance back to the Earth after a greedy deity stole all the wealth. Ironically, the ancient Aztecs founded a financial system based on using cacao as currency. This insured that, "if there are really greedy people, like Wall Street greed, the incentive [to get richer] is to plant more trees; chocolate trees!" Wolfe says. "It's unbelievable. That's the energy of the cacao god that can take one type of energy--greed--and transform it into planetary friendly behavior."

    Wolfe believes cacao has other positive effects on the world. "The main energy of cacao is it cannot be mono-cropped," meaning that it cannot grow in an isolated environment away from other vegetation, he said. "It must be grown in an intact rainforest. That is an astonishing fact, because cacao is one of the largest commodities traded. It is an economically viable crop for rainforest people to grow to keep the cattle industry and petroleum companies off the land. So it is literally saving the planet with chocolate."

    Cacao also has effects on human emotion and mental state, Wolfe says, referring to a chemical called anandamide that is found in cacao. He says this chemical, also referred to as the "bliss chemical," is the same one that the brain produces when a person works out or falls in love.

    Wolfe says cacao also contains other chemicals that are related to enhancing one's mood. "It's happy food," he says. "It's nature's Prozac."

    Cacao also has psychedelic effects, Wolfe says, with shamanistic potential, he says, because cacao is the greatest delivery vehicle of psychedelics, superior to peyote or other psychedelic spiritual substances.

    Further, Wolfe says eating a raw diet helps people confront their fear of death because it forces them to face the natural living cycle of unpreserved, uncooked food on a daily basis. "When you get back into the rhythm of life," he said, "that fear just disappears. It puts you in touch with the great, grand rhythm and stream of life flow."

    For those who wish to integrate cacao into their daily diets, Wolfe suggests, "Throw it into any smoothie or beverage, blend it into tea, sprinkle on dessert as chocolate chips, eat it with almonds, add it into trail mix, or eat it straight." He believes 10 beans a day is enough per person.

    If people need to perk up, eating cacao in the morning is a good substitute for morning coffee to provide energy for the day, Wolfe says. To be what Wolfe calls "late-night owls," he advises people to eat the beans at night. Wolfe believes the energy of the cacao is the "late-night owl alchemist."

    For now, Wolfe says he is working on some secret projects and as well as running www.rawfood.com, where he sells raw food products including cacao beans. He maintains a rigorous public lecture schedule, and hosts five "raw adventure retreats" each year. The sixth edition of Wolfe's book, "The Sunfood Diet Success System," will be released by the end of the year.

    But when all is said and done, Wolfe's intention is fairly simple. "I want people to know the truth about chocolate," he says. "I mean, what could be a more fantastic legacy to leave on the planet?"

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