Raw Beauty and Chocolate

{ Who would’ve guessed chocolate could provide essential beauty minerals and vitality boost? Model and author Abigail O’Neill is living proof. }

Aigail O’Neill’s chocolate addiction began 10 years ago while reading the nutritional profile on the back of a raw cacao pack. Little did this model realise the discovery would see her become an author and also provide her main source of antioxidants, magnesium, and other essential beauty minerals.

From her Byron Bay home kitchen Abigail began her own chocolate experiment, creating new flavours, textures and variations, adding a dash of this and a dash of that.

But home experimentation wasn’t enough for Abigail; she wanted to share this chocolate passion and its benefits with the world, from a very stylish perspective. So her beautifully visual book Model Chocolate was born, and now inspires many others to tailor chocolate making to personal taste and nutrient density.

Abigail, how has the response been to Model Chocolate?

It has been overwhelmingly wonderful! Considering I self-published the book and it’s my first, it has really scored quite a bit of attention from the media.

How has this book release changed your life so far?

It’s been an amazing journey and it just continues. As much as I’ve loved every minute of it, this is truly a work of love, because it’s a lot more work than people realise! You can’t do it without undying passion pulsing through your veins.

I understand you only started modelling in your 30s… describe some of the highlights of this career to date?

I was a late starter, but I’ve been privileged to work for brands like OPSM, David Jones, Bokks London, Lorna Jane, The Hilton and the list goes on. The editorial spreads in magazines have probably been the biggest highlight though. They’ve definitely been a big influence on my ‘food meets fashion’ concept for Model Chocolate.

You’ve described chocolate as your key to beauty… how is this so?

I would say that in the past 5 years, it has been my main source of magnesium, and other essential beauty minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium and antioxidants. It’s not hard to see why it’s known as one of the top beauty foods when you read what it contains.

Is chocolate the healthy drug that keeps you active?

I wouldn’t call chocolate a drug that keeps me active, but I definitely consider it to be an overall vitality boost. Raw cacao uplifts and nourishes. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and mood-enhancing components. Cacao is also rich in theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine. Holistically it contains supplementary nutrients, which I consider to be rather like taking a ‘multivitamin’. That’s energy plus deliciousness!

Do you only use cacao or have you also tried carob?

I always use cacao, but I have a soft spot for enhancing my cacao creations with carob. Sometimes I’ll limit the sweetener, and use one-quarter part carob powder. I also have a cacao-carob combo in Model Chocolate; it’s a big favourite called ‘Mint Fudgies’.

What does your family think of your chocolate obsession?

Our children love raw chocolate! I have one amazing husband, one incredible daughter and two awesome sons, the youngest of our three being 15. I always have homemade chocolate goodness available in the fridge as well as nutritious meals for them to enjoy.

Does eating plenty of your cacao goodness mean your family craves less of the processed sugars?

They can eat as much raw cacao chocolate as they like. People generally don’t wish to gorge on this kind of chocolate, it’s really satisfying, so they’ll take a few big chunks then they’re off! My kids very rarely succumb to the temptation of processed sugary treats, as they have all the healthy treats they could wish for, and have felt the adverse reactions of indulging in the opposite.

Is cacao your only secret to naturally beautiful skin?

I love exfoliation, but only with 100% organic ingredients, as with anything I put on my skin. I also use essential oils daily, such as frankincense, neat and rosewater. I love aloes fresh from the garden and coconut oil too. In Model Chocolate I describe a facemask that I use weekly, as it’s super high in antioxidants.

How do you stay fit?

I surf a few times a week, it’s important to me that any exercise nourishes my mind and soul as well as benefiting my body. I’ve also just started practicing yoga again and I love to go for a walk with a few sprints thrown in.

Does the chilled Byron Bay lifestyle influence and help shape your direction in health?

Yes, my family and I have been living here now for just over 20 years. It definitely contributes to my passion for health as it’s so easy to live the lifestyle when so many other people that are passionate about healthy living surround you. I love the surf, the organic markets and health food stores and I love my property; it’s magical. We have a rainforest remnant, fruit trees, valley/mountain views and quiet!

How important to you is raw food?

I’ve been heavily into raw food since I was in my late 20s. I became a raw-foodist for a couple of years, and I created everything from sprouted pizza bread, and crackers, to wheatgrass shots to cultured drinks and ‘cheezes’. I really loved that time, I learned so much. I’ve continued to favour raw foods since then, I eat about 80 to 90 per cent raw now, because that’s what works for me.

How does paleo play into your meal plans? Recommend it?

Yes in some ways I would. I’m a vegetarian though, so I couldn’t call myself your typical Paleo. I’m probably not the typical anything! I’ve just gathered a lot of information, on lots of different ‘diets’ and lifestyles, and I use that to do what works best for me, which is my main advice when it comes to any ‘diet’ or ‘meal plan’. Try different things but don’t just subscribe to hype, find what works best for you.

What about gluten? Do you eliminate it from your daily menu?

Gluten and I don’t like each other! I’m not allergic, but I’m sensitive to it and I definitely don’t feel good eating it so I generally don’t eat gluten.

Do you cultivate your own vegies / herbs? What are your healthy foodie garden essentials?

We have a herb and greens patch with sorrel, lettuces, rocket, cayenne peppers, oregano, mint, aloe vera, spinach, dandelion leaves, peppermint, holy basil (tulsi), rosemary… and lots more.

Give us some great ideas for healthy snacks on the go…

My ‘Model’s Super Nibbles mix’ and ‘Shoot! Protein Bars’ from Model Chocolate are a snack that I always have ready to throw into a container. Other than that goji berries, cherry tomatoes and olives, kale chips, coconut water, fresh berries or any other in season fruit. I also love Bunya nuts because they’re really delicious and special. They’re only in season January/February and are extremely rich in complex carbohydrates along with potassium and magnesium.

I understand you also love to include probiotics in your diet… do you prepare these yourself?

Yes! I make cultured drinks such as JUN and Kombucha, milk kefir based on a raw coconut mylk that I also make myself, raw sauerkraut, sourdough breads and cultured ‘cheezes’ based on sunflower seeds.

Do you have more books or business endeavours under way?

I’m always scheming something! The next big thing though is a Model Chocolate Youtube channel, which is launching really soon. It will bring my creations to life in a new visual medium and will also be collaborative. I like to make food with friends and meet fascinating people over a good dish prepared from scratch.

Any new health goals for 2015?

My main one is actually just, love and let live. I’m going to really enjoy living, every moment.


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