Cacao – Healthy Chocolate and Superfood

By Nick Thompson | In Health & Nutrition | on January 8, 2014

What Is Cacao?

Cacao, also commonly called Raw Cacao, is actually the raw form of Cocoa. The tree that Cocoa comes from is called ‘Theobroma Cacao’. The beans taken from this tree are called Cacao Beans. They can be kept whole, as beans, or processed into Cacao nibs, Cacao Powder or Cacao Butter. All of these forms of Cacao are raw.

If the Cacao Beans are roasted, they are then called Cocoa. Cocoa is typically what has been used to make anything chocolate in the past. The problem with Cocoa is that many of its beneficial nutrients and health qualities are lost due to the heat in the roasting process. Raw Cacao, therefore still holds these qualities as it has been cold pressed and has not gone through the damaging roasting process.

Health Benefits of Cacao

Cacao is an ancient food, used by the Aztecs to make an energising, drink. The literal translation of the name Theobroma Cacao is ‘Cacao, food of the Gods’. This demonstrates the early human knowledge of Cacao being a very special food. In fact, it was valued so much that it was used as currency by the ancient Mayan and Aztec people.

Despite its past value, its benefits have been forgotten for many years. In recent years cacao has re-emerged, causing much excitement and investigation into exactly how Raw Cacao can benefit our health. Here is a list of some of the main Health Benefits of Cacao.

  • High in Magnesium (Mg) – thought to be one of the highest sources of this essential mineral (around 500mg Mg per 100g!), a mineral that the majority of the modern world’s population is highly deficient in. Magnesium has so many functions within the body, such as relieving PMS, building bones, relaxation (of both muscles and the nervous system), balancing brain chemistry and it’s also associated with happiness!
  • High in Sulphur – commonly known as the beauty mineral, as it helps to maintain youthful skin. It also builds strong nails and hair, detoxifies the liver and supports the pancreas.
  • Increases Energy – through its caffeine-like constituent, theobromine. Note that this is not the same as caffeine in its heated form as it does not create the same excitement of the nervous system that caffeine or heated Cocoa causes.
  • Releases the ‘Love Chemical’ – phenylethylamine (PEA) is found in Cacao. It’s created and released within the brain when we are in love – possibly explaining the connection between Love and Chocolate. It also assists with focus and alertness.
  • Contains the ‘Bliss Chemical’ – Anandamine, the ‘bliss chemical’, is released by the body when we’re feeling great. Cacao not only contains this feel-good chemical, it also contains enzymes that slow our body’s ability to break down the chemical. Meaning we feel good for longer!
  • Improves Mood – As it contains Endorphins which are released after exercise, and Serotonin, a ‘feel good hormone’ that also helps to protect against stress.
  • Extremely High in Antioxidants – which help to reduce the effects of aging and promote health.

The list goes on!!!! I’m sure this is enough to get you interested in the benefits of this Superfood.

Uses of Cacao

Cacao’s a highly versatile food. Here are a few ways you can incorporate it into your diet, however the list is not limited to these methods. You’ll find that once you start to use Cacao in your food preparations, you’ll think of more and more, tasty ways to include it. Please feel free to share these with me as I LOVE experimenting with this amazing Superfood. For now, here are some initial suggestions to get you started:

  • Use Cacao Powder in place of cocoa powder in day-to-day recipes or baking.
  • Make a nutritious superfood healthy chocolate – combine Cacao Powder with Coconut Oil or Cacao Butter and Goji Berries (chopped and soaked). Add coconut sugar to sweeten if needed.
  • Add Cacao Nibs to smoothies to give them a chocolate flavour. A great combination is banana, milk, Cacao Nibs and Coconut Oil. Add Goji Berries or Coconut Sugar to sweeten if desired.
  • Raw Truffle – Mix with ground nuts/seed and dried fruit to make an energising raw truffle.
  • Scroggin – mix Cacao nibs with a mixture of raw nuts (such as Almonds, Walnuts and Cashews) to make an energising Healthy Snack or Scroggin mix. Goji Berries are also a great addition to this mix for a little sweetness.

So get experimenting! Create your own delightful healthy chocolate additions to add to this list.

I encourage each and every one of you to get yourselves some Raw Cacao today! Give it a go and feel the benefits for yourself! Any of the forms will do, Cacao Nibs, Cacao Powder or Cacao Butter!

I think Cacao Powder is probably the easiest to use if you haven’t tried Cacao before, however any one will do. You’ll simply love the energy and the feeling you get from this food, particularly if you mix it with some other awesome, tasty super foods.

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