If you’re a chocolate lover, cacao has been a part of your life for a long time. The innocuous little cacao bean is the starting point for that delicious dessert so many of us love.
Cacao: Food of the Gods?
Native to the tropical jungles of Central and South America, the cacao tree (also called Theobroma cacao, which translates to “Food of the Gods” – sounds about right!) has been bolstering the health of mankind for thousands of years. Cacao was made into a portable beverage by the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica for religious ceremonies, used as a medicine, and even enjoyed as a food.
The beans of the cacao tree were so highly valued that at one point, it was used as a currency. Domesticated then cultivated by the indigenous civilizations of Central and South America, today the cacao tree is grown throughout the tropics of West Africa and South America.
The tree produces large brightly colored pods which contain the cacao beans. After the pods are harvested, the beans are removed and allowed to ferment for several days, shifting from white or purple to brown.
Cacao, Not Cocoa
Here’s an important distinction to make. Cacao powder and cocoa powder are not the same thing.
Cacao in all its forms: powder, nibs (chopped beans), butter, and paste, is brimming with antioxidants, micronutrients, and fiber. While cocoa powder still has some health benefits, it pales in comparison to the power of raw cacao.
Roasting is an essential step in making cocoa powder, a process which ends up destroying many of the nutritional goodness originally present in the cacao bean. So, we’re sorry to break the news to all the hot chocolate fans out there – cocoa powder just won’t cut it.
Well, you know how they say dark chocolate is good for you?
All those essential micronutrients found in chocolate are also found in cacao. Basically, we’re talking about chocolate at its purest, most raw form. Cacao is chock-full of magnesium, plant-based iron, antioxidants (in the form of flavonoids), calcium, and fiber.
Just a little bit of cacao added to your diet can help reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, and even lift your mood.
Cacao also has a beneficial effect on gut microbes – increasing the beneficial ones while decreasing the less beneficial ones – acting the same way that probiotics do.
Cacao vs. Chocolate
As to why cacao is so much better than chocolate, the answer is simple. Cacao is relatively unprocessed. Chocolate is sweetened, contains milk, can have added vegetable oils, and as with cocoa powder, many though not all of the nutritional benefits have been sapped out of it during production.
On the other hand, raw cacao is chocolate as nature intended, completely free of the nonsense. You can also add a tablespoon (or two) of cacao nibs to your meals for extra flavor and texture or sprinkle a dusting of cacao powder into smoothies or oatmeal and reap all the health benefits of this miracle superfood.
Make hot chocolate with raw cacao powder
We’re big fans of Terrasoul Superfoods organic raw cacao powder which we add to hot water and tasty oat milk with just a touch of agave nectar to satisfy our sweet tooth. It’s like having an ultra-healthy, supercharged hot chocolate. A definite win-win in our book.
Keen to see exactly why people love cacao so much? Fresh n’ Lean meal subscription offers a delectable chocolate muffin made from cacao powder which has the added bonus of being organic and gluten-free. It’s as delicious as it sounds, so why not give it a try?
If you’re trying to improve the overall quality of your diet and the foods you put into your body, cacao offers a fantastic way to satisfy your chocolate cravings without the guilt. With all the wonderful effects cacao can have on your health, who could possibly resist?