There’s far more between Cacao and Cocoa than the mere difference in spelling, and nutrition-wise, you don’t want to get the two confused! Cacao is made by the cold-pressing of raw, unroasted cocoa beans, whereas during the production of Cocoa, the beans are roasted at high temperatures and even potentially treated with toxic pesticides and chemicals.
The benefit in keeping the beans raw? When roasted, the molecular structure of the cocoa bean gets changed; this reduces the quantity of enzymes and antioxidants present – and essentially the entire nutritional value is decreased.
A few of Cacao’s superfood qualities…
Calcium – Milk is commonly believed to be essential due to its high calcium content, however when left in it’s raw state Cacao actually contains more calcium than milk with 160mg per 100g compared to just 125mg per 100ml of cows milk.
Iron – Particularly relevant if you’re vegetarian or vegan, Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron existing with an incredible 7.3mg per 100g (100g of steak has only 2.5mg!!)
Antioxidants – In the modern world there are pollutants and toxins hiding everywhere, therefore it is absolutely essential that we consume enough antioxidants to combat the damage left by these cell-damaging free radicals and prevent diseases such as cancer. Cacao even contains more antioxidants per 100g than commonly hailed antioxidant-icons acai berries, goji berries and blueberries.
The health benefits of Cacao are certainly not a new discovery and have been thoroughly tested by the Mayan and Aztec communities who have been using Cacao for centuries – coincidentally (or not so!) they happen to have the lowest rate of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the world.
Possibly the best thing about Cacao is the deliciously rich flavour. Transitioning to a healthy diet needn’t mean you feel deprived of your favourite chocolatey treats, but you can certainly avoid the nasty blood sugar-rollercoaster that comes with eating a highly processed chocolate bar by choosing sweat-treats made with raw Cacao and natural sweeteners, such as dates – read on for some of our favourite ways to use Cacao…
A wonderfully simple yet delicious way to up your Cacao intake is to stir a spoonful of Cacao powder into otherwise plain foods such as almond milk or oats, creating energising hot chocolate and comforting chocolatey porridge. If you like to get a bit more creative in the kitchen then try out some of the recipes below:
Chocolate Smoothies – add a handful of greens for extra healthy points!
Raw Chocolate Cake – available exclusively in the Hip & Healthy ebook
Words by Meryn Turner