Cacao and Cocoa
Many people crave chocolate and avoid it because they are under the impression that it is unhealthy and cause weight gain. Although a lot of chocolate products are calorie dense and nutrient poor, it is due to the addition of substances such as sugar and fat and not to the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from the cacao bean, is highly nutritious, and it can provide numerous health benefits.
Cacao is a pure form of chocolate that comes very close to the raw and natural state in which it is harvested. When the cacao beans are released from their pods, they are sometimes blended into cacao butter, used to make raw cacao powder, or chopped into cacao nibs.
Cocoa refers to the powder that is commonly seen in American supermarkets and stirred into beverages. The process used to create cocoa entails applying high heat to raw cacao, which may reduce some of the nutritional benefits. However, even after this process, cocoa still has several beneficial nutritional properties.
- Pure cacao is a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants that demonstrates significant benefits for the cardiovascular system.
- Compounds in cocoa enhance the production of various feel-good chemicals in the brain, notably serotonin and dopamine.
- Cocoa is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, copper and manganese.
Best Ways to Use
The higher the percentage of cacao you use, the greater nutritional benefits you may get. However, pure cacao tends to be very bitter.
- Make a homemade pudding by adding cocoa powder to mashed avocado, banana, or protein powder.
- Sprinkle on top of fruit.
- Make a smoothie.
- Make your own homemade hot-cocoa.
- Add cocoa powder to soups or chili for a savory switch.
- Utilize unsweetened cocoa powder in healthy baking recipes.