Benefits of Cacao

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It’s simply a wonderful thing and also makes things taste great, a win win!

So cacao (pronounced “cu-COW”) I use a lot in my recipes as I absolutely love it and I wanted to write a short blog to highlight why it’s so good for us.

Cacao is a tree from which cocoa and chocolate comes from. People often think that cacao and cocoa are the same but this is not the case. Cacao comes from cold pressing the unroasted cocoa beans and this process ensures that the enzymes stay alive and it also removes the fat which is then known as cacao butter. Cocoa looks exactly the same but it is actually raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperature which changes the molecular structure of the bean and thus reducing the enzyme content and overall nutrient content.

Cacao has so many more health benefits then you may think:

  • Cacao is a potent antioxidant, repairing damage caused by free radicals. (I explain antioxidants in more detail in my blog about acai berries.) The antioxidant properties have been found to reduce insulin resistance and sensitivity. One of the antioxidants is Flavanols which are anti-inflammatory and have been thought to help protect against heart disease.
  • Cacao has one of the highest concentrations of magnesium in a natural food source. Magnesium has many functions in the body. It helps fat metabolism, energy production and repairs and maintains cells. It protects against osteoporosis by improving absorption of calcium. It also reduces type II diabetes and helps lower blood pressure.
  • Cacao is a highest plant-based source of iron so if you are on a vegan diet cacao is a great way to get iron into your diet.
  • Cacao contains, sulphur, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, copper and manganese all essential for many body functions.
  • Cacao can improve your mood and is an aphrodisiac! Phenethylamine or PEA is found in cacao which triggers the release of endorphins, the ‘happy hormones’.

It’s simply a wonderful thing and also makes things taste great, a win win!

A note to remember though is that consuming cacao with diary has been proven to prevent antioxidant absorption so instead use coconut milk or any of your favourite non-diary milks.

Lastly, chocolate is made using cacao but because of the added ingredients like sugar, milk and cacao butter it becomes less of a healthy, good for you food like raw cacao. To make chocolate they roast the cacao at high temperatures and by adding milk it destroys most of the antioxidants. The adding of sugar increases the calorie content. Chocolate can still be enjoyed occasionally but if you need to satisfy a sweet craving there are plenty of recipes using cacao powder that will do just that. Try the raw coconut and chocolate fudge and raw chocolate mousse.

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