Chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, chocolate bars. Mouth-watering, yet they may not possess raw cacao and cocoa benefits. Sadly, many chocolate treats filled with refined sugar can be rather unhealthy.
But would you believe me if I told you that the original chocolate bean is actually incredibly beneficial to your health? That it can actually improve your attitude? That it contains essential vitamins that your body craves?
Now don’t get carried away and start chowing down on everything chocolate. The chocolate I’m referring to is the raw cacao bean, directly from the tree. It’s so good for your body. Better yet, not only raw cacao but also high-quality cocoa benefits your health.
Allow me to show you just what raw cacao and cocoa powder can do for your mind, your body and your health.
What Is Raw Cacao?
The word “cacao” (pronounced ka-COW) originates from the Spanish language as the first known uses of cacao were in Central America, South America and Mexico. The Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs and other indigenous people in these areas began using cacao over 5,000 years ago.
The cacao beans were generally crushed and mixed with water to make a bitter drink. Chilies, honey, corn, and spices were also sometimes added to create a frothy beverage.
Cacao beans were also commonly used as currency. In fact, when Christopher Columbus came to the Americas, the Aztecs offered him cacao beans in exchange for some of the goods on his ships. As Colombus’ crew had never seen cacao before, you can imagine their confusion.
But later on another conquistador, Hernan Cortez, bravely tried the drink. Although he didn’t like it much at first, he got used to the bitter taste and took some cacao beans back with him to Spain.
And so the seeds were brought to other parts of the world. And now you can find cacao growing in most tropical locations on earth.
Where Does Raw Cacao Come From
Cacao beans, or seeds really, grow in tropical areas near the equator. The cacao tree grows oval-shaped pods with an extremely thick and tough skin. Cracking open the pod, you would find the raw cacao beans covered in a white, soft pulp.
In contrast to the bitter raw cacao bean, the pulp is actually extremely sweet. It’s not uncommon to pop the bean in your mouth to suck the pulp off it. I tried it myself while in the Amazon and I would highly recommend it.
What Is The Difference Between Raw Cacao And Cocoa?
There’s more than just a spelling difference between cacao and cocoa. Although in reality, both terms refer to the same ingredient, cacao refers to the fresh, unprocessed version of the bean while cocoa refers to the roasted, processed and commonly powdered or sweetened form of the bean.
This distinction is important to make when discussing raw cacao and cocoa benefits. You may have heard the gossip that’s been floating around about how chocolate has incredible health benefits. Unfortunately, this gossip was derived from the known benefits of the raw cacao bean itself, rather than the caramelized, candied and wrapped forms of it.
Although all forms of chocolate and cocoa powders come from the same tree, the processing may change cocoa benefits in comparison to raw cacao. Through processing, raw cacao can lose some of its benefits as it becomes cocoa.
Is Raw Cacao Better Than Cocoa?
Don’t ditch cocoa just yet.
Research shows that high-quality cocoa benefits your body though, in fact, it still possesses much of the same qualities as raw cacao does.
The true damage happens when cocoa is further processed, heated, melted, and molded with refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and often unnatural ingredients to create candy bars, cakes, ice cream, frosting, and dips.
Many claims that cocoa benefits you less than raw cacao, it may or may not be true.
Yes, raw cacao is raw and completely unprocessed, hence it possesses all of its beneficial nutrients.
While raw cacao may lose some of its health benefits when processed into cocoa, it doesn’t lose it all.
Much depends on the processing and the product itself. Not all products containing cocoa provide the same benefits for your body. Always buy high-quality, organic cocoa to ensure it benefits your body,
In the end, it is also up to your digestion, and some may digest and absorb cocoa better.
Furthermore, while there is plenty of research showing raw cacao and cocoa benefits, there aren’t really any studies comparing raw cacao and cocoa benefits side by side. Both raw cacao and high-quality cocoa benefits can enhance your health when incorporated into an otherwise healthy and nutrient-dense diet.
While a spoonful of high-quality cocoa benefits your health when added to your hot cocoa, sprinkled on your oatmeals, or used in your protein shake, a candy bar from a vending machine does the opposite to your health and possesses no cocoa benefits, and definitely not an ounce of raw cacao anymore.
Why Raw Cacao and Cocoa?
Raw cacao and cocoa can do incredible things for your health. They are a great source of antioxidants, it contains essential vitamins and minerals, they are an amazing mood enhancer and there are endless possibilities of how to include it in your diet!
Here are the top 10 benefits of delicious cacao and cocoa.
Top 10 Raw Cacao and Cocoa Benefits
While cocoa benefits your health, remember, not all products containing cocoa provide the same benefits for your body. Adding high-quality, organic cocoa to your smoothie is beneficial, but a sugary chocolate donut made with a dash of low-quality cocoa is not good for you.
Let’s check out all the awesome raw cacao and cocoa benefits you can enjoy while eating a delicious, nutrient-dense, balance, and whole foods diet.
1. Raw cacao and cocoa are rich in polyphenols
Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants that have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, lower blood pressure, healthier blood sugar levels, and a better mood.
2. Raw cacao and cocoa may reduce high blood pressure
Raw cacao, cocoa, and even dark chocolate may be able to help lower your blood pressure.
Researchers have found that cocoa-drinking islanders in Central-America have much healthier blood pressure than non-cocoa drinkers.
3. Raw cacao and cocoa may lower your risk of stroke and heart attack
By improving your nitric oxide levels, raw cacao and cocoa benefit your body by relaxing and dilating your arteries and as a result, improving your blood flow. Researchers have also found that cocoa can reduce bad cholesterol, as well as reduce inflammation in your body. All these factors have been linked to reducing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Cocoa benefits your heart like a king. Researchers have found that dark chocolate intake can lower the rate of heart failure due to its cocoa content.
4. Raw cacao and cocoa benefits your brain function
It turns out chocolate can make your smart.
5. Raw Cacao and Cocoa May Improve Your Mood
It’s no secret that chocolate makes you happy. This is true even for health raw cacao and cocoa treats, not only addictive, sugary candy.
6. Raw cacao and cocoa may improve type 2 diabetes
Sugary chocolate is not good for your blood sugar and diabetes, but it seems that raw cacao and cocoa benefits your body. Cocoa flavonols can slow carbohydrate digestion, improve insulin, and reduce diabetes symptoms and risks.
7. Raw cacao and cocoa may help weight loss
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should eat a big bar of chocolate three meals and three snacks a day. That would be counter-productive. However eating high-quality, organic raw cacao, cocoa, or a small piece of dark chocolate may actually help your weight loss goals.
8. Raw cacao and cocoa may protect you from cancer
Studies have found that a diet rich in cocoa and cocoa extract can help reducing colon, prostate, liver, breast, and pancreatic cancer, as well as leukemia. Raw cacao and cocoa alone won’t make all cancer disappear, but research suggests that cocoa benefits any cancer prevention efforts.
10. Raw cacao and cocoa may be good for your skin and teeth
Cocoa benefits your body because of its antibacterial, anti-enzymatic, and immune-stimulating properties. The same holds true for raw cacao. These cocoa benefits can reduce your risk of dental cavities.
Raw cacao and cocoa are so easy to use in your diet. Let’s learn some ways how to use them and enjoy some cocoa benefits.
6 Ways To Use Raw Cacao and Cocoa
So now that you know what cacao can do for you, how can you get your hands on it? And how are you even supposed to use it? The following are different types of raw cacao, how to use them and where to find them.
Raw Cacao Nibs
Raw cacao nibs are simply the cacao bean itself chopped into pieces to make it more edible. Cacao nibs have just as much fiber, nutrients and fat as the full bean.
You can buy cacao nibs online, or at any natural or health food store.
You can blend cacao nibs into your morning smoothie, put them in a yogurt bowl, or use them as a healthier replacement for chocolate chips.
Raw Cacao Powder
Cacao powder is a great way to get healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy carbohydrates.
Raw cacao powder can be found in health food stores, Asian markets and online. You may also be able to find it in your common grocery store, just make sure to check the ingredients to be sure there’s no added sugars or sweeteners!
Raw cacao powder is a good option if you’re looking for a simple way to add cacao to your diet. It can easily be blended or mixed with smoothies, salad dressings, cookies, oatmeal, you name it!
High-quality cocoa powder benefits your health similarly to raw cacao powder. As you’ve learned earlier, cocoa powder possesses many health benefits.
Cocoa powder can be found at any grocery store, however, to truly received all the health benefits, make sure to by organic and high-quality varieties at health food stores or online from reputable brands. As with raw cacao powder, always check the ingredient list.
Raw Cacao Butter
Cacao butter is usually extracted by keeping roasted cacao beans in a hot area and letting the fat drip off to make a butter. It’s a creamy white color when finished and has a rich, white chocolaty texture and taste.
Cocoa butter is most commonly used in beauty products and you can use raw cacao butter for the same purposes. You can use it for chapped lips, you can melt it in the tub to hydrate your skin and you can mix it with essential oils or coconut oils to use as a moisturizer for your face and skin.
Raw Food Bars and Cookies
Another great way to get a daily dose of cacao is in raw food bars or cookies. If you’re not a huge fan of the plain chocolate nibs or beans, you may like this option the best.