Cacao beans are originally from Ecuador and mean “Food of the Gods.” They are from a species of tree called Theobroma cacao. The English evolved the pronunciation to “cocoa,” which is used today. In raw form, they have a high concentration
of antioxidants that help cells repair themselves and stay healthy. Cacao contains many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin C. Chocolate is made from cacao beans.

The cacao bean contains about 50 percent fat. It is composed of palmitic and stearic acids which are part of the saturated fatty acids and another unsaturated fat called oleic acid. Cacao beans do not raise blood cholesterol because their content of saturated fats is very low. The sugar content is very low in the bean. It is in the form of a simple sugar much like table sugar. Because the content is low, sugar is added when making chocolate for a more desired sweet taste.

Cacao beans contain antioxidants called polyphenols. Much research has focused on polyphenols in the last ten years. According to the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” polyphenols support a role in preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancers. This is because the antioxidant properties stop the oxidative stress on cells that can lead to degenerative diseases.

Cacao beans can be eaten right off the tree. They are reported to be quite bitter, but tolerable. These beans contain needed minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium, according to nutritionist Gillian McKeith. Iron is needed by red blood cells to ensure enough oxygen gets carried through the veins. Without iron, a person could feel fatigued and dizzy. Calcium helps maintain bone health. Potassium is needed to keep the heart healthy and strong.

Cacao beans contain vitamins needed in the daily diet. Vitamin C helps your immune system and can be also found in foods such as orange juice. Vitamin A keeps your eyes and skin healthy. Other vitamins in these beans are B, D and E. Though these vitamins are also included in multi-vitamin supplements, chocolate should not replace a vitamin or a balanced diet.

One ounce of cacao beans contains approximately 170 calories. The fat calories are about 117, no cholesterol. One ounce is about 16 beans. When cacao beans are processed into chocolate in the commercial trade, milk, cream and sugar are added. Per the USDA, one ounce of chocolate is slightly lower in calories: 152 calories, 76 fat calories. However, the cholesterol is seven milligrams.