Cacao: Health and Nutrition Benefits
What is Cacao?
Cacao comes from a tree- yes, you heard that right. The cacao tree is indigenous to the tropical regions of Central and South America, and its fruit (cacao seeds) has been consumed by ancient cultures since before the discovery of the United States by Europeans.
Cacao seeds germinate into large pods which are harvested for commercial use. Today, cacao is well-known for its role in the making of chocolate. Modern science has shown that cacao contains essential elements that can benefit your health in many ways.
Cacao beans are the desiccated seeds of the cacao plant. These organic, raw beans boast an exceptional abundance of flavor. They are a great source of antioxidants and fiber, as well as magnesium.
Mineral Powerhouse: Cacao beans are an outstanding source of iron and calcium. Just one cup of cacao beans provides about 429 milligrams of magnesium, which is much higher than the suggested daily value. That same cup also provides more than 60% of the recommended value DV for iron and 11 % for calcium.
Excellent Source of Fiber: The majority of Americans don’t meet the suggested daily value for fiber. Eating cacao can give you 5 grams of dietary fiber in every one-ounce serving. The fiber obtained from this nourishing food can promote digestive health and even reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
What Is Cacao Powder?
After being cultivated, the raw cocoa beans are treated at low temperatures. Once crushed into powder, the new form contains a much greater amount of minerals, enzymes and nutrients – that’s cacao powder; a much more concentrated form of cacao.
Cacao Powder Nutrition Facts
Before we dive into the health benefits, let’s take a look at its nutrition facts to get a broader view of this superfood. One ounce of cacao beans provide.
Manganese: 27% of the Recommended Daily Intake
Copper: 25% of the RDI
Iron: 6% of the (RDI)
Magnesium: 16% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 9% of the RDI
Zinc: 6% of the RDI
What is the Difference Between Cocoa and Cacao
Cacao and cocoa are two very distinct elements. All of the chocolate delicacies you eat come from cacao seeds, which are derived from the cacao tree. Despite originating from the same tree, cacao and cocoa have many notable distinctions.
Cacao is the pure, raw form of chocolate.
Cocoa refers to the powder that is generally found in supermarkets and mixed into drinks. The method employed to produce cocoa involves implementing great heat to raw cacao, which eliminates some of its key nutrients. However, after this process, cocoa still possesses numerous useful nutritional properties.
Cacao Health Benefits
Raw cacao contains more than 200 chemical elements. The combination of these elements generates tremendous benefits for the body. Studies have revealed that cacao influences your mood and emotions by increasing serotonin levels. Furthermore, cacao has the ability to release the compound anandamide, which is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure and relaxation.
The King of Antioxidants
Blueberries are known for their high antioxidant content. As ludicrous as this may sound, raw cacao dethrones blueberries when it comes to their antioxidant content. Cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. Now, who’s the king?!
Cacao has an astounding ORAC score of 98,000 per 100g. ORAC scores estimate the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals, which cause the damage of cells and tissues and can lead to fatal illnesses like cancer.
Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron
Besides being the king of antioxidants, cacao holds another title. This superfood is the highest plant-based source of iron known to humanity. The iron contained in cacao is non-heme, so to have access to the highest benefits, you’ll have to pair it with some vitamin C such as kale, oranges, or other potent superfoods such as camu camu.
Highest Magnesium Content for a Healthy Heart & Brain
Here is another title coming up for our delicious superfood. Raw cacao is one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium, the most inadequate mineral in America. Magnesium is essential for a healthy heart and helps convert glucose into energy, allowing your brain to operate with shaper precision.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Multiple studies show that the fiber contained in raw cacao lowers blood pressure, however, only in adequate amounts. To get the maximum health benefits out of raw cacao, pour 2 tbsp of cacao powder in warm water or milk.
Easy Ways to Add Cacao Into Your Diet
Cacao is a highly versatile superfood. Eating chocolate bars is not the only way to get your regular intake of the cacao.
Drink more hot/cold cocoa: Mixing cacao with your preferred dairy or nondairy liquid for a chocolate drink is a great way to consume the superfood.
Go for a smoothie: Cacao can also be mixed into a healthy smoothie to give it a richer taste.
Baked goods: Cacao powder is also a great additive for chocolate cookies, pudding and cakes.
Cacao Bar: Although these might be a bit bitter, they are richer than regular chocolate. Feast on a bar or a few raw organic chocolates.
Sprinkle over fruit: Cacao powder is especially delightful when you sprinkle it over fruits such as bananas or strawberries. You get your key nutrient intake from the cacao plus the fruit of your choice.
Granola cacao bars: Adding cacao to your granola bar ranks up the health benefits while enriching the flavor.
Cacao has been used around the world for millennium and has achieved a significant milestone for such an ancient superfood – it’s now a huge part of the modern cookery of chocolate. The health benefits of cacao are as plentiful as the nutrients contained in it.
It’s highly nutritious and extremely easy to add to your diet in numerous, artistic ways. However, always remember that chocolate contains significant amounts of sugar as well as fats, so if you’re going to eat it regularly, eat it within moderation.