Who doesn’t love chocolate! The velvety smoothness on your tongue, and the creamy rich taste-Yum! And you will be happy to know that I totally approve of chocolate…However its gotta be the good stuff. I often get asked the question, whats the difference between cacao and cocoa? Basically cocoa is the refined and processed version of cacao, its kind of the equivalent to white flour vs a multi-grain whole flour. Through all the processing, cocoa looses much of the goodness that it originally had-and let me tell you, it had some pretty good stuff.
So then, cacao, the goddess of super foods, not only is it delicious, but its versatile, and easy to cook with. You can easily up the nutrition of any cocoa based baking, by replacing it with cacao. And there are so many nutritional benefit to cacao! Raw powdered cacao is packed full of flavanoids, which are natural antioxidants, and protect the body from aging and disease by fighting off free radicals. Raw cacao is said to contain about 4 times the amount of antioxidants that cocoa powder. It also had higher antioxidant content than green tea ad red wine.
Cacao is also high in magnesium, which is associated with nerve and muscle function, as well as ensuring the immune system can function adequately. Cacao has also been found to hep regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. This means it potentially can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Cacao also contains caffeine, which can be a good and bad thing. Of course, caffeine is a stimulant, so too much is possibly going to keep you awake, especially in large doses.
As with everything, keep it in moderation, and be aware of what you are consuming. While I say raw cacao is great, its the things that go with it that are of concern. For example, in a block of chocolate, there are refined sugars, saturated fat and its been highly processed,which means many of the nutritional benefits will be diminished. Really, in milk chocolate, there isn’t much cacao left. So if you are going for processed chocolate, stick with a high quality dark chocolate! Research where they are getting their beans from, buy organic where possible, and its probably not best to eat a whole block at a time (however I’m sure I have done this in the past!).
The best way to consume cacao is from its raw form, or as close to as you can get. Other than growing it yourself, generally the easiest way to get it is in its raw powdered form, and you can get this from your local health food store. Its pretty expensive, but I tend to buy in bulk, and its lasts months, especially since you hardly use any. I put mine in smoothies, baking, raw cacao balls, raw chocolate and hot cacao drinks. There are so many uses, and every week I find another one!
There are a few brands I have tried that are really great:
And here are a few recipes that I just LOVE:
If you want more info, David Wolfe is a great person to read up on, he is a bit of an expert on raw food. Of course I do have to point out here, that there is another side to the story, and it states that the theobromine in cacao may have a toxic effect on humans, as it does on animals. The research is stating that at low doses the theobromine may contribute to the positive effects of chocolate, however at high doses, there are some negative effects, especially on mood. As always, everything in moderation, and a key thing to remember, is to vary your diet!