Chocolate is Good For You!
Superfoods 101 continued
The Superfood 101 series continues with Raw Cacao. You can see the first article in the series here.
You’ve probably heard the news that chocolate is good for you, and it can be…if it starts with the superfood, raw cacao. This is extremely good news for those of us who love a good choccy fix. The bad news – the super-processed chocolate bar that catches your eye as you pop through the checkout line doesn’t count. The chocolate friend with benefits comes from nutrient dense raw cacao, not cocoa.
Spelling is important
Both cacao and cocoa come from beans of the Theobroma (food of the God’s) cacao plant and begin with fermentation of the harvested beans. Cocoa results from beans roasted at high temperatures, followed by additional processing steps (such as Dutch processing with alkali). This heating and processing substantially reduces some of the beneficial components, like flavanol antioxidants, which have cardiovascular benefits. Raw cacao is not heat processed.
Raw cacao is a staple in our house. As a straight-up chocaholic, wellness enthusiast, and vegan foodie I have had the unique joy of finding ways to feed my habit in a healthy way! Raw cacao is the champion of chocolate for me and a superfood to boot. It has many health benefits and performs well in a number of clean and healthy recipes. Raw cacao contains so many health benefits, that it’s ok to indulge in a choccy fix and feel little to no guilt! Do watch the sweeteners though…let’s not get too crazy now.
The good-health stuff
- Raw cacao contains high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals (natural by-products of energy production) in the body, which can help prevent cell damage. The body naturally produces some antioxidants for this purpose, but the balance is often on the side of the free radicals.
- It’s good for the cardiovascular system. Studies have found a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease with long-term consumption of Flavanol-rich foods, such as cacao. Similary, other studies have shown a decreased risk of stroke as well as lower blood pressure with higher intake of flavanol-rich foods.
- Raw cacao is mood elevating – yes, please! This is due, in part, to an increase in levels of feel-good neurotransmitters.
- And last, but not least, it is one of the highest sources of magnesium and contains iron, manganese, chromium, sulfur, healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber. Winning.
All shapes and sizes
There are multiple forms of raw cacao, which make it very versatile.
Cacao paste is whole cacao beans ground into a paste. It melts well and can be used in recipes in place of unsweetened chocolate.
Cacao butter is the (healthy) fat that has been removed from cacao paste. It can be used for cooking and skin care.
Cacao nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans. These are great in smoothies or sprinkled on oatmeal.
Cacao powder is cacao paste with the fat content (cacao butter) removed ground into powder. This is the option that gets used most frequently at my house.
Raw cacao recipes galore
Now you know your raw cacao superfood, give it a try in some of the recipes below and let me know which ones are your favorites!
Stay tuned for more Superfoods 101 soon.