Cacao vs Processed Cocoa
The plethora of research done on chocolate’s tremendous health benefits has primarily studied raw cacao and processed dark chocolate. Raw foodies and experts argue that raw cacao contain all of the health inducing benefits left intact, while processing destroys much of the nutrients.
Raw cacao also stars as a superfood with higher antioxidant counts compared to processed cocoa. Tremendous research has been done on cacao health benefits. Study findings confirm that cocoa benefits cardiovascular health, blood pressure, atherosclerosis, mood and aging. Cocoa contains several important nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E, along with magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc. It has been discovered that raw cocoa has more antioxidants than any other food, including acai berries and blueberries. Chocolate’s healthful phenolic compounds have also made cocoa an important food for study.
An analysis of some cardiovascular research states the following: “It is important to strictly differentiate between the natural product cacao and the processed product chocolate, which refers to the combination of cocoa, sugar, and eventually milk and other ingredients into a solid food product. Many of the health effects of cocoa and its contents discussed here may not be applicable to chocolate”. The study review later states: “An important thing is that, during the conventional chocolate manufacturing process from fresh cocoa seeds to the final product, the concentration of flavanols markedly decreases. In particular, food processing methods such as fermentation and roasting have a detrimental impact on the final flavanol content of foods. Furthermore, flavanol concentration may depend on the agricultural origin of the raw cocoa. In particular, milk chocolate has the lowest flavanol content compared with cocoa powder and dark chocolate”. Flavanols are a type of phenolic compound found to be beneficial to health and the subject of tremendous study.
Raw versus processed cocoa
Raw food enthusiasts and experts agree that the high heat processing, required to create the roasted cocoa used for most chocolate products, destroys the majority of cocoa’s nutrients. This argument is comparable to the one made for the tremendous health benefits of raw whole milk compared to denatured, pasteurized milk. David Wolfe, a raw foods expert, claims raw cacao to be “the richest antioxidant food in the world”. Comparisons of antioxidant value numbers for raw cacao powder far exceed those for processed or roasted cocoa powder.
Historically, fermented cocoa drinks were enjoyed for centuries and treasured for their tremendous health benefits. Raw cacao is subjected to some very low heating in its fermentation process, required to separate the seeds from the cocoa bean. The heat used is generally at much lower temperatures than that used for typical chocolate products which are roasted. Raw cacao is then cold pressed, a process which leaves the majority of its nutrients intact.
Recipes and easy uses for raw cacao
The internet has many recipes available for using raw cacao. Organic raw cacao powder can easily be added to smoothies and used in other delectable concoctions, left only to one’s imagination. Organic raw cacao can be ordered online or found in health food stores.
One easy, delicious and healthy recipe my daughter and I created recently is the following: Mix raw cacao powder with nut butter, virgin coconut oil and a small amount of raw honey to taste. Form into a ball and store in fridge or eat immediately as we did.
Why organic, dark chocolate is second best
While raw cacao wins the prize for healthy chocolate, organic, dark chocolate earns the silver medal. Research supports dark chocolate’s health benefits. Higher cocoa content chocolate will be healthier.