LIKE COFFEE AND ALCOHOL, CHOCOLATE HAS LONG BEEN CONSIDERED A GUILTY PLEASURE THAT’S PROBABLY BEST AVOIDED. BUT, LIKE THOSE OTHER FORMER DIETARY “BAD BOYS,” CHOCOLATE HAS BEEN PARTIALLY REDEEMED IN RECENT YEARS BY NEWS OF ITS HEALTH BENEFITS.
However what you may not know is that there is actually something far better than dark chocolate and that is raw, unprocessed cacao. Here we will explain some of the health benefits of pure cacao and why it is being dubbed one of the best super foods in the world.
What is cacao and how is it different from cocoa?
Cacao beans are grown on the Theobroma cacao tree, which is usually found in Mexico, as well as Central and South America. The trees develop small pods in which the cacao seeds are found. These pods are carefully harvested and opened to reveal the seeds, which are then left to naturally ferment and dry. After a few days you are left with the cacao beans.
Now you may be wondering if cacao beans have anything to do with cocoa beans, since the name looks similar and we have mentioned chocolate. Cacao beans are cocoa beans in their raw and unprocessed state. In order to create cocoa beans, cacao is cleaned, roasted and processed. Of course these steps take away some of the natural ‘goodness’ stored inside cacao beans such as antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
Consuming cacao in its pure state (unrefined and unprocessed) will allow you to benefit from all of its nutrients and ‘natural goodness.’
Unrefined cacao is a natural source of essential fatty acids, as well as fibre, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and sulphur, meaning that it provides a number of health benefits for both the mind and body. Unfortunately when cacao is roasted, processed and turned into cocoa it loses most of these nutritional benefits, so if you’re looking for the healthy option, pure cacao is the one to go for.
Cacao has been proven to naturally regulate blood pressure and improve circulation. It contains Flavanols, Theobromine and other components that promote healthy and strong blood vessels. Recent studies found that it may reduce cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. The antioxidant power of the flavonoids and essential vitamins found inside cacao promote healthy heart functioning, reduce plaque buildup on artery walls and rid the body of free radicals.
Whilst chocolate is usually considered unhealthy, pure cacao is on the other end of the spectrum and is often referred to as one of the healthiest super foods on the planet. One of the main dietary benefits of cacao is that it contains a lot of fiber, which is great for stimulating the production of digestive enzymes.
Cacao is one of the only foods in the world that helps the brain to naturally produce ‘feel good’ hormones. This is due to the fact that it contains PEA, which increases dopamine production and Tryptophan, which increases serotonin production.
Many people are often feeling left happier, healthier and even slightly euphoric after consuming pure cacao. Unlike caffeine that spikes your blood sugar and blood pressure, cacao has no side effects.