What is the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
Cacao pods are large football-shaped fruits. They grow off the trunk and limbs of the cacao tree Cacao beans are found inside the pods. The beans are harvested, fermented and dried. When you see cacao nibs or powder in the grocery stores, the bean is in its raw state—uncooked, additive free, and unprocessed. This is the closest to real dark chocolate that you will get.
Where it goes wrong:
The raw cacao is then cleaned and roasted, after which point the products are often referred to as “cocoa.” In other words, “cocoa” is what the bean is called after it has been processed. Unfortunately, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. Cacao in its unadulterated form is very bitter and may take time to get used to. This unpalatable flavor may be one of the reasons why companies choose to roast and process the beans. You will find that most “chocolate” has additives and sweeteners to make it more pleasurable. Doing this eliminates the benefits of consuming raw cacao. It isn’t until after the cacao beans are roasted and processed that they are called cocoa.
What are the health benefits of raw cacao?
- Lowers insulin resistance
- Cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants of all foods and the highest source of magnesium of all foods. It has been used throughout many cultures for years for health purposes and even used as a high trade commodity.
- Protects your nervous system: Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.
- Shields nerve cells from damage.
- Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and blood pressure. The antioxidants found in cacao help to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Although NO has heart-benefiting qualities, such as relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, it also produces toxins. The antioxidants in cacao neutralize these toxins, protecting your heart and preventing disease.
- Guards against toxins: As a potent antioxidant, cacao can repair the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Boosts your mood: Cacao can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being. And the same brain chemical that is released when we experience deep feelings of love – phenylethylamine – is found in chocolate.
- It is rich in minerals: Magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.
- I personally love the satiation effect it has on meal after a meal, while eliminating any sugar cravings!
What to purchase?
Ideally, the closer to 100% Cacao the better. The lower the % of cacao means more added sweeteners and sugars. 85% is the suggested lower limit for those that are really looking to reap the benefits, while avoiding the potential negatives from the added deleterious ingredients. Look for added ingredients that provide flavor but without the unnecessary insulin spike and blood sugar spikes such as vanilla extract, coconut shreds, cacao butter, or peppermint oil, to name a few.
Where to purchase?
I love the company, Eating Evolved. I believe they stand by their product. They are fun and engaging on their social media outlets. Their customer service is bar-none. They provide 100% cacao, which is what I purchase! I am very happy with the message they provide to their audience through their marketing campaigns. Their pricing is fair. They have tasty treats that are not quite 100% cacao, but are made with organic ingredients.
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