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When you think of cacao, do you think friend or foe? Healthy or unhealthy?
I would go so far as to say cacao is man’s best friend. Except, well… dogs. 😉
Once upon a time, the ancient Aztecs considered cacao a sacred food. General consensus has changed little since.
Science has, however, brought forth research to tell us what we were hoping all along — that cacao has many beneficial health properties! The Aztecs were on to something.
Before you run to the store with excitement and stock up on milk chocolate bars, consider this: chocolate and cacao are not the same thing.
The Difference Between Chocolate & Cacao
Chocolate is a highly processed candy treat. While chocolate contains cacao (often as a cocoa powder), it also includes a host of other not-so-healthy ingredients, including include refined sugars, soy lecithin, and artificial preservatives. And yes, even dark chocolate can have these things added.
Now that’s a recipe for an unhealthy and guilt-inducing treat!
Furthermore, the nutritional qualities of cacao are degraded through intense, high-heat processing.
But raw cacao?
Raw cacao products are simply a lightly processed form or isolated part of the cacao bean. Hence, no further ingredients are added. Some examples include raw cacao powder, raw cacao nibs, and cacao butter. These products are created through either fermentation, light roasting, dehydration, or extraction.
The Potential Health Benefits Of Cacao
In its unadulterated form, cacao has many potential beneficial health properties.
1. Cacao is high in antioxidants.
Cacao contains higher amounts of antioxidants than green tea, red wine, blueberries, and goji berries. Antioxidants are important to help prevent many forms of lifestyle diseases, including various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
To measure a food’s antioxidant capacity, an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score is given. Raw cacao powder tops the list as one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods (source).
2. Cacao may reduce the effects of depression.
Is it no wonder we reach for the chocolate when we’re feeling down?
Cacao contains a chemical property called anandamide which is said to reduce the effects of depression (source).
3. Cacao is naturally low in sugar.
Clearly we’re not talking processed chocolate here.
The pure cacao bean is naturally low in sugar. Furthermore, it contains high amounts of essential fatty acids making it a great low-carb snack!
4. Cacao is high in fiber and iron.
A 1-ounce serving of cacao beans contains around 20% of your recommended daily intake of iron and 36% of your fiber requirements.
5. Cacao may lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cacao contains high amounts of polyphenols. Studies have shown that polyphenols may help to reduce oxidative stress and insulin resistance. These are both important factors in potentially reducing blood pressure and heart disease risks (source).
6. Cacao might help you lose weight!
Research suggests cacao may help with weight loss by improving mitochondrial biogenesis and increasing muscle glucose intake (source).
7. Cacao may reduce cortisol and inflammation.
Cacao contains a specific flavanol called epicatechin which has been attributed to cacao’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potency (source).
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. It’s what produces the fight or flight response when we feel fearful, stressed, or in danger. Unfortunately, too much cortisol floating around the body also leads to inflammation. Ever reached for chocolate when you feel stressed?
Now you know why!
8. Cacao contains a wide variety of micronutrients.
Micronutrients are vital to your health and help to promote healthy bones, hair, skin and nails.
Cacao is rich in a number of micronutrients. These include magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc and calcium to name a few.
Cacao can make a wonderful addition to your diet along with eating a wide variety of health promoting foods. It’s important to source a high quality and organic cacao powder, such as WFN’s raw fermented cacao powder and non-fermented cacao powder. As mentioned earlier, additional processing degrades many of these nutritional benefits.
About WFN’s Cacao Products
WFN’s raw cacao products (fermented and non-fermented cacao powder, organic cacao butter, and organic cacao nibs) come from sustainable family farms in the Dominican Republic. Our non-fermented raw cacao powder has antioxidant activity as exhibited by an ORAC score of 1549 μmol TE/g — higher than any other raw cacao powder!
Our powders and nibs are cold-pressed. A high accuracy thermometer insures that our raw cacao products are truly raw. The temperature is never allowed to exceed 120° F and is usually 104° F (all other cocoa powders are exposed to temperatures as high as 300° F!).
Wilderness Family Naturals stocks a wide range of raw and organic cacao products, which you can find here!