Cacao vs Cocoa
by Lucy Marks
I don’t mean to burst your bubble here, but every time a news program reports on the ‘amazing’ ‘new-found’ benefits of chocolate, they’re not actually talking about the chocolate bars that dominate the lolly aisle at your local supermarket. Rather, they’re talking about the delicious treat in it’s raw form, cacao; dark, bitter and unpalatable for most.
Cacao is not to be confused with cocoa, there is a significant difference between the two, and yes, it involves more than just swapping a couple of letters around!
The main difference arises due to the two processing techniques employed;
Cocoa powder is the result of raw cacao being roasted at high temperatures, these high temperatures alter the molecular structure of the bean, detrimentally decreasing the enzyme content and greatly reducing its overall nutritional quality
In contrast, cacao powder is produced by cold-pressing raw cacao beans, sparing the living enzymes that our bodies greatly benefit from
SO what are the health benefits of raw cacao, you ask? Have a look!
Cacao powder is full of flavonoids which act as natural antioxidants, protecting our body from ageing and diseases caused by harmful free radicals
Cacao’s high antioxidant value reduces our risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by helping to maintain healthy levels of Nitric Oxide in the body
Raw cacao also guards our body against nasty toxins; being the potent antioxidant that it is (with higher levels per 100g than blueberries, goji berries and acai!), cacao assists in repairing the damage caused by free radicals, greatly diminishing our chances of cancer
Raw cacao boosts our mood! Just as what happens when we consume standard chocolate the brain releases the chemical phenyl ethylamine, the same chemical that is released when we experience feelings of love- but now you can feel all warm and fuzzy without all the other nasty additives and refined sugar!
Raw cacao is also a rich source of many minerals, including; magnesium, sulphur, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and copper.
Now you’ll need a reason not to include it in your diet!
Whilst the raw powder does an amazing job shielding our bodies from harmful pathogens and in keeping our mood buoyant, the next question we need to ask is; if cacao is more beneficial than cocoa because it is kept raw, what happens when we heat it in cooking? Does it destroy the valuable flavonoids that are present?
Unfortunately there has been little research completed on this concern, and so for now we figure that if we begin with a product in its natural form, it has to be more fruitful than its already processed counterpart!
I’ve been experimenting with raw cacao for many years now, and my favourite recipe to date is Peppermint Chocolate Sticks by Living Healthy with Chocolate - they’re paleo, gluten, dairy and refined sugar free!
What makes these healthy ‘chocolate bars’ even better is they don’t require heating, so there’s no risk of destroying all those wonderful antioxidants. Moreover they’re dairy free, which is an important consideration when using raw cacao as dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from the powder. Try them out for yourselves and let us know your favourite recipes involving raw cacao!
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