What Is Raw Cacao?
Raw Cacao is cocoa’s original, less processed form. It is the mystical ancestor of the Mars Bar and the powerful predecessor of the thickest, most delicious hot chocolate. Native to the South and Central Americas, this ‘food of the gods’ has nourished hearts and souls for over 4,000 years. The Mayans were known for enjoying raw cacao as a beverage spiced with chili for a morning pick-me-up. Today, this superfood is traveling the globe, with people in North America, Europe, and Australia seeing it popping up on wellness menus in towns and cities.
Is It Better Than Cocoa?
Cocoa and cacao are both derived from the same beans. However, they are still very different. Cocoa beans are roasted at much higher temperatures in a process called “Dutch Processing” to get cocoa powder. In the early 19th Century, people used Dutch processing to reduce the bitterness, darken the color, and create a mellower flavor to chocolate. However, the heat from roasting destroys many compounds and greatly reduces the benefits of cocoa. On the other hand, cold-pressing raw cacao beans maintain their nutritions and compounds. Unlike the roasted and heavily processed cocoa, raw cacao maintains its high nutritional profile making it a true superfood!
Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao
Cacao contains a high amount of antioxidants, even more than the famous antioxidant, the blueberry. It also contains notable levels of magnesium, iron, and calcium. Raw Cacao has 160mg calcium per 100g which is way more than cow’s milk with only 125mg per 100ml. Cacao also has a whopping 7.3mg of iron per 100g making it the highest plant-based iron source known to man. However, you need to combine this plant-based iron with some vitamin C to get the maximum benefits. Moreover, raw cacao is also one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium which is important for heart health. Magnesium helps turn glucose into energy which helps your brain to work with clarity and focus. These nutrients along with the flavonoids and antioxidants in cacao have many benefits for the cardiovascular system.
For many of its advocates, the raw cacao bean works wonders in boosting mood and energy levels without the negative side effects of coffee or highly processed chocolate. The flavonoids in cacao help to increase the blood flow to the skin’s surface. This increased blood flow promotes cell regeneration which is necessary for glowing skin. This anti-aging superfood rich in antioxidants can also prevent premature aging and keep the skin youthful and healthy.
In What Forms Can I Buy Cacao And How Can I Consume It?
When first plucked from the tree as a cacao pod, it looks somewhat like a large, striped, elongated mango! The most unprocessed form in which cacao reaches the consumer is the cacao bean. This looks not unlike a coffee bean and is comparably bitter – only for the brave or initiated cacao muncher. You can break down the bean into small yet chunky flakes called cacao nibs. You can sprinkle these flakes on to cereal and salads. Cacao is also available as butter which is ideal for making raw chocolate truffles and cakes.
Raw cacao powder is the most widely available form of the superfood. Most often added to smoothies, ‘hot’ chocolate or cakes however it can be incorporated into many everyday meals. Just remember that heating above 40 degrees can affect the benefits. This is easy to manage. For example, you can add cacao to porridge after cooking to preserve its benefits. You can enjoy hot porridge while reaping the benefits of cacao.