Have you heard about the awesome health benefits of cacao?
Don’t mistake it for the cocoa powder found in grocery stores.
Raw cacao is different from the cocoa found in chocolate and biscuits. It is made by cold-pressing cacao beans to ensure that no nutrients are lost in the process.
Normal cocoa powder has been heavily processed and roasted. This is the reason why it loses a large number of flavanols and antioxidants – the things that carry several health benefits.
Cacao allows you to satisfy your cravings for sweets and chocolate without overloading your belly with processed sugar. Not only that but this superfood offers several health benefits that many people out there are unaware of.
In this in-depth post, you’ll discover our favorite health benefits of cacao.
What Is Cacao?
Cacao comes from the seeds of the cacao fruit mostly found in South America.
It is said that people in the past used to crush raw cacao and mix it with water to create a frothy remedying beverage.
Cacao is often confused with cocoa powder but it is different because roasted cocoa beans are used to make cocoa powder.
Roasting the beans destroys most of the beneficial nutrients which is why eating cocoa powder won’t provide you with the same kind of benefits that you can get from consuming raw cacao.
Raw cacao contains loads of magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. It is also a great source of dietary fiber and is good for cardiovascular health.
Health Benefits of Cacao
Below is a list of our favorite health benefits of cacao. We hope you too will discover the potential this underused food has to aid you in your overall health and well-being.
Cacao for Weight Loss
Eating cacao can help you lose weight.
It is, however, critical that you keep the consumption of cacao in check as it is high in calories and fat. By eating cacao nibs or pure cacao, you will get lots of fiber which will make you feel fuller.
Don’t confuse this with the chocolate bars found at stores because they don’t give you any dietary fiber. On the other hand, one oz. of cacao nibs has 9 g of fiber. That makes them great, high-fiber food.
The fiber in cacao can also help keep the bowel movements regular.
In a research study, participants ate cocoa powder supplement twice per day for a period of two months, separated by a period of three weeks during which cocoa wasn’t consumed.
When the participants consumed cocoa powder, the frequency of their bowel movements increased while constipation decreased. These supplements contained raw cacao which contributed to the constipation relief.
Cacao for Skin
Cacao is great for healthy, vibrant skin as it contains flavonoids that can increase the flow of blood to your skin’s surface.
Increased blood flow helps will cell regeneration which is essential for glowing skin.
Research findings show that consuming flavonol-rich cacao may help decrease the effects of erythema and reduce skin scaling and roughness. It may also help in enhancing skin density, hydration, and elasticity.
In addition to improving the skin quality, consumption of cacao may also prevent premature aging.
Antioxidants in cacao can protect the skin cells from destruction and help your skin feel youthful and healthy for longer.
Cacao for Diabetes
Cacao may prove beneficial for diabetic patients.
A study conducted in 2017 examined the effects of cacao on patients with type-2 diabetes. The results were promising as cacao extract reduced blood glucose levels in the participants.
Test-tube studies have indicated that flavanols in cacao can slow down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the gut, reduce inflammation, improve insulin secretion and stimulate uptake of sugar into the muscle.
Some studies have also shown that consuming high amounts of flavanols can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes.
A review showed that eating dark chocolate that is rich in flavanols improves blood sugar control, reduces insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation in both non-diabetic and diabetic people.
Despite these results, some studies have shown only a limited effect of flavanols. Nevertheless, since most results show positive effects of flavanols on diabetes, cacao can be consumed for controlling diabetes.
Cacao for Pancreas
Researchers from the University of Indiana have looked at the link between pancreatic cancer and magnesium.
They reported that every 100 mg per day decrease in the intake of magnesium was associated with a 24% increase in the occurrence of the pancreas.
These findings suggest that your risk of suffering from pancreatic cancer would decrease if you make magnesium supplement a part of your diet.
Since cacao is rich in magnesium, you should include it in your diet to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Cacao for PMS Symptoms
Feeling tired, depressed and irritated are some common symptoms of PMS.
These can last from two to seven days. Many women eat chocolate to alleviate their PMS symptoms.
Chocolate cravings and PMS go together like peanut butter and jelly. But, consuming too much chocolate can lead to obesity.
A better alternative is raw cacao. Eating raw cacao or cacao nibs will boost levels of serotonin in your brain. When women experience periods, serotonin levels drop significantly.
Cacao can help boost these levels and keep mood swings at bay.
Cacao for Energy
Raw cacao triggers the release of endorphins, which may give you mental energy and also enhance your mood.
Eating cacao can also improve the flow of blood to your brain which also helps increase your energy levels.
If you feel weak, irritable, anxious or fatigued, there is a possibility that you are deficient in magnesium.
Raw cacao is rich in magnesium so eating it every day will get you your dose of magnesium and give you the boost of energy you have been looking for.
Cacao for Depression
Neurotransmitters are messengers in the brain that guide the behavior of our body, ultimately affecting the mood.
Cacao can act on all those neurotransmitters. Cacao stimulates our brain to release certain neurotransmitters like euphoria and serotonin, which may trigger emotions.
It produces a natural chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) when consumed.
We produce PEA when we are excited and it causes our pulse to quicken, giving us more awareness and focus.
Cacao for Diarrhea
Cacao beans can be used in the treatment of diarrhea due to the presence of polyphenols, which inhibit some intestinal secretions.
Dose-dependents effects of flavonoids found in cacao were tested in a study and results showed that they prevent the build-up of fluids in the small intestine that is associated with diarrhea.
Cacao for Anemia
Iron is necessary for red blood cells of our body to carry oxygen and nutrients. Iron deficiency is a common form of malnutrition.
Moreover, 50 percent of anemia cases throughout the world are attributed to iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency may be prevented by consuming iron-rich foods like cacao.
By making cacao a part of your diet, you could prevent the deficiency.
Absorption is another factor to consider with iron. To enhance the absorption of iron in the body, experts recommend combining it with Vitamin-C-rich foods.
Fortunately, raw cacao contains Vitamin C, thus it can help improve iron absorption.
Cacao for Nerve and Muscle Function
Cacao beans are rich in magnesium, a mineral that is essential for nerve and muscle function, plus keeping our heart rhythm steady.
Because of its magnesium content, cacao helps enhance nerve function and improves muscle structure.
Cacao Questions and Answers
Q. What is the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?
While cocoa powder and cacao can be used interchangeably in smoothies, homemade raw foods, baked goods and more, there are a few notable differences between the two.
Both cocoa and cacao are high in nutrients, but if you wish to get more benefits, choose cacao.
Cacao is a great source of cholesterol-free saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, vitamins, fiber, protein, natural carbohydrates, and minerals.
Technically speaking, cocoa and cacao are essentially the same but cocoa refers to processed chocolate with added sugar while raw cacao contains no sugar.
This is one reason why cacao is a healthier alternative to refined cocoa powder that is found in chocolate bars and candies.
Cacao is the rawest form of chocolate. When compared to chocolate bars or cocoa, cacao is less processed. It is also a great source of magnesium and antioxidants.
When anything is heated at over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, it starts losing its nutritional value and cannot be considered a raw food.
Although cocoa is inferior to cacao nibs and raw cacao, you can still get a few nutritional benefits if you eat a variety that comes without any added sugar and oils or milk. It is also less expensive.
Even though the cocoa powder is processed and exposed to high temperatures during processing, it still retains a generous amount of antioxidants so it can still benefit your skin, heart, blood pressure, and stress levels.
It is important to pay attention to what you are buying by looking at the ingredients.
Make sure to purchase plain cocoa powder instead of cocoa mixes as they likely contain sugar.
You can also go for Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Compared to regular cocoa powder, Dutch-processed cocoa is processed using an alkalized solution which is why it is richer in taste and less acidic than regular cocoa.
Q. Which is Healthier – Cocoa or Cacao?
As we explained above, cacao is definitely a healthier option.
Q. What are the Side Effects of Cacao?
- May Hamper Sleep
Cacao contains caffeine so overdoing on it may cause caffeine-related side effects including rapid heartbeat, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.
- May Cause IBS-like Symptoms
Cacao can cause gastrointestinal disturbances like stomach pain, gas, constipation, and nausea.
- May Cause Skin Issues
Cacao can cause acne while minerals present in it may cause allergies, lesions and skin inflammation.
- May Lead to Certain Health Conditions
Some believe that long-term consumption of cacao regularly may lead to certain health conditions like paranoia, nightmares, mood swings, and depression.
- Pregnancy-related Effects
Pregnant women should avoid consuming raw cacao. This is because cacao contains a high amount of caffeine and caffeine has been associated with low birth rate, miscarriage, and premature labor.
Q. How Much Raw Cacao Should I Eat a Day?
You can eat one to six teaspoons of raw cacao every day.
Q. Where to Buy Cacao?
Raw cacao powder is available online at Amazon where they offer a varied selection of brands.
As you can see cacao provides several amazing health benefits.
It can help with weight loss, diarrhea, and diabetes management. Cacao is also great for skin, helps relieve PMS symptoms and can help prevent anemia and improve nerve and muscle function.
It is sometimes mistaken for cocoa powder but it is different and more beneficial for your health and well-being.
So if you want to reap the amazing health benefits of eating cacao, we suggest you make raw cacao or cacao nibs a part of your diet.
Raw cacao and cacao nibs are available online at Amazon so you should be able to easily buy them.
We hope you now understand all the benefits of cacao. In case you have any questions feel free to comment below or reach out to us.
For more post please visit our homepage.