Cacao is known as the “food of the gods“and it is a superfood, because of the high content of essential nutrients, and many proven health benefits.
The cacao is obtained from the fruits called cacao pods from the cacao trees which grow in the Amazon Basic, Brazil, Orinoco River Basin, Ghana, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Togo, Ecuador and Caribbean islands. Each fruit is contained of inside white pulp and several cacao beans. Further cacao beans are processed into cocoa powder.
Inside each cacao bean is the cacao nib. Cacao nibs contain all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients. Further cacao nibs have been slowly heated to maintain the nutrients inside into cacao paste which can be melted into a chocolate bark. Cacao paste is most used in making raw vegan desserts. Actually, this is the difference between cocoa powder and cacao paste. Cacao powder contains more fiber and calories than cocoa powder, because the nutrients from the whole bean remain intact.
Cacao Nutrition Facts
Raw cacao beans is an excellent source of fats (monounsaturated and cholesterol-free saturated fats), antioxidants (flavanoids), vitamins (E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9; also small amounts of vitamin A, and C in raw cacao) , minerals (calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc and potassium), fiber, natural carbohydrates, and protein. Raw cacao beans are excellent source of the maximum nutrients before any kind of processing. In the cacao health hierarchy, raw cacao beans are first ranked before processing, followed by cacao paste that is used in making vegan recipes or as less processed dark chocolate bar, then by organic cocoa powder and processed organic dark chocolate with lower levels of processed sugar.
Raw Cacao Health Benefits
All cacao products are effective in treating many health conditions such as lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diarrhea, preventing wrinkles and pregnancy stretch marks and much more. Raw cacao beans and nibs offer the best health benefits, because further in cacao processed products, some of the nutrients are destroyed.
Antioxidants and Theobromine
Theobromine is a mild, non-addictive stimulant found in raw cacao, and it is known that treat depression. Theobromine can improve the mental and physical well-being as a result of stimulating the central nervous system. Also, this compound increases the energy levels and relaxes tense muscles.
Antioxidants found in cacao beans, especially flavonoids can help fight free radicals that can increase as a result of the sun exposure, environmental pollutants exposure and smoking cigarettes, and reduces the risk of developing some type of cancers. Both antioxidants and theobromine can improve blood flow, heart health and lessen arterial walls thickening and plaque build-up. The levels of antioxidants in raw cacao are higher than those found in red wine and green tea.
Cacao is full of fiber that can increase the production of digestive enzymes and help in better digestion. Fiber controls appetite and can make you feel full for longer. Fiber is the best promoter in weight loss.
Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty Acids found in cacao, such as oleic acid can lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good ones. Oleic acid has the exact antioxidant properties and can fight free radicals. These essential fatty acids can improve circulatory system and brain and heart functioning, strengthen cell membrane integrity, boost memory power,increase energy levels, reduce inflammatory conditions, help with weight loss and moisturize the skin.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins found in raw cacao can improve functioning of the cardiovascular system. They share the antioxidant benefits and promote longevity. Minerals found in raw cacao, especially magnesium promotes heart health and improves brain functioning. Tryptophan and anandamide also found in raw cacao are brain-boosting minerals.
Remember that eating raw cacao beans offer more health benefits than processed chocolate. Here is a recipe for Healthy Raw Vegan Chocolate Smoothie which is a real antioxidant-powerhouse, because of the cacao powder.