By GMB Doctor Sandy Krafchik.
All forms of chocolate originate from the Theobroma cacao tree. This tree produces seed pods. The seeds harvested from these pods are known as cacao beans.
Raw cacao is the powder made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. This process retains the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter). It undergoes minimal processing, however since the natural fat found in cacao beans, the cocoa butter, is removed, cacao powder is relatively low in fat. Raw cacao powder is darker than cocoa powder since it is less processed.
Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. Cocoa differs from raw cacao as it contains added sugar, fat and milk products. It is lighter in colour than cacao powder since it has been processed more.
If you want a healthier chocolate fix, look for snacks with raw cacao powder rather than cocoa. One of our favourites is Foodie Fee's orb chocolate bliss ball containing raw cacao, activated almonds, tahini and dates. It is 100% organic, vegan, paleo and raw and makes a great nutrient dense snack.
Benefits of raw cacao:
- Protects the nervous system - Cacao is rich in the antioxidant resveratrol, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and is neuroprotective (prevents nerve cells from damage).
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease - The antioxidants found in cacao help to maintain healthy levels of Nitric Oxide in the body. Nitric oxide has heart benefiting qualities (e.g. relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure), however it also produces toxins. The antioxidants in cacao neutralize these toxins, thereby protecting the heart and preventing disease.
- Reduces the risk of stroke
- Reduces blood pressure
- Lowers insulin resistance - Cacao powder reduces the risk of obesity and fatty liver disease.
- Guards against toxins – Cacao as a potent antioxidant can repair the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Cacao contains far more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries. Antioxidants comprise 10% of the weight of raw cacao!
- Boosts mood - Cacao can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters (e.g. phenylethylamine) that promote a sense of well-being.
- It is rich in minerals - magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.
- Flavonoids in cacao protect nerves from damage and boost the immune system
A 1-tablespoon serving of cacao powder has:
- 12 calories
- just over 1 gram of fat
- a minimal amount of sugar
- 1.8 grams of dietary fibre
- 12 milligrams of caffeine.
- small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous
- thiamine, riboflavin, niacin vitamin B-6 and folate
- small amounts of vitamin E and K.
Cacao powder can be added to various baked goods. It can also be added to juices or smoothies or yogurt for a healthy chocolate flavour.
Lana Billings-Smith. 2018. What Is Raw Cacao Powder? | LIVESTRONG.COM. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.livestrong.com/article/450243-what-is-raw-cacao-powder/. [Accessed 17 September 2018].
Raw Cacao vs Cocoa: What’s The Difference? | FOOD MATTERS®. 2018. Raw Cacao vs Cocoa: What’s The Difference? | FOOD MATTERS®. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.foodmatters.com/article/raw-cacao-vs-cocoa-whats-the-difference. [Accessed 20 September 2018].
Foodie Fee. 2018. Almond Cacao Orb | Foodie Fee | Organic almond protein ball | Foodie Fee. [ONLINE] Available at: https://foodiefee.com/collections/featured-products/products/almond-cacao-orbs. [Accessed 20 September 2018].
Paleo Blog. 2018. Cacao vs Cocoa: The Difference and Why It Matters. [ONLINE] Available at: https://blog.paleohacks.com/cacao-vs-cocoa/#. [Accessed 22 September 2018].