Cacao, also known as “Food of the Gods,” is an ancient superfood that has been revered for centuries by the Aztec and Maya cultures. Cacao is incredibly nutritious – it is one of the world’s most potent sources of antioxidants.
These are only a few of the reasons why we’ve chosen to add this highly beneficial ingredient to our most popular Keto Breakfast Smoothie as part of the 21-Day Cleanse and 30-Day Maintain via the 90-Day Balance program!
Learn about Cacao & Cocoa
Cacao vs Cocoa
Cacao and cocoa can easily be confused when it comes to recipes. With similar origins and a very similar spelling, it can be difficult to know which is which. Even though these ingredients can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they are not the same product. They have different production methods, tastes and nutritional values.
There have been many studies that have promoted the health benefits of eating chocolate. People have been clamoring about the wonderful nutrition that chocolate provides. This sends many people to the store searching for their favorite chocolate bar for what they think is a “healthy” indulgence. While chocolate does have nutritional properties these studies are about the raw forms of the cacao plant, not the heavily processed form that comes in a chocolate bar. Below we’ll review the true differences between Cacao and Cocoa.
Chocolate ingredients or products come from the same cacao bean. What is done with the bean is what changes the ingredients and their nutritional values. These beans are picked from a cacao plant which is an evergreen tree. These trees are found in areas of West Africa and South America. Cacao beans grow in large bunches or pods, but they are not held in the leaves of the trees. Instead, they hang from the trunks.
Many find the appearance of the cacao pod surprising. There are few people that realize that their favorite chocolate bar once hung from a tree. These pods are very large and contain many beans. The beans are encased in a fatty pulp that can vary in color but is commonly white. The beans are a purple-brown color, but often lose their purple hue after being processed.
Down to the Details
Cacao and cocoa both come from the cacao plant, but that is where their similarities stop. Cacao is the raw, untouched state of the cacao plant. It is kept in its most natural form to preserve more taste and nutrients. Even though there is little processing that is done to cacao, it does come in a variety of forms to use with different recipes.
Cacao beans are whole, unprocessed beans removed from the pod and with the surrounding fruit stripped off. Cacao nibs are simply broken up pieces of cacao beans. Cacao powder is finely ground beans with the oil/fat removed.
This oil is what we call Cacao butter.Finally, cacao paste is created by slowly grinding nibs into a paste and letting form into chunks. All these minimally processed forms of Cacao remain as close to their natural state as possible, are full of nutrients and have a distinct bitter flavor.
It’s not until you begin using high heat and adding sugar, oils or milk fats that you arrive at a Cocoa product.
Cocoa is most typically found in powder form. Many people enjoy cocoa when mixed in with a beverage. To create cocoa high heat is used with the raw cacao plants, most often along with sugar. This level of heat changes the nutritional value that the plant holds and greatly decreases its benefits.
Many manufacturers try to market the benefits of cocoa powders. They advertise the benefits without emphasizing the added ingredients in the product, such as oils, sugars, or milk fat.
Raw, pure cacao is always more nutritionally beneficial than cocoa.
In either form, there are nutritional agents that both products carry however cacao is much higher in antioxidants and is a great source of fiber. Cacao also offers a good level of protein. While there are nutritional benefits of the cocoa products, it is best to reach for cacao if looking for a nutritional boost.
Severe Health Problems
Cacao cannot cure or treat severe health problems, but some of the nutrients in the raw form are beneficial to the body. In its raw form, the plant has a lot of magnesium. A person should get a good amount of magnesium to have less of a risk of diabetes, help maintain a healthy blood pressure, have stronger bones, have a lessened risk of having cardiovascular problems, and maintain nervous system activity that is healthy.
There are so many health problems that can be deterred, with the help of other factors, by having enough magnesium in the body. While it will not reverse the effects of other health factors cacao can help provide the body with more magnesium.
Inflammation and Heart Problems
There is a class of antioxidants that are called flavonoids. These antioxidants help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. The presence of flavonoids in the body has shown to help maintain levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol which can aid in better cardiovascular health. Both cacao and cocoa have flavonoids that can help in these areas.
Meet Recommended Daily Values
There are nutrients in cacao and cocoa that are needed in our daily lives. Some of these are harder to meet without watching the diet closely. Iron is one dietary need that many people fall short on. Cacao offers a low value of iron which helps move oxygen into the body’s tissue.