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Cocoa vs Cacao. Why you need to know the difference.
December 11, 2013
It scares me sometimes, when I think about how much of what we believe or hold as true may really be based on myth, and no more so when it comes to food.
I remember a few years ago when a school kid embarrassed a major food and drug company, GSK, after showing that Ribeena had almost no vitamin C in it. For years, that was its selling point and the reason we drank it as kids.
When it comes to chocolate, probably my biggest food addiction, how healthy is it really? And is all chocolate created equally?
If you read the ingredients list, you will see that some chocolate mentions Cocoa and some say Cacao. Essentially, Cocoa powder and Cacao powder are made from the same plant. The difference is that cocoa powder began its life as raw cacao, and then it has been roasted at high temperatures.
Unfortunately, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. So, Cacao is unprocessed while cocoa is processed. Cocoa is low on nutritional content compared to cacao, because most of the nutritional content disappears once cacao has undergone processing.
So what are the health benefits of raw cacao?
They are many! Cacao is very high in antioxidants, which helps to protect your nervous system. It also:
lowers insulin resistance
reduces blood pressure
reduces risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
guards against the damages of free radicals
improves your mood
is rich in minerals: magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.
It seems that some manufacturers do use raw cacao so you should probably look for this when you buy. You are more likely to find this in a health food shop, rather than a supermarket.
I would also opt for more than 70% cacao, as this way it has more of the good stuff and less sugar. You could also eat the raw 100% cacao nibs. I like them, but they are certainly not to everyone’s taste. As soon as you cook cacao, you will also destroy some of the health benefits so maybe use raw cacao powder in recipes that don’t need cooking.
Try a small amount of raw cacao powder, banana, and some acai berries or goji berries with some non-dairy milk (as dairy inhibits the absorption of the antioxidants), for a yummy, super healthy chocolate shake!