Like most everyone in the human race, I love chocolate. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Years ago when I first read about cacao and it being classified as a superfood, I truly assumed it was a typo and the writer meant to write cocoa.
Finding out cocoa (which is processed into the yummy stuff) was a superfood was the greatest day of my life. Until 5 minutes later, I realized in fact, cacao and cocoa were two very similar but different things. Womp womp!
Learn more about superfoods in this series.
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Processing Makes a Difference
The cocoa bean is the same, it’s how it’s processed that makes the difference.
When the cocoa bean is roasted at high temperatures and then processed, cocoa powder results. Unfortunately, this also lowers the nutritional value.
When the cocoa bean is cold-processed, you get powder, nibs, and butter.
Most people are familiar with cacao powder but what’s a nib and isn’t butter for the skin?
What are Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs are basically broken cacao pieces that result from separating the bean from the shell and breaking them down. They are a bit bitter, I mean, I don’t want you to be under the impression you’re eating chocolate chips. I wouldn’t recommend shoving a fistful into your mouth and thinking they’ll taste like chocolate chips. You’ll be sorely disappointed.
What is Cacao Butter
Part of the processing involves grinding down the beans and pressing them. The simple explanation is grinding them and pressing them separates out the oil, which is the cacao butter, from the powder. It’s a stable vegetable fat that can be consumed or applied to the skin. I was surprised the first time I bought a package, the butter was in these large chunks of all different sizes. I didn’t buy the cacao butter to make body lotion. Keep reading to find out what I used it for.
Raw Cacao Health Benefits
So now let’s talk about the real reason you’re here, raw cacao health benefits!
Raw Cacao contains a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for your personal well being.
Magnesium – y’all, this mineral is necessary for like a gazillion processes in the body. Seriously though, it’s needed for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Can’t poop, take some magnesium. Restless leg, take some magnesium. Mood swings, take magnesium. It is essential for so many processes.
Manganese – necessary for metabolism, growth and development.
Copper -important for heart health, plays a role in making red blood cells among other processes in the body.
Zinc – necessary for a healthy immune system.
Potassium – important for the heart, brain, kidneys and muscular tissues to work.
Iron – trace mineral found in every living cell in our body. We all know spinach has iron, who remembers Popeye the Sailor? How exciting to find out that raw cacao is a good source of iron.
Flavonols (a type of polyphenol) – have anti-inflammatory benefits and promote heart health by protecting against heart disease, lowering blood pressure and improving blood circulation. Complete transparency, when I read about flavonols, well, there’s a lot of sciency words in there and rather than get it wrong, if you’re interested in learning more, I suggest What Are Flavanoids?.
Fiber – we all know the importance of fiber. Helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and to keep your bowels regular.
Serotonin – chemical in the body that helps boost mood and fight depression.
Dopamine – chemical in the body that makes you feel energized, and motivated and helps you concentrate and be alert.
Y’all know I don’t do science. For a more detailed run down on all these minerals, I recommend heading on over to Dr. Axe’s website and searching on the minerals you want to learn more about. I find his information thorough yet easier to understand than a science journal.
How To Eat Raw Cacao
We have a decent balance (at least I think so) of homemade and processed food in our house. I mean, with kids, you have to. I use raw cacao powder in things like smoothies, hot chocolate, and desserts.
Nibs can take a minute to adjust to simply because they are slightly bitter but they make a great topping on fruit salad, pudding, yogurt, smoothie bowls, overnight oats. They are also great added in to smoothies, muffins, and trail mix.
My first experience with cocoa butter was the lotion that they recommend when you’re pregnant to help minimize stretch marks. That’s not the butter I’m referring to when I say I use it in my coffee. If you’re familiar with the keto way of eating, you may have come across a coffee recipe that blends raw cacao butter in to the coffee, with a few other ingredients. The blended coffee is oh so delicious! Aside from that, I haven’t used it in any other recipe.
Raw Cacao Powder, Nibs and Butter are all becoming more widely available in everything from grocery stores to Target to Home Goods. Unless you find it on sale or at Home Goods, I’ve found the best prices on Amazon, no surprise there. I like the Navitas brand and if you come look in my pantry now, you’ll find a bag of powder and a bag of nibs.
Are you a raw cacao lover or ready to jump in? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ingredients.
Make it a green day!