It might be common knowledge that dark chocolate is better for your health than milk chocolate. It also might be common knowledge that cocoa can give you a lot of health benefits.
But what might not be common knowledge is that majority of dark chocolate nowadays has gone through so much processing that a lot of its nutrients and antioxidants are lost. When this happens, most of what is consumed is just sugar and fat. Another fact that might not be common knowledge is the difference between cacao and cocoa.
This article will attempt to show you once again how bad chocolate is for your health. But it will also teach you the importance of raw chocolate. It will also teach you where to find it and how to prepare your food with it.
Cacao is the most basic, raw chocolate. Cacao beans that are not treated can be thought of as a superfood with an abundance of antioxidants and important healthy ingredients.
You can find cacao growing on trees called Theobroma cacao. The Theobroma can be found in Central and South America. Pods that come out of the Theobroma contain around forty to sixty cacao seeds. After a harvest, seeds are taken from the pods and are naturally fermented and dried. It takes one to two weeks to dry the seeds. After this, you get raw cacao beans.
Raw cacao beans go through roasting and become cocoa. When combined with sugar and fat, this cocoa turns into chocolate. Roasting destroys the antioxidants in cacao, and minimizes the potent benefits in raw cacao.
Benefits of Cacao
There are a lot of significant healthy ingredients in raw chocolate – magnesium, flavonoids (antioxidants), several B vitamins, oleic acid (healthy fat), protein and fiber. There are also important minerals like calcium, zinc and iron in cacao.
These ingredients are known to provide several health benefits.
1.Reduced blood pressure and better circulation
Flavanols and other ingredients in cacao can reduce one’s BP and improve blood flow through the promotion of the overall health of arteries and veins.
2.Better cardiovascular performance
The antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in cacao can help the heart perform better by reducing one’s BP, enhancing circulation, getting rid of bad cholesterol, and removing plaque in the arteries.
3.Neutralization of free radicals
Antioxidants can battle free radicals that are born from being exposed to the sun, pollutants, and similar harmful factors. All these may harm the body and lead to serious illnesses.
4. Improved digestion
Fiber in cacao aids in digestion. Cacao also causes the body to produce more digestive enzymes.
5.Enhanced well-being, both physically and mentally
A number of the ingredients of cacao work with each other to help us become healthier both physically and mentally. Some ingredients enhance the performance of the central nervous system, soothe muscle pain and help blood flow to cause an influx of energy for the consumer. Other ingredients aid in circulation which leads to heightened levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. This helps improve people’s moods.
Things to remember when you buy cacao
Markets for health food almost always sell cacao beans. You can get whole beans, nibs or powdered beans.
Nibs are beans which are peeled and crushed. Powder is peeled and cold-pressed.
Check and see the cover if it says “raw”. These are unroasted. They have only gone through fermentation and drying, and they still carry with them all their healthy ingredients.
Levels of raw chocolate
1. Raw chocolate
2. Unroasted cocoa powder
3. Dark chocolate with low percentages of sugar and high percentages of cocoa powder or liquor.
Including raw chocolate in your meals
There are lots of variations for you when including raw cacao in your meals. You can snack on the beans. You can smash them into nibs and mix them with other snacks. If you are not happy with the bitterness, mix them with cocoa powder before adding them into your dishes. You can add them to fruit drinks, trail mixes, oatmeal, yogurt, milk or even power drinks. You can even use nibs to take the place of choco chips in your favorite cookies and pastries.