The botanical name for Cacao is Theobroma Cacao, coming from one of the most popular trees in the world, the Cacao. The Greek translation for Theobrama Cacao is “Cacao, the food of gods”.
Firstly it’s important to distinguish the difference between Cacao and Cocoa, a lot of people think it’s the same thing, it isn’t! Cacao is the tree, whereas Cocoa is the product made from it. Edible parts of Cacao pods and the beans inside them can be processed to make Cocoa powder, cocoa butter and chocolate can be made after being dried and fermented. It’s also important not to confuse Cocoa with Coca, from which cocaine is made.
Cacao is the “Raw”, unprocessed form of Chocolate. They contain a variety of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. To make Chocolate the Raw Cacao Beans are roasted, forming Cocoa. This is then combined with sugar and fats until the beans are unrecognisable. The high heat reduces the levels of antioxidants and therefore minimises the health benefits found in the Raw Cacao.
The earliest evidence that Cacao was processed for ingestion goes back to 1400 BC, which is gathered from discoveries of it’s residue on pottery that was excavated in Honduras. However, it’s argued that it’s earliest use was in 1900 BC, by the Olmec used as a drink. Furthermore, elsewhere it is believed that it wasn’t until the Europeans got involved that sweetened forms of Cacao were present, adding honey and therefore making it appetizing. By the 17th century, this form of “Chocolate” was very popular across Europe.
DID YOU KNOW: Because of the medicinal and aphrodisiac properties in Cocoa beans they were traded just like currency among ancient South American civilisations.
Raw Cacao contains:
- Magnesium, Calcium, Carotene, Riboflavin, Sulfur, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Potassium and Manganese.
- Flavonoids and Proanthocyanins (this where the antioxidant properties mainly come from).
- Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B9 and E.
- Healthy Fats: Oleic Acid, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid
- High in Protein – Arginine, Glutamine, Leucine
- High in Fiber
But that’s not all! Raw Cacao Powder… which can be found in almost all of our Fruit and Nut bars 😉 contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly 20 times than that of Blueberries!
The health benefits of Raw Cacao are phenomenal. Due to the Flavanols and Theobromine are known to lower blood pressure as well as enhancing circulation. This is because of the effect they have by promoting dilation, as well as the health and strength of blood vessels. The antioxidant power of the flavanoids, combined with the minerals and vitamins found in the Cacao can also support the functioning of a healthy heart, this therefore promotes cardiovascular function and health. They also reduce plaque buildup on artery walls and lowers LDL cholesterol too!
Antioxidants are vitally important for protect the body from a buildup of free radicals that can come from cigarette smoking, pollution and even sun exposure! These all damage healthy body tissue, which can increase the chances of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Due to the ample amount of Fiber, this supports the digestion process, whilst also stimulating the body’s production of digestive enzymes. As mentioned above Raw Cacao contains components such as Leucine, Proteins, Alkaloids, Linoleic, Lysine, Lipase, Theobromine and Beta-Carotene that all work together to improve physical AND mental health. The Theobromine (a neurotransmitter) helps to stimulate the nervous system, relax smooth muscles (such as intestines and the respiratory passage) and dilate blood vessels, which in turn gives the body a boost of energy. Chemicals in Cacao can help increase circulation and availability of Serotonin and other Neurotransmitters in the Brain, improving mood and combating depression.
Raw Cacao also contains Phenylethylamine, which is a slight antidepressant and stimulant which is similar to that of adrenaline.
There’s a reason that Raw Cacao is known as a “Superfood”. They’re all above, but Raw Cacao can also be used to enhance the taste of products. I use Raw Cacao for the health benefits but when combined with the other ingredients it brings out this really tasty chocolate flavour. If you love chocolate then you’ll love the Bitter Brother bars. They have more Raw Cacao than any other bar as I use a “healthy” (see what I did there) amount coming from both Raw Cacao Nibs and Raw Cacao Powder.
P.S. The Bitter Brother bars are my favorite, but don’t tell the other bars that 😉
References and further reading:
- Ingalls, L. Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao Nibs Livestrong.com. 2011. ↩
- Cocoa Bean Wikipedia.org. 2012. ↩
- HEALTHY DARK CHOCOLATE – Raw, Untainted, Non-heated, Organic Cacao! . EnvironHealthTech.com. 2000. ↩
- Raw Cacao – The Real Chocolate! Lifefood.com. 2012. ↩
- Corti, R, Flammer, A, Hollenberg, N, Luchser, T. Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine Circulation, American Heart Assoc. 2012. ↩
- Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention . Cleveland Clinic. 2012. ↩
- Cacao Nibs Good Cause Wellness. 2012. ↩
- Live Superfoods Raw Cacao Powder. Live Superfoods. 2012. ↩
- Wintle, A. For Chocolate’s True Benefits, It’s Time To Ditch The Foil, And Get ‘Real’ . DailyMailUK. 2011. ↩
- Nutrition Facts for Cocoa and Chocolate. Cacao Web. 2003. ↩