The health benefits of cacao are pretty impressive — but before you go reaching for a chocolate bar in the name of wellness let’s clarify a few things.
Adding cacao to your diet can help everything from glowing skin to lowering your cholesterol.
The catch is that if you want all the nutrients that are packed in the cacao bean, you’ll need to opt for raw cacao rather than you’re typical chocolatey products that have loads of processed sugars.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will earn from qualifying purchases. On that note, my promise to you is that I never promote products that I don’t believe in.
What is Raw Cacao?
Raw cacao is coming from cacao beans that haven’t been processed or roasted. The chocolate that we are used to coming across in our day-to-day is processed through a method called Dutch Processing, which was created to reduce the bitterness giving it a mellower flavor that we are now used to having today.
While dutch processing was successful in creating a flavor that has become one of the world’s favorite sweets, by subjecting the beans to heat they lose somewhere between 60-90% of the benefits that raw cacao has.
Raw Cacao still has to be processed in order to soften the bean enough for us to eat it, but rather than using heat raw cacao is cold-pressed before it is turned into its final forms, such as cacao powder or cacao bars.
What are the Benefits of Cacao?
Now let’s get into the good stuff, the benefits of cacao:
Cacao is Rich in Antioxidants
Cacao beans are packed with Polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants. In particular raw cacao has an abundance of flavanols, which have some of the most potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
While you might have heard that blueberries are one of the best things to eat for a diet rich in antioxidants, raw cacao actually has 40x more antioxidants than blueberries.
Now you might be wondering, that’s great but what are antioxidants good for anyways?
Antioxidants are what fight free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are toxins that cause harm to our bodies on a cellular level. They cause damage to our DNA which can cause cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Unfortunately, free radicals come into our bodies through multiple sources. From Air pollution and cigarette smoke to alcohol and radiation from things like sunbathing, free radicals are around us all the time. This is why it’s important to make sure your diet is rich in antioxidants.
If we look at cacaos ORAC score, which measures the ability of antioxidants to absorb freed radicals — cacao receives an impressive 98,000 per 100g, whereas blueberries come in at 2,400 per 100g.
Cacao is a Natural Mood Booster
After sipping a cozy hot raw cacao, or adding powered cacao to your morning smoothie you might feel more relaxed and overall happier. This isn’t because of the incredible sensorial pleasure that comes with the rich taste of cacao, although that doesn’t hurt.
Cacao beans have not only one, but six of the scientifically proven happy chemicals: Serotonin, Anandamide, Theobromine, Tryptophan, Tyrosine, and Phenylethylamine. This is why some people believe that having cacao in your diet on a regular basis helps ease depression and makes us overall happier.
More Calcium than Milk
Something you might not have thought about is that cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk. With 160mg per 100g whether you’re looking for a plant-based source of calcium, or you want an alternative form of calcium to keep your bones strong, cacao has got you covered.
Cacao is a Brainfood with loads of Magnesium
Cacao is one of the highest sources of magnesium. On a cellular level magnesium is extremely important because it’s needed by every cell in our body to function.
Magnesium keeps our brains sharp by turning glucose into energy. This fights brain fog and gives us more focus and clarity. This makes cacao not only a superfood but also a brainfood.
While being low on magnesium normally doesn’t have any noticeable side effects outside of brain fog, having enough it has numerous benefits to our body. Such as helping our muscles recover after strenuous workouts, reducing inflammation, and increasing the quality of our sleep.
Cacao is a Coffee Alternative
Looking to cut back on Coffee? Brewed cacao makes a great alternative to your daily cup of joe. While cacao doesn’t have as much caffeine per cup as coffee, it still has enough caffeine to give you a boost. Plus it’s easier on the body with a more neutral pH value than coffee which is acidic.
How Do You Eat Raw Cacao?
Now that you know all the benefits of raw cacao you’re probably eager to start incorporating it into your diet. There are many forms that you can buy raw cacao in, they’re all great so which you should get just depends on what you plan on doing with it.
Raw Cacao Nibs
Great for adding a crunch to your granola or smoothie bowl, or just to snack on throughout the day.
My go-to Cacao Powder is Nativas Raw Organic Cacao Nibs:
Raw Cacao Paste (Bars/Chips)
This is what is used in cacao ceremonies. They are many different types coming from different origins with different levels of bitterness or intensities. This is what I buy for my morning cacao ritual every morning. I melt it on the stove in plant-based milk.
My go-to raw cacao paste is from Ora Cacao:
I like Ora because they explain which mood each cacao is for, and which activities it suits best.
Get 5% off when you use my Ora Cacao Coupon code: MAIACONSCIOUSLIVING
Raw Cacao Beans
The crunchy cacao beans can be eaten as an energy–boosting snack. I like to eat them in the afternoon when I normally would want to have a coffee to keep me alert.
My go-to cacao beans are Yupik’s Organic Raw Cacao Beans:
Raw Cacao Powder
Sprinkle it over fruit, or add it to almost anything to get a rich chocolatey flavor without the processed sugar that comes with cocoa powder.
My go-to Cacao Powder is Nativas Raw Organic Cacao Powder:
Raw Cacao Butter
Cacao butter is perfect for making all the decadent sweets a little more nutritious. You can blend it into frostings, any sweet sauces, and warm drinks, like creamy lattes.
My go-to Cacao Butter is Nativas Raw Organic Cacao Butter: