Complete Guide to Cacao – The Superfood

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Understanding Cacao as a Superfood

Cacao holds a treasure of nutrients that boost health and vitality. It steps beyond cocoa by offering more minerals, antioxidants, and fewer sugars, making it a powerhouse for anyone looking to improve their diet.

What is Cacao?

Cacao comes from the Theobroma cacao tree, native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. Its seeds, also known as beans, are the primary source of chocolate. Before turning into the chocolate bars we enjoy, these beans undergo fermentation, drying, and heating.

This superfood boasts impressive levels of magnesium and antioxidants like flavonoids, calcium, zinc, copper, and selenium. With more antioxidants per gram than other power foods like blueberries and pomegranates, cacao stands out in the nutrient-rich crowd.

Unlike its processed cousin cocoa powder often stripped of nutritional value due to heavy processing including ‘Dutch processing’, raw cacao retains its health benefits. 

It stimulates three happy brain chemicals—serotonin for mood lifting, dopamine for pleasure, and phenylethylamine associated with feeling in love—making it a natural mood enhancer and antidepressant without equal in the plant kingdom.

An amazing fact is that despite being so beneficial, most chocolate products contain very little cacao. Mixing it with chemicals, pesticides, and dairy sugar spikes insulin levels, stripping away its goodness. Hence, choosing ceremonial grade or raw forms ensures you get the full spectrum of its benefits.

What Are Cacao Nibs?

Cacao nibs are small, crushed pieces of cacao beans. These tiny bits pack a powerful nutritional punch, making them a prized superfood. Full of antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and calcium, they stand out as a healthier alternative to traditional chocolate products.

Unlike milk chocolate or other sweet treats that come loaded with added sugars and dairy, cacao nibs keep things simple and healthy.

You can easily integrate these crunchy bits into your diet by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal bowls, or baked goods like bread and cookies. Their rich flavor enhances the taste of desserts and breakfast dishes alike without the need for artificial additives.

Offering more health-boosting flavonoids per ounce than many other renowned superfoods—think blueberries and goji berries—cacao nibs turn everyday meals into nutrient-dense feasts.

History of Cacao

cacao history
Cacao- A Long and Exciting History

Drinking cacao was once considered a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Even embattled soldiers would consume it during wartime. In 1502, Columbus first encountered the cacao bean during a stopover in Nicaragua.

Discovery of Brown Gold

The significance of chocolate, often called ‘brown gold,’ was truly understood when Hernando Cortez drank it with Montezuma, the renowned Aztec emperor, and then introduced it to his Spanish courts in 1528. Cortez also brought the necessary equipment to brew it properly in his country.

In 1585, a shipment of cacao beans from Spain was sent to the Iberian Peninsula, initiating the cacao trade. Subsequently, chocolate shops were established, signaling a growing demand for this delectable ‘nectar’ of the New World.

Food Of the Gods

  • The very first chocolate sweet appeared in 1674 in England. The powder came from the Dutch in 1828, chocolate bars from Great Britain in 1830, and chocolates with hazelnuts. 
  • Switzerland followed with their famous Nestlé chocolates, and it was from 1830 to 1879 that Lindt developed his chocolate fondant.
  • Later, the sweet maker Hershey started producing chocolate at his Pennsylvania factory in the USA.Later, the sweet maker Hershey started producing chocolate at his Pennsylvania factory in the USA.

Chocolate is a popular sweet worldwide, with over 3 million tonnes of cacao beans consumed yearly. It is a natural aphrodisiac and good for the heart and brain. The Aztecs and Mayans considered it the “food of the gods.”

Nutritional Profile of Cacao

Cacao packs a punch with its rich nutritional value. It brings together essential minerals and antioxidants that support overall health.

Cacao Powder Nutrition

Exploring the nutritional aspects of cacao powder reveals why this ingredient is more than just a part of your favorite dessert. Rich in vital nutrients, cacao powder stands out in the superfood category.

NutrientAmount per 100gBenefits
AntioxidantsExtremely HighProtects cells from damage by harmful molecules
Iron13.9 mgSupports blood health, surpassing beef and lamb
MagnesiumHighEssential for heart health and brain function
CalciumMore than cow’s milkStrengthens bones
ZincHealthy AmountBoosts immune system
CopperGood SourceHelps with iron absorption
SeleniumPresentImportant for thyroid health
Table 1. Nutritional content of Cacao Powder

Cacao powder offers a treasure of health benefits. Its antioxidant content is higher than that of blueberries, goji berries, and even red wine. 

This aspect makes it a powerhouse for fighting off damage to our cells. Imagine getting more iron from cacao than from meat, making it a fantastic option for those on a plant-based diet. 

Its magnesium content supports not only the heart and brain but also brings calm. With more calcium than dairy milk, it’s an excellent choice for bone health. 

Cacao powder doesn’t just dazzle with these elements; it also brings zinc, copper, and selenium to the table, enriching your diet in unexpected ways. Integrating cacao powder into your meals can be a simple yet effective step toward better health.

Health Benefits of Cacao

Cacao packs a punch with its health perks, like guarding your heart and boosting brain power, making it a must-add to your diet.

Antioxidant Properties

Cacao is a superfood because it packs more antioxidants per gram than many other foods. These powerful substances fight off damage from harmful molecules in our bodies. 

They are critical in keeping us healthy, particularly by protecting our cells and tissues.

This protection is critical to preventing chronic diseases like heart conditions and diabetes.

 Its high antioxidant content is linked to numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving heart health.

With every bite of dark candy or sip of a rich beverage made with this nutritious seed, you’re not just indulging in a delicious treat but also shielding your body against various ailments.

High Iron Content

Cacao is the top plant-based source of iron, boasting 13.9 mg for every 100g. This makes it a powerhouse for those looking to boost their iron levels. By comparison, beef and lamb only offer about 2.5 mg of iron per same weight.

Cacao’s high iron levels can be particularly beneficial for individuals with low iron or anemia, contributing significantly to their overall health.

Including cacao in your diet directly impacts your well-being by improving blood oxygenation and combating fatigue often associated with anemia.

It doesn’t just stop at boosting energy; this rich source of iron also supports brain function and immune system strength, making it a vital ingredient for maintaining good health across various fronts.

Magnesium Richness

Magnesium plays a key role in maintaining heart health and improving brain function. This essential mineral also supports the nervous system and helps to manage blood pressure levels.

Cacao is one of nature’s top sources of magnesium, making it an excellent choice for those looking to boost their intake.

Cocoa Versus Cacao

Cacao vs Cocoa
There is a Difference between Cacao and Cocoa
  • Cacao and cocoa are both beneficial for your health, but if you’re seeking additional nutrients, cacao is the superior choice. Cacao provides monounsaturated fats, cholesterol-free saturated fats, minerals, vitamins, natural proteins, carbohydrates, and protein.
  • It’s believed that spelling cacao as cocoa was a mistake, so technically, they are the same. Today, cocoa refers to processed chocolate with added sugars, while raw cacao contains no sugar, making it the better choice.
  • Cacao is a pure form of chocolate, raw and unprocessed, containing high levels of magnesium and antioxidants.
  • Cacao and cocoa are different. While they start from the same place, their processes have different effects on their nutritional benefits. Most studies exploring the links between chocolate and health benefits are focused on real cacao beans in raw form, not the chocolate found in stores.

Conclusion

Exploring cacao as a superfood opens doors to countless health benefits, from boosting heart health to enhancing mood with natural bliss chemicals. This guide showed how simply incorporating cacao into your diet can offer nutritional advantages and make everyday meals exciting.

Try adding it to smoothies, homemade frozen desserts, or even morning granola to kickstart your journey towards a healthier lifestyle. Cacao doesn’t just satisfy our sweet tooth; it’s a powerhouse of nutrients ready to transform our well-being.

Let this be the start of embracing more wholesome choices in your diet with raw organic cacao leading the way.

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