Chocolate is delicious! There is simply NO arguing that fact. We just love it, don’t we! And with GOOD reason. Mmmm….
But what you may not understand is the difference between Cacao and Cocoa, and why that difference should matter to you.
Perhaps you have never even heard that there is any difference between the two. Maybe, you just thought that people were simply saying the same word two different ways.
Pantry Picks: A Very Important KEY
We want to help you get the absolute best products for your body into your pantry. This is a HUGE key to being healthy and losing weight. So let’s unravel this mystery once and for all!
Both products, Cocoa and Cacao, start from the same tree, Theobroma cacao, which is a small evergreen tree. It is native to South and Central America. Cacao Beans are seeds that grow inside of pods from which they are removed at harvest time.
Although most cacao AND cocoa is fermented, some companies do supply non-fermented cacao. The non-fermented variety has more bitterness, and has been shown in some studies to have a higher concentration of antioxidants than the more readily available fermented type.
(And just in case you are wondering…Each pod contains approximately 40 seeds, and each tree produces about 100-300 pods per year. The yearly yield from one tree per year ranges from 9-22 pounds of beans.) And isn’t that tree PRETTY!
So, What’s The Difference?
It may surprise you to learn that when Cocoa is made, the cacao beans are roasted in very high heat. This removes many of the amazing health benefits of the bean. Cocoa is often sold as a “mix” which is alkalinized, contains additives (to help lower the manufacturer’s cost), anti-caking agents, and may also include added sweeteners such as corn syrup. But even in it’s most pure form, Cocoa does not give you the benefits that cacao provides, and here’s why.
Cacao is the more natural, non-alkalinized product without additives or added sweeteners. Raw Cacao Powder is created by cold pressing cacao beans at a low temperature, as opposed to the high heat process used to make cocoa powder. Because of the much lower heat used to process Cacao, the health benefits from the bean remain, and those health benefits are many!
It’s A Superfood?
You may have heard that Cacao is known as one of the world’s Superfoods, and it’s true! That little bean is GREAT for you, because it is one of the best plant-based sources of iron and magnesium.
Cacao is very high in antioxidants. According to studies, cacao helps to lower blood pressure, regulate insulin levels, and to boost feelings of pleasure and overall well-being. That means it’s a bit of an antidepressant, so it just makes you feel better!
You know what else makes you feel fantastic? Why, a healthy, quick, and simple dessert, of course. YUM! The kind of dessert that you can feel good about, because you control the amounts and kinds of sweeteners and other items that go into it. Now it just so happens that Raw Organic Cacao is one of my favorite dessert ingredients!
Here’s a quick tip to remember: If you bake Cacao in a high heat oven, many of the nutrients may be lost in the heating process.
That’s why I LOVE using cacao powder in raw dessert recipes. It’s delicious AND brings the great health benefits right along with it!
Cacao is not only available in powdered form, but also as nibs (which are a bit crunchy & not sweet) and as cacao butter.
The nibs are a nice snack for stocking your pantry, and are great to use as a chocolate chip replacement. Just keep in mind that they are not soft and melty like chocolate chips, but instead they add a delightful crunch. They have no sugar added, and you’ll love sprinkling them into your trail mixes and adding them to homemade granola. Topping sliced bananas with a bit of nut butter and a sprinkle of cacao nibs also makes an amazing treat. And you should definitely consider adding them to banana nice cream, overnight oatmeal, and fruit salad too.
If you choose to buy pre-prepared chocolate, keep in mind that much of it is very high in sugar, especially milk chocolate. Even many dark chocolate bars still contain milk solids, unhealthy sweeteners, and other things that you don’t want to put into your body if your goal is to be healthy and lose weight.
For pre-mixed chocolate, chose cacao content of 70% or higher (a darker chocolate), which will most likely contain less sugar than the varieties with less cacao. The darker chocolates are more bitter due to their higher polyphenol content. (Polyphenols are responsible for many of the health benefits of Cacao.)
Be sure to keep your eye on the ingredients list, knowing that the less ingredients the better.
And as always we recommend choosing organic.
This concludes The Great Cacao Mystery.
P.S. If you love delicious and healthy chocolate treats, be sure to check out this incredible No Bake Chocolate Mousse.