Crazy for Cacao

Cacao, or raw chocolate, might be the best superfood ever. Before you start questioning my obsession with chocolate, one thing needs to be clarified. I am not referring to Hersey’s, Snickers or any other commercial brand.  I am talking about chocolate in its purest state – before all the fat, sugar, fillers and dairy are added.

Cacao originates from a Greek word meaning “food of the Gods” and is grown in 25 feet high tropical trees found in Mexico, South America, parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. These trees produce seed pods called beans where the raw chocolate is stripped from its protective shell and laid in the sun to ferment. From there, cacao is transformed into many different forms: powder to make smoothies, butter for baking and nibs for snacking.

WARNING! Please be aware not to confuse CACAO with COCOA.  They are often used interchangeably; however, this is a mistake!  Cocoa is a is the processed and sweetened cacao. (think hot cocoa) Cacao is used to describe the seeds, the tree where the seeds grow, and the pods that holds the actual cacao beans. So when shopping, make sure to read labels and check the spelling!

The cacao pods  

So what are the nutritional benefits?

ANTIOXIDANTS – Cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. By weight, cacao has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates, and goji berries COMBINED.

LOVE – Cacao contains phenylethylamine, a chemical mood enhancer and natural antidepressant responsible for the feeling of love and well-being. Plus, it’s an aphrodisiac. 🙂

BALANCE – Cacao raises levels of serotonin which creates a balancing effect making you feel happy and at peace. Serotonin also helps strengthen our stress defense and supports an effective immune system.

THEOBROMINE – Theo what?!? This mild stimulant has a diuretic effect that helps push toxins out of the body. It is also an effective anti-bacterial substance that kills bacteria responsible for cavities.

MULTIVITAMIN – Cacao contains vitamins A, B (1,2,3,5 and 6) C, E and Pantothenic acid. It also contains zinc, manganese, copper, calcium, sulfur, chromium, phosphorus, omega 6 fatty acids and soluble fiber.

MAGNESIUM – Cacao is the highest plant source of magnesium on the planet, the most deficient mineral in our modern diet. Magnesium improves movement of the bowels and relieves constipation, lessens PMS symptoms, builds strong bones, boosts mental focus and has been connected to increased happiness and improved mood.

WEIGHT LOSS – Cacao is an extraordinary weight loss food because it contains minerals and substances that actually shut off the appetite. Contrary to popular opinion, cacao contains very little caffeine but is also a highly effective natural energy enhancer.

DISCLAIMER: While cacao is highly nutritious, it can be fattening if overeaten. Even in it’s raw pure form, chocolate (nibs or cacao seeds) still contains calories. So moderation please!

IRON – Cacao contains approximately 314% of the U.S. RDA of iron per 1 ounce serving. Iron is essential for carrying oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. Consuming cacao is one of the best ways to keep our blood healthy.

TASTE – Cacao is chocolatey goodness. It’s a creamy, delicious and nutritious – especially for all you chocolate lovers out there. It’s almost too good to be true!

Give it a try. Add to your smoothie for a chocolate indulgence. Try the cacao butter in your next holiday recipe or even as a skin moisturizer. Snack on nibs right out of the bag for a healthy and fun treat. I promise you will love it.

Leave a comment below and let me know what’s your favorite way to eat cacao!