You may have heard of cacao already, it seems to be the superfood of the moment and for good reason. Cacao is the raw, unprocessed form
of cocoa. Very similar in name, look and both come from the same Theobroma
cacao tree but should not be confused with each another. Raw cacao is jam
packed with magnesium and flavonoids and its superfood powers are so strong
that it used to be used as currency by the Mayans and Aztecs, they considered
it “the food of the Gods”. Think of cacao as the healthier relative of cocoa:
it’s made by cold pressing unroasted cocoa beans, keeping its natural
beneficial content intact, whereas cocoa is highly processed. Cocoa is roasted
at high temperatures and often has a lot of sugar added to it, which takes away
almost all the health benefits. In fact cocoa has 90% less antioxidants than
raw cacao purely because it has been processed or refined.
The health benefits of cacao are vast as the beans are rich in
minerals including calcium, magnesium, sulphur, iron, zinc, potassium, copper
and manganese. Cacao contains the largest source of magnesium than any other
food. Magnesium helps build strong bones, improves brain function and helps
regulate heart and blood pressure. The high levels of antioxidants in raw cacao
help support the nervous and cardiovascular system by stopping free radicals
from forming. As well as being the food source which contains the highest
levels of magnesium it also has more antioxidant flavonoids than any other food
tested. More than tea, red wine or blueberries and it has four times the amount
of antioxidants than in green tea.
But the health benefits don’t stop there. Cacao also contains
sulphur (a “beauty” mineral) which helps build strong nails, hair and promotes
healthy skin. It helps boost your mood as cacao raises the levels of serotonin
(the happy hormone) and endorphins in your body, producing a pleasurable
sensation in the brain, acting as an anti-depressant.
Raw cacao usually comes in two forms, cacao nibs and raw cacao powder.
The nibs are often eaten as they are as a snack to give you that chocolatey hit
without all the sugar and fat or melted down and the cacao powder is often used
in baking and smoothies. You can use this superfood powder to make raw cacao
chocolate, chocolate milkshakes or smoothies and baking treats. It’s a great
replacement for your afternoon biscuit or chocolate bar and packs a super food
nutritious punch. A little goes a long way as the flavour of the raw cacao
powder is quite strong and bitter (more so than dark chocolate) so try
sweetening it with natural sweeteners like honey or fruit.