Do you really need more motivation to eat chocolate? All joking aside, cacao is a powerhouse of an ingredient and shouldn’t be overlooked in a good diet because of its association with candy bars and excess sugar. When eaten alone, or as an ingredient in a clean protein powder or all natural food bar, cacao has many health benefits, and has a place in a healthy diet. Read on for the amazing health benefits of cacao! 

What is cacao?

What is cacao, and is it the same thing as cocoa? Cacao and cocoa actually both come from cacao beans from the same plant, the theobroma cacao plant, also known as the cacao tree or cocoa tree. However, cacao is a more pure, raw version while cocoa has been processed with high heat. As you probably know, the high heat used to process cocoa results in some nutrient loss. Cacao is often formed into a “butter” or cacao powder. 

Benefits of cacao

Cacao contains many functional ingredients that render it a great food for health. Functional ingredients can support healthy living by promoting good health, boosting energy, or augmenting the body’s natural defenses. Cacao is rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Cacao also contains essential fatty acids like oleic acid. Oleic acid can help manage cholesterol levels and can provide  circulatory support. Another good thing about oleic acid is that it has antioxidant properties as well. In fact, raw cacao has a higher concentration of antioxidants than both green tea and red wine. 

Cacao also has benefits for your mental health and sense of well being. It contains theobromine, a mild stimulant which may have a role in managing depressive symptoms. It also contains phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA interacts with dopamine- a neurotransmitter that is involved in energy, mood and emotional regulation 

Finally, cacao is high in many nutrients and functional ingredients, including iron and calcium, fiber, essential fatty acids, magnesium, and tryptophan, among other nutrients. 

Cacao is yet another great example of how a humble ingredient from nature can contain so much goodness. Remember, healing starts with good food! And, as we see from cacao, that good food can taste great!