Can the benefits of cacao really supercharge your health?
Well there is good news, with this powerful superfood that originated in the foothills of Andes known as raw cacao you can!
The benefits of cacao are truly fantastic: it can improve your memory, increase your bliss, reduce heart disease, shed fat, boost immunity, and create loads of energy.
The Incas considered it the drink of gods, an association that gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink).
It may surprise you to discover that raw cacao contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas.
Raw (naturally fermented) cacao and processed chocolate sold in bars and pieces are two completely separate foods. Processed chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, sugar, milk, and other ingredients that turn it into a solid food.
Studies have found that by adding dairy this actually blocks the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate. While processed chocolate may taste delicious, the benefits of cacao are only found in the raw form.
How does raw cacao taste?
Most natural cacao available today has undergone a fermentation process (not roasting) that removes the bitterness. Both raw cacao beans and nibs undergo the fermentation process that preserves the antioxidants. If it is your first time eating cacao, we recommend using naturally fermented raw cacao beans.
This intensifies the berry and coffee notes naturally found in chocolate’s flavor. The intense flavor is similar to unsweetened dark cocoa powder or Baker’s chocolate.
If you prefer milk chocolate then you can add raw cacao to smoothies or mix with other foods to make it easier for you to get used to the stronger taste.
What is the difference between cacao beans and cacao nibs?
Cacao beans are the whole bean straight from the cacao fruit. Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and chopped up. Think of them as the crunchy superfood version of chocolate chips and these tasty little treats work well as a replacement to chocolate chips.
Supercharge Your Health With 21 Benefits of Cacao
1) Get Happy With Cacao : Some days you just need to find your bliss – cacao is one of the healthiest foods, you can consume. Cacao contains the mood improver, anandamide – known as the bliss molecule, which creates a feeling of euphoria.
2) As an aphrodisiac – Another mood-enhancing compound found in cacao is PEA or phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins and pleasurable opium-like neurochemicals. These often release naturally when we fall in love and during sexual activity. (The only other food on earth that contains PEA is blue-green algae.)
In addition these chemicals improve libido, which is probably why chocolate is so popular on Valentine ’s Day or as a token of love. Here at Daily Superfood Love headquarters we always accept gifts of cacao.
3) Balance Hormonal Mood Swings: Cacao boosts brain levels of serotonin, the feel good brain chemical. When women are experiencing PMS serotonin levels drop dramatically. The benefits of cacao are proven to boost the brain levels of calming hormones and restore feelings of well-being.
4) Protect Your Heart and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease: Flavanols an anti-inflammatory and heart protective antioxidant found in raw cacao may protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and help improve blood circulation.
Cacao contains over 700 compounds and the complex antioxidants found in it known as polyphenols help reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and prevent hardening of the arteries.
It is mind boggling to think that no heart drug on the market can come close to the protective benefits of cacao.
5) The Department of Nutrition at University of California, Davis discovered that cacao thins blood and can prevent blood clots. This finding shows that eating raw cacao can be just as beneficial as taking an aspirin a day.
6) Cacao can prevent premature aging – polyphenol antioxidants found in cacao belong to the same group of antioxidants as green tea and red wine. These anthocyanins (found in dark colored fruits) and catechins (found in green tea) protect our cells from premature oxidation or destruction and can keep us looking and feeling younger longer.
7) Drinking a cup of hot cacao before meals can help you shed fat. This is due to cacao’s MAO inhibitors, which shrink appetite.
MAO inhibitors are often found in weight loss products. However cacao’s unique MAO’s allow more serotonin to circulate in the brain. Don’t consume more than 40 grams or four heaping teaspoons of cacao daily.
If you find the taste of cacao too strong, add coconut milk, rice, or nut milk. Avoid dairy, as it will prevent antioxidant absorption.
By gently heating and making your own delicious hot cacao beverage, you will release more antioxidants and increase the appetite suppressant properties.
Add one teaspoon of cacao powder in a coffee cup of hot water or milk and drink 10-15 minutes before your next meal. Who needs dangerous diet pills? Not us.
8) Create loads of energy and combat fatigue with one of the highest concentrations of magnesium found in this natural food source. Magnesium also helps to protect against osteoporosis, reduces type II diabetes, and lowers blood pressure.
- Raw cacao powder (2tbsp) contains 52mg or 14% of daily value
- Raw cacao nibs or beans per 100 grams contain 272 mg or 65% of daily value
- The recommended RDA’s for Magnesium for a Male are 420mg and 320mg for a Female
9) Get shiny hair, strong nails, and take care of your liver and pancreas with this great source of sulfur.
10) Lower your blood pressure naturally, in a study of 470 men from the Zutphen Elderly study, the benefits of cacao intake are found to reduce blood pressure by patients who took a small amount every evening.
11) The antioxidant properties of cacao were also found to reduce insulin resistance and sensitivity in people with impaired glucose tolerance and smokers.
12) Cacao has the ability to help improve kidney and stimulate bowel function.
13) Reset your metabolism and restore your internal balance with cacao – Not getting enough antioxidants in your diet can have dangerous long-term health consequences. A Swiss 2009 study found that in just under two weeks cacao reduced the stress hormone cortisol, improved metabolism, and even improved gut microbial activity.
14) Prevent sunburns – A recent study by London scientists found participants who ate 20 grams of cacao for 12 weeks were able to stay in the sun for twice as long as those who didn’t, without getting sunburned.
15) Get glowing skin and improve skin texture – In 2006 the Journal of Nutrition found that women who drank cacao with at least 326 mg of flavonals a day had better skin texture, improved microcirculation, increased oxygen saturation, and improved skin hydration than those didn’t. Stir some cacao powder in your cup of coffee or add to a smoothie.
16) Skin cancer prevention – German scientists found that cacao may protect against harmful UV rays that cause cancer.
17) Fight tooth decay – Recent studies from Tulane University discovered that an extract of cocoa powder was even more effective than fluoride in preventing cavities. This crystalline extract similar to caffeine helps harden teeth enamel.
18) Theobromine found in cacao was found to halt coughs better than codeine or commercial cough suppressants with the equivalent of two cups. In fact the UK based study by the British Lung Foundation discovered codeine was only slightly more effective than the placebo at preventing coughing with no side effects.
19) Improves cognitive function and prevents Alzheimer’s – A Harvard study by Dr. Gary Small, showed that middle-aged people who drank two cups a day had improved memory and increased blood flow to the brain.
20) Better digestion thanks to the fiber found in raw cacao, that stimulates the body’s digestive enzymes.
21) Healthy fats – your body needs fat contrary to what some health practitioners preach. Fats are the helpers that create chemical reactions for: growth, immune function, and metabolic function. Healthy fats found in raw cacao are similar to the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.
Five Ways to use Cacao Everyday
1) The Ultimate Moisturizer
Whip up a batch of this homemade body butter that smells like you opened a European chocolate shop. Recipe adapted from Holistic Squid.
- 1 cup unrefined cacao butter
- 1 cup coconut oil
- Combine and melt all ingredients in a double boiler (gently!).
- Transfer to bowl (use the bowl you are going to whip it in) and chill in freezer for 20 to 40 minutes. Mixture should be firm and have some give in it when you touch it. Don’t allow it become completely solid.
- Whip the semi-solid mixture for 3-5 minutes until white peaks form. It will look like thicker whipped cream.
- Scoop into jars and cover.
- Chill for one hour in the fridge.
Note: If you live in a warmer climate you may want to keep your mixture in the fridge as it could melt. If it does then simply whip again.
2) Cacao “Oatmeal” A Gluten-Free & Low-Carb Breakfast
Try cacao (faux-oatmeal) breakfast porridge for a yummy fudge-like alternative to oatmeal. We can’t get enough of eating this chocolate treat for breakfast. It’s almost like chocolate cake batter, but good for you. One bowl has approximately 150 calories if you use Stevia.
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 3 tsp stevia or sweetener of choice
- 1 cup water
- Mix coconut flour, cacao powder, and stevia together in a microwave safe bowl
- Add water and stir until combined
- Microwave for 2 minutes, stir well – you may need to add a tablespoon of water if using a different brand. Microwave for another minute.
- Let cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy!
3) Cacao & Berry Power Smoothie
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
- 1 peeled banana
- 1 tablespoon goji berries
- ½ cup of frozen or raw raspberries
- 1 cup coconut milk or nut milk
- Handful of ice
-Add all ingredients to blender and blitz for one minute.
4)Relaxing Cacao Café for Two
- 2 cups coconut or cashew nut milk
- 3 pitted dates
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 3 ½ tsp raw cacao powder
- 1 tsp ground coffee (optional)
- Add all ingredients to blender and blitz for one minute.
- Transfer to pot and gently heat until warmed through
- Pour into mugs and enjoy
5) Cacao Bean Steak & Garlicky Greens
Ingredient for the Cacao Spice Rub
- 2 tsp cacao nibs (ground in a blender or food processor) or cacao powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp raw sugar, Lucuma, or coconut crystals
- 1 tsp each of smoked paprika, turmeric, black pepper
- ½ tsp each of cumin and thyme (optional)
- 2 Grass fed steaks (ribeye, filet, strip or even ground beef)
Ingredients for Garlicky Greens
- 4 cups chopped kale or spinach
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- Sea salt & red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp or a squeeze of fresh lemon
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp olive oil, coconut oil, or grass fed butter
Optional step: We like to wrap our steaks in paper towels for at least 5 hours or even overnight if using ribeyes to give them a dry-aged taste. Flip the steaks over every couple of hours.
1) Combine all seasonings together adjust, as you like.
2) Rub steaks evenly on all sides with the cacao spice mixture right before cooking
3) Grill or fry in skillet. If frying in skillet add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan once it’s heated and then sprinkle a little extra salt and cook to your desired doneness. We find the coconut oil helps the steak brown nicely.
4) Remove when done and cover with foil
5) Let steaks rest for five minutes
Time to cook your greens
6) In a separate pan heat the oil
7) Add in the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes once garlic is golden then add in your greens with a ¼ cup of water
8) Stir until greens are vibrant in color and wilted.
9) Sprinkle salt and squeeze of lemon
10) Stir well and remove bowl to serve.
Feel free to sprinkle cacao nibs on salad, in your baked goods, or add to foods instead of nuts.
Cacao was considered a sacred food of the Aztec’s and reserved only for adult males of high rank: priests, government officials, warriors, and military officers. It was thought to be too intoxicating a food for women and children…well we are happy that isn’t the case now.
In fact, you should indulge in the health benefits of cacao whenever you want.
Just remember don’t open a foil wrapper when reaching for chocolate, go for natural raw cacao to get the maximum benefit of chocolate as a superfood.