Feeling guilty about all the chocolate you ate this Easter? Here are 7 little-known benefits of raw cacao to make it all okay.
Benefits of Cacao
What is Cacao?
Growing along areas near the equator, cacao is a tropical plant whose fruit is the source of everyone’s favourite Easter treat: chocolate. Your dentist may warn you against it, but the seed from this fruit actually packs a powerful nutritious punch that not only satisfies your sweet tooth, but also contributes to your good health.
Cacao or Cocoa?
What is the difference? Both cacao and cocoa powders are made from the dried seed of the Theobroma cacao fruit. They might look the same, but they are quite different. Cocoa powder is made from beans roasted at high temperatures. Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted beans, which preserves the nutritional benefits.
1. Good for your bones
This essentially gives you a pass to keep eating chocolate, even as you age because cacao is rich in calcium which is good for your ageing bones.
Calcium, the inorganic component that makes bones strong and healthy, is naturally present in raw cacao in large amounts. When someone says calcium, you automatically think of milk. However cacao actually has more calcium than an equal amount of milk.
2. Blood Pressure Friendly
Phytonutrients are essentially nutrients derived from plants and cacao is full of them. Studies show that the phytonutrients found in raw cacao are really good for blood pressure maintenance. Generally, the phytonutrients in raw cacao have blood-thinning properties, which makes blood flow better in the veins, thus, relieving blood pressure.
3. Good for your heart
One of the phytonutrients found in cacao are flavanols which are natural compounds found in some plants that have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective properties.
This means that the addition of cacao in your diet could help protect you from heart disease, improve blood circulation and even reduce the likelihood of a stroke.
These nutritional compounds have also been found to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol”.
4. A valuable Plant-based source of Iron
Iron is very important to the human body because it is one of the major components of haemoglobin, which is the part of your red blood cells that actually carry oxygen (and the part that makes your blood red).
Iron is easily found in meat. It is trickier to find enough iron when you follow a plant-based diet. Luckily, raw cacao is such a good source of iron that it is actually even richer than certain meats such as beef and lamb. In fact, some sources even say that cacao is the best source of plant-based iron out there.
5. Rich in Dietary Fibre
We all know the importance of getting enough fibre in our diet. Interestingly, cacao packs a ton of dietary fibre and we’re not talking about sugar. In fact, for something that makes chocolate, cacao by itself is actually very low in sugar. This is why dark chocolate – chocolate that has a higher cacao content – is more bitter than milk chocolate. Due to its indigestible nature, dietary fibre is an excellent addition to any diet. Not only is it healthy for your gastrointestinal system, but it can even promote weight loss by making you feel full.
6. Rich in Antioxidants
With the scare of cancer and awareness of free radicals, we are all looking to increase our intake of antioxidants. Briefly, free radicals are molecules with electrons that are unpaired, which makes them highly unstable. The nature of unpaired electrons is to seek balance, which means that they try to steal electrons from surrounding molecules.
Unfortunately, if they happen to take those electrons from important molecules in the body such as proteins or DNA, then function in those bio-molecules can be destroyed and lead to mutation – causing health issues.
Antioxidants are basically the opposite and contain extra electrons to give to these free radicals so that they don’t take them from somewhere else.
Include raw cacao in your diet because it is absolutely full of antioxidants – up to 40 times more than blueberries! And with hundreds of complex antioxidant compounds in raw cacao, what a delicious way to help prevent cancer.
We actually use certified organic raw cacao in our Organic Sun Balm. Why? In addition to providing a natural coloured tint to soften the bright white of zinc oxide, studies show using raw cacao on your skin provides many of the same benefits as eating it.
Eating cacao regularly has been shown to extend your ability to not get sunburned by almost double. It may also help protect against the harmful UV rays that cause cancer. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging the skin and help repair skin damage and premature aging. Rich in magnesium, a potent anti-inflammatory, cacao also improves the appearance of your complexion by soothing redness and blemishes. And it smells delicious!
7. A happiness booster
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that chocolate makes people happy, but cacao is even better. Studies show that eating raw cacao actually boosts the levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is produced when you feel good. Serotonin is also produced by your brain when falling in love and during sex.
Cacao can also help regulate mood swings, promote relaxation and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
Although you never really needed any reason to eat chocolate, now you have several reasons to eat raw cacao. With more and more bioactive compounds discovered every day, the food you put in your body dictates your overall health.
Basically a superfood, cacao is a miracle fruit that not only packs a nutritional punch, but also tastes absolutely amazing.