Cacao Benefits: 8 Health Benefits of Cacao
Move over, fad diets and health scams! It’s time to reveal the truth about the health benefits of the ever-desired, yet ever-avoided indulgence foods. We’re putting the spotlight on cacao!
This raw bean product has been misunderstood (and often misspelled) for so long, but its centuries-long legacy as a delicacy and commodity far surpasses modern misconceptions and grammatical errors. Listen no more to the lamentations of dieters avoiding fat, carbs, or indulgent “unhealthy” foods. Cacao’s benefits for your health are many.
The ancient Aztecs considered cacao precious enough to use as a currency and it is still a well-loved ingredient by those in the know. Additionally, science has brought forth research to tell us what we were hoping all along — that cacao has many beneficial health properties! The antioxidants in the bean play a big role in cacao’s health benefits. The Aztecs were on to something. Before you run to the store with excitement and stock up on milk chocolate bars, consider this: chocolate and cacao are not the same thing.
While cacao is good for you, chocolate can be unhealthy. Keep reading to learn of cacao’s benefits and how it differs from chocolate.
The Difference Between Chocolate and Cacao
Chocolate is a highly processed candy treat. While chocolate contains cacao (often as cocoa powder), it also often includes a host of other not-so-healthy ingredients, including refined sugars, soy lecithin, and artificial preservatives. Dark chocolate can contain these ingredients, too. Now that's a recipe for an unhealthy and guilt-inducing treat! For all these reasons and more, chocolate does not have all of cacao’s benefits.
Another reason why chocolate does not have cacao’s health benefits is that its nutritional qualities are degraded through intense, high-heat processing. Raw cacao products are simply a lightly processed form or an isolated part of the cacao bean. No further ingredients are added. Some examples include raw cacao powder, raw cacao nibs, and cacao butter. These products are created through fermentation, light roasting, dehydration, or extraction.
Cacao Benefits: Eight Health Benefits of Cacao
In its pure and unadulterated form, cacao has many potential beneficial health properties. Here are eight reasons why you should toss your preconceived notions of “unhealthy” cacao out the window and bring our cacao products into your diet:
1. Cacao is High in Antioxidants
Cacao contains higher amounts of antioxidants than green tea, red wine, blueberries, and goji berries. Antioxidants are important to help prevent many forms of lifestyle diseases, including various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
To measure a food's antioxidant capacity, an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score is given. Raw cacao powder (summarized as dark chocolate) tops the list as one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods (source). Much of cacao’s benefits are derived from its high antioxidant levels.
2. May Reduce the Effects of Depression
Is it any wonder why we reach for chocolate when we're feeling down? Cacao contains a chemical substance called anandamide, which is said to reduce the effects of depression via its euphoric effects (source). While the tasty treat is no replacement for medicine, the mood-enhancing health benefits of cacao can be used as a quick pick-me-up on any bad day. Cacao is good for you when you’re feeling sad and unhappy.
3. Cacao is Naturally Low in Sugar
Clearly, we're not talking processed chocolate here. Another cacao benefit is that the pure bean is naturally low in sugar. Pure cacao beans also contain high amounts of essential fatty acids, making them a great low-carb snack!
4. Cacao is High in Fiber and Iron
A one ounce serving of our non-fermented cacao powder contains around 15% of your recommended daily intake of iron and 28% of your fiber requirements. No need to feel guilty about sneaking tasty treats into your diet when they can help fuel your body. You can use cacao on meat, desserts, and chili to boost your iron and fiber intake.
5. Cacao May Lower the Risk of Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease
Cacao’s benefits may also protect you from disease. Cacao contains high amounts of polyphenols. Studies have shown that polyphenols may help to reduce oxidative stress and insulin resistance. These are both important factors in potentially reducing blood pressure and heart disease risks (source).
In addition, polyphenols can help protect you from (or even delay) chronic neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease (source). While we would love for cacao to be a cure for such diseases, we know that the health benefits of cacao can help arm your body against them. We told you... cacao is good for you!
6. Cacao Might Help You Lose Weight
You will love this cacao benefit! Research suggests that cacao may help with weight loss by improving mitochondrial biogenesis and increasing muscle glucose intake (source). Of course, having a healthy, balanced diet is an important factor in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, but cacao can be a part of said balanced diet.
7. Cacao May Reduce Cortisol and Inflammation
Cacao contains a specific flavanol called epicatechin, which has been attributed to cacao's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potency (source). Cortisol is the body's stress hormone that produces the fight or flight response when we feel fearful, stressed, or in danger. Unfortunately, too much cortisol floating around the body also leads to inflammation (source). Have you ever reached for chocolate when you feel stressed? Now you know why!
8. Cacao Contains a Wide Variety of Micronutrients
Another cacao benefit is that it is a rich source of micronutrients. Micronutrients are vital to your health and help promote healthy bones, hair, skin, and nails. Cacao is rich in several micronutrients which include magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc, and calcium to name just a few. Cacao’s health benefits combined with a balanced diet can boost your overall well being.
Cacao is good for you, so you should try to include it in a healthy diet. It's important to source high-quality and organic cacao powder, such as Wildly Organic's raw fermented cacao powder and non-fermented cacao powder. Again, additional processing may degrade many of these nutritional benefits (sources 1, 2).
Shop Wildly Organic's Cacao Products
Wildly Organic's raw cacao products (fermented and unfermented cacao powder, organic cacao butter, and organic cacao nibs) come from sustainable family farms in the Dominican Republic. Our cacao benefits exceed that of others on the market. Wildly Organic’s non-fermented, raw cacao powder has antioxidant activity as exhibited by an ORAC score of 1549 μmol TE/g -- higher than any other raw cacao powder! Our powders and nibs are cold-pressed.
A high-accuracy thermometer ensures that our raw cacao products are truly raw. The temperature is never allowed to exceed 120° F and is usually 104° F (other cocoa powders are exposed to temperatures as high as 300° F!). Wildly Organic stocks a wide range of raw and organic cacao products. Shop now for Wildly Organic’s premium quality cacao products and get free US shipping over $49.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.