Raw Cacao: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses
With more emphasis on a healthier lifestyle, raw cacao is gradually turning into a popular alternative of processed chocolates. It is the natural version of chocolate that is not packed with tons of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. In fact, it contains a generous amount of magnesium, antioxidants, and flavonoids which are highly beneficial for health.
Raw cacao does not only satisfy sudden cravings for chocolaty food items but also charges up the body with necessary nutrients. This is why it is not surprising that more health concerned people are opting for food items made with raw cacao powder.
What is Raw Cacao?
Cacao is originated from the Theobroma cacao tree which is generally grown in tropical regions. Although the tree is found in almost every tropical country, the majority of the cacao that we find in stores, are supplied from the West African nations.
In its basic form, the fruit of the cacao tree is shaped as large as a melon. This is known as a cacao pod. When the pods turn ripe, they are collected from the trees and cut open to separate the cacao beans. These beans are covered with a white pulp which is removed before the beans are cold-pressed. This process ensures that the unhealthy fat is removed without eliminating the living enzyme.
What is left after all these steps, is something known as raw Cacao. This amazing creation of nature is rich in antioxidants and minerals, which makes it a great choice for regular consumption.
What is the Difference Between Cocoa and Raw Cacao?
One of the very common mistakes that the beginner cacao users make is to mix up cacao with cocoa. Though both of them are similar in terms of outlook, spelling and even in origin, cacao is a lot healthier than its close relative. The main difference arises due to its processing method. While raw cacao is prepared from cold-pressed unroasted cocoa beans, cocoa is roasted in high temperature after which a generous amount of sugar is added.
Almost all the nutritional contents from the cocoa beans are preserved in raw cacao whereas cocoa loses the majority of its health benefits due to the high temperature and the artificial sweeteners.
What is Raw Cacao Powder and How is it Prepared?
In order to add raw cacao into your daily food menu, you do not necessarily need it in the bean form. Preparing any quick meal from the raw cacao beans can be hard as it takes a long process to make it palatable.
A good alternative to the raw cacao beans is the raw cacao powder which usually comes in a packet and can be found in supermarkets. This is a lot easier to use as you can take a few spoonful and add to the smoothies and dessert recipes.
Now, before you try out this superfood, you may want to know what it takes to produce a good quality cacao powder. Naturally, it involves a lot of work and a long time to ferment the cacao. However, the process involves a few additional steps but lesser amount of time at the cacao industries. Here’s how the process is completed in a typical cacao industry in order to produce the best cacao powder:
- Winnowing: The beans are separated from the shells with the help of a machine.
- Roasting: Although we say ‘raw’ cacao powder, technically the powder that we consume is not actually raw. All the cacao beans have to be roasted at a certain temperature which will ensure that the bacteria are eradicated and the chocolate flavor is brought out. Completely unroasted cacao is very harmful for health and bitter is taste. This is why raw cacao requires roasting below 118°F/48°C degrees before turning into powder.
- Grinding: After the beans are roasted, they are ground to a liquor form.
- Milling: In this process, the cocoa butter is separated from the cacao liquor. Only the pure cocoa is left for milling into fine powder.
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Benefits of Raw Cacao
When it comes to raw cacao health benefits, the list gets longer. This is truly a ‘superfood’ that can help you in more ways than you can think of. Here are some of the many benefits of raw cacao which will definitely enlighten you on this matter:
- Removes Tiredness
It is quite alright if you are feeling exhausted after a long day of work. But if you are still feeling tired even when you wake up after a good sleep, it may be possible that you are low on magnesium in your body.
Cacao powder can come to the rescue at this point, as it is packed with a generous amount of magnesium. When you consume a few spoonful of raw cacao powder with your morning smoothie or a bowl of oats or chia pudding, you will start feeling recharged in no time.
- Triggers Positive Emotion
Feeling down or having mood swings without any specific reason- we have all been there. In fact, it is the most common emotional moment that we go through on a regular basis. However, the next time you feel like you need a boost of positive feelings, try adding raw cacao powder in your favorite recipe and you will start feeling better right away.
Cacao powder contains anandamide which is a fatty acid neurotransmitter, also known as ‘the bliss molecule’. When you consume the cacao powder, the anandamide reaches the brain and binds the cannabinoid receptors. This results in creating the necessary emotions to lift up your mood. It can also come in handy during your occasional mood swings by boosting the brain’s serotonin levels.
- Improves Digestion and Cognitive Function
Cacao powder has magnesium and dietary fiber which helps to prevent constipation. If taken regularly, it can also improve digestion and other related health issues.
Cacao powder increases cognitive abilities as well. The Flavanols in the powder helps to form new neurons that are responsible for learning and storing memory. With gradual intake, the functionality of these neurons are improved and the consumer can experience a positive change with memory-related issues.
- Generates Radiant Skin Complexion
Thanks to the beauty industry that is always looking for new ways to generate healthy and glowing skin, you have probably already heard about chocolate facials. In case you are thinking about trying one, you can always scoop up 2-3 teaspoons of raw cocoa powder, combine with water and make a nice face pack out of it.
This works excellent for giving you an instant healthy glow as the flavonoids in cacao powder helps to increase the blood flow on the applied areas. The increased blood flow promotes cell regeneration, thus giving you the radiant complexion you are aiming for.
- Reduces Risk of Heart Diseases
Heart diseases are usually formed due to the high levels of cholesterol. Thanks to the antioxidants in raw cacao powder, the LDL (responsible for Cardiovascular diseases) is lowered and the HDL (reduces the risk of heart diseases) is increased. If you are someone with a heart-related problem, maybe for this reason alone, you can give raw cocoa powder a try.
- Maintains Youthful Appearance
Premature aging is one of the major concerns, especially for the people in their late 20’s and 30’s. Almost everyone wants to look youthful and if you are one of them, you may start considering putting cacao powder into your daily food habit. Cacao is rich in antioxidants which can protect the cells for a longer period of time, thus preventing advanced cell destruction. When the cells gain a longer lifetime, they reward you with a younger-looking skin.
- Provides Healthy Fats
Although processed fats are very harmful for health and are prohibited in every type of diet charts, heathy fats are highly beneficial for a healthy body. Consuming a balanced amount of healthy fats can improve your skin condition, growth and give you a high metabolism. As cacao powder has a good amount of healthy fats, this can help you to attain all these extra health benefits.
Raw Cacao Powder Nutrition
Unsurprisingly, raw cacao powder has a lot of nutritional values which has made it such a great ingredient for maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Apart from the magnesium, antioxidants, and flavonoids, it also has many other nutrients that are necessary for the body.
If you have been wondering whether all the hype about this food item is trustworthy or not, just check out the nutritional facts given below. You can get the following nutritional values from 1 ounce of the best quality raw cacao powder:
- Calories: 120
- Total Carbohydrates: 19.0g
- Total Fat: 2.5g
- Saturated Fat: 1.5g
- Protein: 5.0g
- Sodium: 20mg
- Dietary Fiber: 7.0g
- Iron 16%
- Calcium 4%
Uses of Cacao Powder
As cacao powder is very similar to cocoa powder, except the amount of sweetness, you can easily use it in many recipes that require chocolate or cocoa powder. However, keep in mind that although it is very beneficial for health, it is not wise to consume it more than the required amount on a daily basis. If you need a bigger amount of magnesium or antioxidants, it is better to look elsewhere than consuming a generous portion of cacao powder.
Now that the important note is given, here are a couple of ways that you can start using cacao powder in your daily menu:
Stir up a Cup of Hot Chocolate: As mentioned above, cacao uses are numerous, but perhaps the most common one is the hot chocolate recipe. You can easily prepare a cup of a healthy version of hot chocolate with almond milk/coconut milk, stevia and a spoonful of cacao powder. If you find that the cacao powder is hard to blend with the hot milk, try blending it with a bit of boiling water first.
Prepare a Smoothie Bowl: Smoothies are perfect for a healthy breakfast or a snack item. You can add cacao powder, frozen banana slices, stevia, almond milk and some ice cubes into a food processor and have a delicious chocolaty smoothie bowl right away.
Add into a Bowl of Porridge: If you are more of a porridge person than a smoothie lover, try adding 1 teaspoon of cacao powder and some crushed nuts into your porridge. The result is simply delicious and it will keep you full for a long time.
Cook up some Healthy Desserts: If you have a sweet tooth and crave chocolaty desserts more often, use cacao powder in the recipes that require cocoa powder. To make up for the absence of sweetness, add any artificial sweetener that has less carb or less calories.
Raw cacao powder may be referred to as a ‘superfood’ due to its amazing health benefits and numerous nutritional values. Rich in many aspects than a traditional chocolate bar or cocoa powder, cacao powder can be supplemented in dessert items instead of its less healthy counterparts.