Sam Negrin

July 26, 2015

Superfood Investment 101: Cacao

by Sam Negrin / GOOD FOOD / Health 101 / Home / 0 Comments

Cacao Powder
Our Superfood Investment 101 series is here to help you understand the “buzz word superfoods” you should know about, why they’re so healthy and why they’re so expensive. You will learn about the history and benefits of our favorite hand-picked ingredients and decide which is the best investment for you.

Cacao, what our beloved chocolate is made of. If you didn’t already know this, chocolate can be really, really healthy. Raw cacao is different than processed ‘cocoa’ powder found in baked goods and desserts – it is derived straight from the cacao bean in it’s purest, raw form. Cocoa powder at the grocery store should not be substituted for cacao powder if you’re baking/cooking for a restricted diet, because cocoa powder often includes other ingredients like sugar and milk powder (which is why it has the soft, chocolate flavor). Pure cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants found in nature – it also provides supporting minerals like magnesium and iron. It’s been known for years in Aztec societies to release endorphins, libido and general mood-boosting hormones. They originate from the Theobroma tree found in Mexico and South America.

Cacao pods from the Theobroma Tree.

Cacao pods from the Theobroma Tree.

So, you know all of the health claims that dark chocolate is good for you? It’s because of the extra volume of cacao! There are numerous uses for cacao from baking and raw desserts to smoothies and oatmeal. One bag can either last you one month or six, depending how often you bake. It’s incredibly important to buy good quality cacao powder that has been harvested organically and sustainably with minimal processing; we love Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder which ranges from $8.99-18.99/bag depending on how much you need.

The Overall Benefits:

  1. Antioxidants: Cacao provides one of the highest sources of antioxidants in nature, they carry flavanoids which are an antioxidant compound known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and other diseases.
  2. Increase Metabolism: The antioxidants help decrease oxidation and LDL (aka bad cholesterol) in the blood, improving circulation and preventing plaque build up.
  3. Mood-Boosting: All you need is a little love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt! -Charles Schulz. Cacao has a compound called phenethylamine which stimulates the nervous system and releases endorphins.
  4. Sparks Libido: Chocolate has been known in the Aztec society to increase serotonin (the feel-good chemical) in our brain for centuries, coupled with the luxurious taste, it’s been known to increase sex drive in men and women.

How To Use It:

  • Use cacao powder or cacao nibs in your baked goods recipes for a chocolate-y flavor. Hint: if you sweeten with stevia or maple syrup you will achieve the processed chocolate flavor we’re all accustomed to.
  • Add it to your raw desserts and breakfasts: we have numerous recipes using it.
  • Add 1 tsp to your smoothies to turn your smoothie into a yummy, nutrient-dense dessert!
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