Some things in life are super awesome, like superfoods that are super healthy. We’re talking about Cacao, the thing that makes chocolate magical.
Who doesn't love chocolate?!? While often looked upon as a guilty pleasure, chocolate in its rawest form, cacao, is actually chock-full of spectacular health benefits. As long as you avoid the overly processed types of chocolate products (the ones full of fat, sugar, and other sweeteners, you can reap the maximum rewards of this awesome and user-friendly superfood.
It can be easy to confuse the terms cacao, chocolate, and cocoa, but they are markedly different. Cacao is used to describe the raw seeds and the trees they come from while cocoa and chocolate are the processed and sweetened varietals, much like what you're used to seeing in the checkout line at the grocery store (they do that on purpose to make you impulse purchase, by the way!)
Be sure to look for raw cacao nibs, beans, powder, or butter on the grocery store shelves or online. Or choose dark chocolate products with a high percentage of cacao (70% or higher) to enjoy the majority of its beneficial properties. Want to know just how super this heavenly superfood is? Read on, my friend.
Cacao has a high concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants are great anti-agers, helping to repair and prevent damage to your cells. A diet rich in antioxidants is crucial to keep the levels of free radicals in your body low, prevent cellular oxidative stress, and maintain overall good health.
Cacao is the highest known natural food source of magnesium. The best part? You can feel the calming effects of the magnesium pretty quickly after consuming cacao. Also known as the master mineral, magnesium aids in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. It keeps your body functioning normally and promotes homeostasis (balance in your body’s systems).
Cacao is loaded with sulfur, too. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in our body and plays a role in many functions such as maintaining healthy joints, boosting the immune system, aiding in fat digestion, regulating blood sugar, and helping maintain oxygen balance for proper brain function.
(PEA) is a chemical found in cacao that can act as a mild antidepressant. It's something that occurs naturally in our body when we get excited, so eating cacao can give you the same sort of rush. It can also help you feel focused and alert by speeding up your heart rate.
With raw cacao, you can also find theobromine: a mild stimulant that has a diuretic effect. The diuretic process helps to push harmful toxins out of your body which can help in uplifting your mood and promoting healthy cellular rejuvenation.
Beyond the nutrients already listed above, cacao is loaded with calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, and pantothenic acid, making it truly a superfood you can feel good about eating.
My favorite ways to use raw cacao in recipes include brownies, cookies, puddings, ice creams, mole sauce, smoothies, popsicles, and hot fudge. You can use raw cacao products as a direct replacement for any regular cocoa in your recipes. And with that, excuse me while I go make some truffles (I got hungry just writing this article!)
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