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10 Raw Cacao and Cocoa Benefits (with Tasty Chocolate Recipes)

10 Raw Cacao and Cocoa Benefits (with Tasty Chocolate Recipes)

Chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, chocolate bars. Mouth-watering, yet they may not possess raw cacao and cocoa benefits. Sadly, many chocolate treats filled with refined sugar can be rather unhealthy.

But would you believe me if I told you that the original chocolate bean is actually incredibly beneficial to your health? That it can actually improve your attitude? That it contains essential vitamins that your body craves? 

Now don't get carried away and start chowing down on everything chocolate. The chocolate I'm referring to is the raw cacao bean, directly from the tree. It's so good for your body. Better yet, not only raw cacao but also high-quality cocoa benefits your health.

Allow me to show you just what raw cacao and cocoa powder can do for your mind, your body and your health. 

What Is Raw Cacao?

    The word “cacao” (pronounced ka-COW) originates from the Spanish language as the first known uses of cacao were in Central America, South America and Mexico. The Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs and other indigenous people in these areas began using cacao over 5,000 years ago. 

    The cacao beans were generally crushed and mixed with water to make a bitter drink. Chilies, honey, corn, and spices were also sometimes added to create a frothy beverage. 

    Cacao beans were also commonly used as currency. In fact, when Christopher Columbus came to the Americas, the Aztecs offered him cacao beans in exchange for some of the goods on his ships. As Colombus' crew had never seen cacao before, you can imagine their confusion. 

    But later on another conquistador, Hernan Cortez, bravely tried the drink. Although he didn't like it much at first, he got used to the bitter taste and took some cacao beans back with him to Spain.

    And so the seeds were brought to other parts of the world. And now you can find cacao growing in most tropical locations on earth. 

    Where Does Raw Cacao Come From

    Cacao beans, or seeds really, grow in tropical areas near the equator. The cacao tree grows oval-shaped pods with an extremely thick and tough skin. Cracking open the pod, you would find the raw cacao beans covered in a white, soft pulp.

    In contrast to the bitter raw cacao bean, the pulp is actually extremely sweet. It's not uncommon to pop the bean in your mouth to suck the pulp off it. I tried it myself while in the Amazon and I would highly recommend it. 

    What Is The Difference Between Raw Cacao And Cocoa?

    There's more than just a spelling difference between cacao and cocoa. Although in reality, both terms refer to the same ingredient, cacao refers to the fresh, unprocessed version of the bean while cocoa refers to the roasted, processed and commonly powdered or sweetened form of the bean.

    This distinction is important to make when discussing raw cacao and cocoa benefits. You may have heard the gossip that's been floating around about how chocolate has incredible health benefits. Unfortunately, this gossip was derived from the known benefits of the raw cacao bean itself, rather than the caramelized, candied and wrapped forms of it.

    Although all forms of chocolate and cocoa powders come from the same tree, the processing may change cocoa benefits in comparison to raw cacao. Through processing, raw cacao can lose some of its benefits as it becomes cocoa. 

    Is Raw Cacao Better Than Cocoa?

    Don't ditch cocoa just yet.

    Research shows that high-quality cocoa benefits your body though, in fact, it still possesses much of the same qualities as raw cacao does.

    The true damage happens when cocoa is further processed, heated, melted, and molded with refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and often unnatural ingredients to create candy bars, cakes, ice cream, frosting, and dips.

    Many claims that cocoa benefits you less than raw cacao, it may or may not be true.

    Yes, raw cacao is raw and completely unprocessed, hence it possesses all of its beneficial nutrients.

    While raw cacao may lose some of its health benefits when processed into cocoa, it doesn't lose it all.

    Much depends on the processing and the product itself. Not all products containing cocoa provide the same benefits for your body. Always buy high-quality, organic cocoa to ensure it benefits your body, 

    In the end, it is also up to your digestion, and some may digest and absorb cocoa better.

    Furthermore, while there is plenty of research showing raw cacao and cocoa benefits, there aren't really any studies comparing raw cacao and cocoa benefits side by side. Both raw cacao and high-quality cocoa benefits can enhance your health when incorporated into an otherwise healthy and nutrient-dense diet.

    While a spoonful of high-quality cocoa benefits your health when added to your hot cocoa, sprinkled on your oatmeals, or used in your protein shake, a candy bar from a vending machine does the opposite to your health and possesses no cocoa benefits, and definitely not an ounce of raw cacao anymore.

    Why Raw Cacao and Cocoa?

    Raw cacao and cocoa can do incredible things for your health. They are a great source of antioxidants, it contains essential vitamins and minerals, they are an amazing mood enhancer and there are endless possibilities of how to include it in your diet! 

    Here are the top 10 benefits of delicious cacao and cocoa. 

    Top 10 Raw Cacao and Cocoa Benefits

    Research has shown that raw cacao and cocoa have similar health benefits.

    While cocoa benefits your health, remember, not all products containing cocoa provide the same benefits for your body. Adding high-quality, organic cocoa to your smoothie is beneficial, but a sugary chocolate donut made with a dash of low-quality cocoa is not good for you.

    Let’s check out all the awesome raw cacao and cocoa benefits you can enjoy while eating a delicious, nutrient-dense, balance, and whole foods diet.

    1. Raw cacao and cocoa are rich in polyphenols

    Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants that have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, lower blood pressure, healthier blood sugar levels, and a better mood.

    2. Raw cacao and cocoa may reduce high blood pressure

    Raw cacao, cocoa, and even dark chocolate may be able to help lower your blood pressure.

    Researchers have found that cocoa-drinking islanders in Central-America have much healthier blood pressure than non-cocoa drinkers.

    Raw cacao and cocoa are also rich in flavonoids which can improve nitric oxide levels of your blood that can lead to lower blood pressure as well.

    3. Raw cacao and cocoa may lower your risk of stroke and heart attack

    By improving your nitric oxide levels, raw cacao and cocoa benefit your body by relaxing and dilating your arteries and as a result, improving your blood flow. Researchers have also found that cocoa can reduce bad cholesterol, as well as reduce inflammation in your body. All these factors have been linked to reducing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

    Cocoa benefits your heart like a king. Researchers have found that dark chocolate intake can lower the rate of heart failure due to its cocoa content.

    4. Raw cacao and cocoa benefits your brain function

    It turns out chocolate can make your smart.

    Polyphenols found in raw cocoa and cocoa can improve blood flow in your brain. Its flavanol content also helps to relax the muscles of your blood vessels further improving blood supply to the brain.

    This may improve brain function, enhance cognition, improve mental performance, and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

    5. Raw Cacao and Cocoa May Improve Your Mood

    It’s no secret that chocolate makes you happy. This is true even for health raw cacao and cocoa treats, not only addictive, sugary candy.

    Cocoa benefits your mood because of its high polyphenol content can improve calmness and the feeling of contentment. It can also enhance your brain activity and psychological well-being.

    6. Raw cacao and cocoa may improve type 2 diabetes

    Sugary chocolate is not good for your blood sugar and diabetes, but it seems that raw cacao and cocoa benefits your body. Cocoa flavonols can slow carbohydrate digestion, improve insulin, and reduce diabetes symptoms and risks.

    7. Raw cacao and cocoa may help weight loss

    Research has found that cocoa may actually help reducing appetite. Eating chocolate has also been linked to lower BMI.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that you should eat a big bar of chocolate three meals and three snacks a day. That would be counter-productive. However eating high-quality, organic raw cacao, cocoa, or a small piece of dark chocolate may actually help your weight loss goals.

    8. Raw cacao and cocoa may protect you from cancer

    Raw cacao and cocoa are both high in flavonols and have many antioxidant benefits that help fighting inflammation and inhibiting cancer growth.

    Studies have found that a diet rich in cocoa and cocoa extract can help reducing colon, prostate, liver, breast, and pancreatic cancer, as well as leukemia. Raw cacao and cocoa alone won’t make all cancer disappear, but research suggests that cocoa benefits any cancer prevention efforts.

    10. Raw cacao and cocoa may be good for your skin and teeth

    Cocoa benefits your body because of its antibacterial, anti-enzymatic, and immune-stimulating properties. The same holds true for raw cacao. These cocoa benefits can reduce your risk of dental cavities.

    Cocoa benefits your skin as well by contributing to your skin’s healthy hydration, smoothness, and sun protection.

    Raw cacao and cocoa are so easy to use in your diet. Let’s learn some ways how to use them and enjoy some cocoa benefits.

    6 Ways To Use Raw Cacao and Cocoa

    So now that you know what cacao can do for you, how can you get your hands on it? And how are you even supposed to use it? The following are different types of raw cacao, how to use them and where to find them. 

    Raw Cacao Nibs 

      Raw cacao nibs are simply the cacao bean itself chopped into pieces to make it more edible. Cacao nibs have just as much fiber, nutrients and fat as the full bean. 

      You can buy cacao nibs online, or at any natural or health food store. 

      You can blend cacao nibs into your morning smoothie, put them in a yogurt bowl, or use them as a healthier replacement for chocolate chips. 

      Raw Cacao Powder 

        Cacao powder is a great way to get healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy carbohydrates. 

        Raw cacao powder can be found in health food stores, Asian markets and online. You may also be able to find it in your common grocery store, just make sure to check the ingredients to be sure there's no added sugars or sweeteners!  

        Raw cacao powder is a good option if you're looking for a simple way to add cacao to your diet. It can easily be blended or mixed with smoothies, salad dressings, cookies, oatmeal, you name it! 

        Cocoa Powder

        High-quality cocoa powder benefits your health similarly to raw cacao powder. As you've learned earlier, cocoa powder possesses many health benefits.

        Cocoa powder can be found at any grocery store, however, to truly received all the health benefits, make sure to by organic and high-quality varieties at health food stores or online from reputable brands. As with raw cacao powder, always check the ingredient list.

        Raw Cacao Butter 

          Cacao butter is usually extracted by keeping roasted cacao beans in a hot area and letting the fat drip off to make a butter. It's a creamy white color when finished and has a rich, white chocolaty texture and taste.

          Cocoa butter is most commonly used in beauty products and you can use raw cacao butter for the same purposes. You can use it for chapped lips, you can melt it in the tub to hydrate your skin and you can mix it with essential oils or coconut oils to use as a moisturizer for your face and skin. 

          Raw Food Bars and Cookies 

            Another great way to get a daily dose of cacao is in raw food bars or cookies. If you're not a huge fan of the plain chocolate nibs or beans, you may like this option the best. 

            There are tons of super quick and easy recipes for raw food desserts with cacao powder, nibs, and butter. Healthy raw food bar and cookie options will get you the vitamins and minerals you need while satisfying your sweet tooth as well! Keep scrolling for some AMAZING recipes! 

            If you're not one for making your own, raw food bars and cookies can be found in health food and specialty markets, as well as online. 

            Superfood Mixes Made with Raw Cacao and Cocoa Powder

            I love superfood mixes because they allow you to receive the benefits from various superfoods, instead of just one ingredient. Organifi Gold, Chocolate is my favorite superfood mix with cocoa benefits.

            Organifi Gold, Chocolate with Cocoa Benefits

            Organifi Gold, Chocolate is made with a long list of powerful superfoods, such as turmeric, ginger, Reishi, Turkey Tail mushroom, and more, and of course, cocoa. Organic cocoa is packed with antioxidants and craving-suppressing qualities. That’s why we happily added this superfood to our already mind-blowing blend of superfoods.

            Organif Gold, Chocolate creates the best hot cocoa you've ever tasted when mixed with a cup of warm coconut milk or nut milk. You can also mix it with warm water or cold plant milk or water if you wish. You can add it to your smoothies, shakes, chocolate dips and yummy baked good instead of cocoa powder for powerful cocoa benefits.

            Tasty Chocolate Recipes with Cocoa Benefits

              Low Carb Dark Chocolate High Protein Brownies (Mostly RAW And 100% VEGAN)

              Ingredients:

              Instructions:

              1. Combine all ingredients in a high power blender. Blend for a minute on the lowest setting. Slowly increase speed as ingredients combine and become sticky.
              2. Remove from blender with a spoon and shape as desired. Serve.

              Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Bites

              Ingredients:

              • 1 ½ cups oats
              • 10 medjool dates, pitted
              • 1 cup grated zucchini
              • ⅓ cup Organifi Gold, Chocolate
              • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
              • 1 tbsp coconut oil
              • 1/4 cup of cacao nibs

              For rolling your dessert into balls, you will need:

              Instructions:

              1. Start by grating your zucchini and place the shavings into a bowl with just a pinch of salt to help in drawing out the moisture. Set it aside for the moment.
              2. Take your oats and put them into a blender and blend until they become oat flour.
              3. Squeeze out the water from your zucchini by hand and toss them into the blender with the rest of your ingredients. Blend them until properly combined.
              4. Scoop out your mixture into a large bowl and place your sweet treats into the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
              5. Using your hands, roll your concoction into small bite-sized pieces and roll them in the cacao and coconut. Enjoy!

              Ultimate Unbaked Chocolate Brownies

              Ingredients:

              Batter

              • 2 1//2 cups of loosely packed pitted dates
              • 1 1/2 cups of walnuts or pecans
              • 4 tbsp of raw cacao powder
              • 2 tbsp of Organifi Gold, Chocolate
              • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
              • 1 tsp almond extract
              • 2 tsp water
              • ¼ + ⅛ tsp salt

              Frosting

              • ¼ cup raw cacao or cocoa powder or Organifi Gold, Chocolate
              • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
              • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
              • ½ tbsp vanilla extract

              Instructions:

              1. Combine the dates, 6 tbsp cacao powder, walnut, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, salt and water in your food processor. Process well until combined. Add more water if it seems too dry.
              2. Grab a baking pan and grease it or use parchment paper as a liner. Add your dough to the pan. Distribute it evenly and press it down with a spoon.
              3. In another bowl, mix ¼ cup cacao, vanilla extract, oil and maple syrup for a frosting-like paste. Spread your frosting evenly on the top of your dough.
              4. Chill your brownies in the fridge for about 2 hours. Cut it into 16 bars. Your brownies will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or up to 2 months in your freezer.

              Frequently Asked Questions

              Q. Does cocoa benefits your health?

              A. Yes, it does. Research shows that high-quality cocoa benefits your health. However, once it is melted into a candy bar or processed into a cake with refined sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, it is far from health food and loses its cocoa benefits.

              Q. Are raw cacao nibs vegan?

              A. YES! Cacao nibs are made strictly from the cacao bean itself. The bean is harvested, fermented, dried, roasted and chopped into smaller pieces to make the cacao nibs. 

              Q. Are raw cacao nibs paleo?

              A. YES AGAIN! Roasted and raw cacao nibs are allowed on a Paleo diet. Just make sure to carefully read the ingredients before purchasing as some manufacturers will add sweeteners or other ingredients to the cacao. If the only ingredient in your cacao nibs is cacao bean (or Theobroma cacao) then you're good to go! 

              Q. Are raw cacao nibs okay on the keto diet?

              A. Another yes! Again, make sure to check the ingredients. The more cacao and the less added ingredients, the better! 

              Q. Are raw cacao beans edible?

              A. Technically, yes. Do I recommend it? If you don't mind the bitter taste, I say go for it! However, I will warn you that some say it's unbearably bitter, so be warned!

              Q. How much raw cacao powder should I consume per day?

              A. The recommended daily intake is about 5 to 20 grams or a small handful. 

              Q. Can raw cacao cause diarrhea?

              A. No. Now that you mention it, the cacao bean has actually been used in history to help remedy diarrhea. Modern studies have shown that some compounds of raw cacao help prevent the buildup of fluid in the small intestine that’s associated with diarrhea.

              Q. Can raw cacao cause constipation?

              A. The dietary fiber in raw cacao can actually help with quite the opposite and can keep you regular! 

              Q. Does raw cacao have caffeine?

              A. Yes, a very small amount. Contrary to popular belief, cacao has very low levels of caffeine. Cacao nibs or beans will generally have less than 1/20th of the caffeine you would get from your everyday coffee mug. 

              Q. Does raw cacao have sugar?

              A. No! Raw cacao does not naturally have sugar. However as mentioned above it is critical to check the label before you buy to see if there are any added sugars or sweeteners. As long as the only ingredient is the actual bean, you're safe! 

              Conclusion

              So, it's not the same as a triple chocolate ice cream brownie. IT'S EVEN BETTER. You get a thousand times more benefits, you'll feel your positive spirits rise and your sweet tooth will be satisfied without the guilt of having eaten something unhealthy. Try one or two of the recipes or ideas and see how it works for you! 

              Remember, we're in this together.

              About The Author

              Kat Gál is a professional holistic health writer who helps health, wellness and nutrition businesses to market their products and services through quality online content. She is also a Certified Holistic Health & Life Coach. Kat is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. Reach out if you are looking for amazing blog content at katgalwriter@gmail.com or at katgalwriter.com.

               



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