As much as most of us enjoy the taste of chocolate, the purported health benefits we hear so much about are unfortunately not referring to a typical store-bought chocolate bar, but to a substance called raw cacao.   Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans that come from the Theombroma cacao tree. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the cacao butter.  In the case of most store-bought chocolate, the cacao beans are roasted to make cocoa powder, then sugar and fats are added, reducing the levels of antioxidants and minimizing the health benefits that are found in the unprocessed version.  Therefore, the best choice to make is products that contain “raw” chocolate or cacao.

Health Benefits

Raw cacao beans, nibs, or powder contain hundreds of beneficial chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate.  Additional nutrients found in raw cacao include protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, sulfur, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids. There are many health benefits we derive from the consumption of these nutrients, such as lowered LDL cholesterol, improved heart function and glucose regulation, and reduced cancer risk.  Cacao beans and nibs are high in fiber, too, which can help to regulate bowel movements.  Studies have also shown that certain “bliss” chemical compounds found in cacao help to increase serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals in our brains to improve mood and alleviate depression.

It’s been said that the Spanish referred to raw cacao as “black gold”.  Indeed, we agree.

Quick and Easy Ways to Incorporate Raw Cacao into Your Diet:

– Add to trail mixes

– Mix cacao powder with nut milks

– Use cacao nibs to replace chocolate chips in your favorite recipes

– Blend into smoothies or protein drinks

Here’s one of our favorite raw cacao smoothie recipes.  It’s as delicious as it is satisfying!

Cacao Smoothie Recipe

1 cup of unsweetened nut milk (almond, cashew, coconut, etc.)

1-2 tablespoons raw cacao powder or nibs

2-3 tablespoons nut butters or oils (coconut, almond, cashew, etc.)

2 tablespoons protein powder (whey, rice, hemp seed, pea starch, etc.)

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon chia seeds

½ frozen, green-tipped banana or ½ cup frozen berries

4 drops of flavored stevia (optional)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon spirulina or other green powder