Raw cacao is definitely deserving of it’s status as a superfood. Not to be confused with cocoa which is the heat processed version of the cocoa bean, and not as rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients (although best for baking so as not to waste your raw cacao supply), raw cacao is packed with nutrients to boost physical health, mood and wellbeing.
Cacao has been used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes for thousands of years. Even the Aztecs understood the health properties of cacao, naming it ‘Yollotl Eztli’, meaning ‘heart blood’ which makes sense as now we know its rich in iron (essential for carrying oxygen in the blood) and has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure.
Processed chocolate bars with lots of added sugar, dairy and vegetable oils are not where the health benefits are at, but if you’re wanting to enjoy some as a tasty treat opt for dark (60% or more cocoa) chocolate, and ensure it’s dairy free (often dark chocolate bars are accidentally vegan but just check). These days you can also find many raw cacao chocolate bars for an unprocessed chocolate treat with maximum nutritional benefits.
Raw Cacao’s Health Benefits
So what’s so super about this little bean that the world loves?
Raw cacao is packed with magnesium, an important mineral we often don’t get enough of, that’s involved in muscle contraction and release, and so it helps us to relax. Magnesium is also one of a number of nutrients important for healthy bone formation and maintenance.
It’s a rich source of phenolic compounds that studies have shown to have chemoprotective properties in fighting off cancer cells.
The cacao bean is rich in iron, an essential mineral needed for the formation of red blood cells and carrying oxygen around the body, and so helps maintain energy levels. A lack of this mineral can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and feelings of tiredness and brain fog.
It contains theobromine, a mild stimulant that has been shown to enhance mood, as well as anandamide, known as the ‘bliss’ molecule due to it’s positive effects on enhancing mood by boosting serotonin production.
Cacao is also a potent source of phenethaylamine; a mood boosting compound that relieves pain and stress. Is it any wonder eating chocolate feels so good!
These are just some of the amazing health boosting benefits of raw cacao. There are many ways you can incorporate this superfood into your diet. You can buy it as cacao nibs, or as the whole bean itself, but the powder is the most versatile way to use raw cacao in your diet.
Indigo Herbs is the brand I personally use, and their Organic Peruvian Cacao Powder is amazing value and really good quality.
You can also make a delicious warming chocolate drink. Here’s a recipe for making your own nourishing and mood boosting cacao elixir.
Raw Cacao Elixir
- 2 tbsp. Raw Cacao powder
- 1 cup plant based mylk of your choice such as almond or rice mylk for a creamier texture (or you can use water if you’re fasting or just want a purer effect from the cacao)
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup (optional, add to taste)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Add the cacao powder to the saucepan along with 2-3 tbsp. of liquid and mix to form a paste. If you add all the liquid first it’s much harder to blend with the powder especially when cold.
- Once it becomes a paste add the rest of the liquid, water or mylk depending on which you prefer.
- Keep stirring until all the powder has dissolved. You might need to use the spoon to press the powder against the side of the pan to blend any remaining lumps.
- Add the cayenne pepper for a little kick if you wish.
- Add a sweetener if you wish, such as agave nectar or maple syrup, if you find it too bitter. I personally quite like the bitter taste, and sometimes add sweetener to just the remaining half once I’ve enjoyed some of the elixir in it’s bitter form.
What ways do you incorporate raw cacao into your food or drinks? Let me know in the comments below.