What’s the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa

By Rebecca Carden — February 28, 2015

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What’s the difference between Cacao and Cocoa beside the positioning of the vowels?

Many people are confused and misled by the similarity of the names and think that they both share the same health boosting properties as a result. Which one should we be including in our diet for health benefits?

The studies that boast of chocolate’s amazing health benefits are not referring to your average store-bought chocolate bar (damn those misleading researchers). The chocolate that they’re referring to is raw cacao and generally that isn’t what your mums chocolate cake is made from.

Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacoa and removes the fat (cacao butter).

Cocoa looks the same but it’s not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Sadly, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.

What are the health benefits of raw cacao?

  • Lowers insulin resistance
  • Protects your nervous system. Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.
  • Shields nerve cells from damage
  • Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces your risk of stroke and lowers blood pressure
  • Guards against toxins. Cacao can repair the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. In fact cacao contains far more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries. Antioxidants are responsible for 10% of the weight of raw cacao.
  • Boosts your mood: cacao can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being. And the same brain chemical that is released when we experience deep feelings of love – phenylethylamine – is found in chocolate.
  • It is rich in minerals: magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese. There’s a reason why women crave chocolate around that time of the month and thats because it contains all the minerals necessary to alleviate cramping, stress and replace lost iron.
what's the difference between cacao and cocoa

If cacao is more beneficial than cocoa because it’s raw, what happens when we cook it?

Very good question, and we’re glad you asked… unfortunately there is no science on whether or not heating raw cacao destroys its antioxidant level making it more akin to its heated and processed cousin cocoa. BUT we figure if you start off with the product in its raw form, it has to be more beneficial than starting with an already heated and processed equivalent.

We definitely think that cacao is best had raw. Think smoothies, raw cakes, power balls, ice cream…..mmmmmm ice cream……

When you are having it raw, make sure you don’t have it past 3pm max unless you plan on pulling an all nighter and want to remain bright and perky. If you intend on having a quiet night in catching up on some zzzzzz and the latest episode of Vikings then you best steer well clear of it in the evenings.

For those with adrenal or thyroid issues, it’s probably best to keep your raw cacao consumption to a minimum as well as coffee for that matter because the caffeine in both of these products can be taxing. The last thing you want to end up with is Adrenal Fatigue. Have all the cocoa you want, just not the raw cacao.

Raw Cacao can be a useful transitional tool if you are trying to ween yourself off coffee. A cacao banana smoothie for breakfast is an amazing start to the day with an awesome kick.

Let’s end with an interesting tid-bit…

Research shows that dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from raw cacao.

So if you’re making a cacao shake you’re better off using a non-dairy milk like almond or coconut in order to reap all of the antioxidant benefits.

Click here for an amazing breakfast cacao smoothie loaded with protein and brain fuel.

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