THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAW CACAO
Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium – a mineral that many of us don’t get enough of in our diets. Magnesium is essential for energy production, for a healthy brain and nervous system, for our muscles and for strong bones and teeth. Magnesium may also support a healthy blood pressure.
Cacao is also a source of iron, which builds the blood and helps to transport oxygen around our body, as well as potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium.
Cacao can also be high in flavonoids, which have antioxidant activity. Cacao and flavonoid-rich chocolate have been linked with heart health benefits including increasing the good form of cholesterol (HDL) in our blood, lowering blood pressure and even improving vascular function in patients with congestive heart failure. These effects are thought to be primarily due to the antioxidants contained in the cacao.
In addition, cacao contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA for short!). PEA is thought to elevate mood and support energy, and is said to be one of the reasons that many people love chocolate!
Raw cacao is also very low in sugar, and of course does not contain any milk, so is suitable for those who are milk-sensitive or following a low-sugar diet.
THE PROBLEM WITH CHOCOLATE
The cacao – or cocoa – part of a chocolate bar is not ‘unhealthy’ as such. The main factor that makes it less healthy is the sugar that’s added to it to create a standard chocolate bar. Also, when cacao is roasted to make a standard chocolate bar, you do lose some of the antioxidant flavonoids, beneficial enzymes and other nutrients – which of course doesn’t happen with raw cacao or raw chocolate.
So what about painfully dark chocolate, you know the 99% cocoa solids stuff? Cocoa solids are what’s left after the cacao butter (the oil in the cacao bean) has been separated from the ground up raw cacao beans. Cacao solids are used to make cacao powder. ‘Raw cacao’ can refer to the whole beans, opl
the solids, or the powder, as long as it is not heated during processing. It is this heating process that robs some of the nutrients.