What Is Cacao?
Cacao beans grow on trees found in Central and South America. When these beans are processed, they become cocoa and chocolate, but the raw and organic beans keep many of the "super powers" of cacao that are lost through processing.
- Cacao packs in more calcium than cow's milk.
- It's densely packed with iron, magnesium and antioxidants.
- Consuming cacao can help with issues such as depression, stress, blood pressure and heart health.
How to Incorporate Cacao into Your Diet
If you have never eaten cacao before, be prepared for a taste that you may find bitter. You might prefer to work your way up by gradually increasing the percentage of cacao you consume. Your palate will adjust quickly and thank you for it.
Always check that you are buying unsweetened powder instead of cocoa mixes with sugar. A higher fat percentage is better too, as it adds flavor and is more satisfying so you'll consume fewer calories overall. Also keep an eye out for fair trade labels, so you know the workers who harvested the cacao were paid fairly.
Now, here are 7 ways to reap the health benefits of cacao!
- Smoothies: Make a delicious chocolate smoothie by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder. You can use cacao nibs on top of your smoothie to add a crunch to your treat. Try nibs out on assorted goodies such as ice cream, granola mix, or muffins.
- Raw brownies: Raw brownies are great for vegan and paleo lifestyles since the brownies are free of dairy, sugar, wheat and gluten. No baking is needed, but depending on the recipe, you might want ingredients such as pecans, unsweetened coconut flakes, dates and honey.
- Baked goods: Cacao powder is also great for use in biscotti, chocolate strawberry shortcakes, pudding, cookies and cakes. You can even use this powder in paleo chocolate zucchini bread.
- Cacao bar: Enjoy a bar or a few squares of good old raw organic chocolate. You can enjoy this treat with your favorite tea and a handful of nuts or fruit.
- Chocolate milk: Use almond milk, as research indicates it is possible that cow's milk lessens the effectiveness of calcium and the other qualities of cacao. You will need 1 tablespoon of cacao powder, 1 to 2 tablespoons of organic sweetener and 1 cup of milk. If you like your beverages cold, let the cacao powder and sweetener dissolve first in 1 tablespoon of hot milk. After that, add ice cubes and cold milk.
- Hot chocolate: If you prefer hot beverages, use the above recipe, but heat your milk mixture over the stove to warm it up.
- Snack bars: You really only need four ingredients for delicious snack bars, and one of the ingredients can be cacao powder, with another being cacao nibs. Cashews and dates round out the recipe.
Healthy Cacao Recipes to Try
Cacao can be used in place of cocoa for the following recipes. Enjoy!