Cacao trees were domesticated some 5,000 years ago in South America and are today prevalent in equatorial regions all over the world. Cocoa powder and its slightly less-known sibling, cacao powder, are both made from the beans of these trees.
Before being processed into cacao powder, cacao beans go through a fermentation process to develop flavor and texture. Chocolate powder is made by heating the cacao beans to extremely high temperatures, resulting in the smooth and sweet flavor we often find in baked goods and hot cocoa. Although less bitter than cacao, cocoa powder loses a lot of its nutritional value during processing.
Cacao powder can be a healthier alternative for recipes that include cocoa powder in them, and besides that, they have a lot of other benefits.
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Many Health Benefits
Cacao powder is rich in flavonoids. These nutrients have been demonstrated to decrease blood pressure, increase brain and heart blood flow, and help avoid blood clots. They may help you reduce the risk of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Cacao powder is high in potassium. Potassium has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing lower body inflammation and cell stress.
The flavonoids in cocoa powder can help to reduce inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation reduction may reduce your risk of certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
High In Antioxidants
Cacao is strong in flavanols (which give it a bitter taste), antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has one of the highest ORAC values, which is a metric for determining the number of antioxidants in food. Cacao is good for your heart and circulatory system. It enhances blood flow throughout your body, including the brain, and improves the flexibility of blood vessels.
Rich In Minerals
Magnesium is important for energy generation and has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes. Cacao has the highest magnesium content of any dietary item. It strengthens our hearts, relaxes our muscles, and boosts our cognitive abilities. It is an alkaline mineral that helps in detoxification. Iron, potassium, zinc, copper, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and manganese are some of the other minerals that are vital. Sulfur in cacao aids in the transportation of nutrients into and out of cells. It aids in insulin function and glucose metabolism, tissue repair, immune system function, and collagen and keratin synthesis and rebuilding (hair, nails, and skin).
Cacao’s stimulating properties are due to theobromine, an alkaloid. It stimulates the heart, dilates the blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. Theobromine provides longer and smoother energy than caffeine, without the peak and fall that many people feel. It has also been reported to help with coughing, asthma symptoms, and tooth enamel hardening.
Yes, cocoa makes us happy, relieves tension, and improves our concentration and creativity. Cacao has a good impact on our brains through neurotransmitters and modulators, which work in a sophisticated way.
PEA, a mood regulator contained in cocoa, causes happy hormones including endorphin, dopamine, and noradrenaline to be released. This is similar to how we feel when we fall in love. It boosts our focus and energy levels, and it puts us in a state of flow where we lose sight of time. It’s ideal for working or enhancing your creativity. It also boosts our libido, reduces anxiety, and is used as a supplement to treat depression symptoms. What better way to get it than from a natural source?
Tryptophan is required for the production of serotonin (which reduces anxiety and stress) and melatonin (which regulates sleep). Cocoa is a direct supply while modifying compounds (MAO inhibitors) in cacao slow the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, extending and strengthening the action.
What to look out for
A two-teaspoon portion contains roughly 50 mg of caffeine, which is about half of what you would find in a cup of coffee. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you need to keep this in mind.
Though cacao powder is frequently substituted for cocoa powder in recipes, doing so does not automatically make a dish healthier. In dishes including cacao powder, you still have to keep an eye on the amount of sugar and bad fats.
Cacao has many health benefits, and pure cacao has the most of them. Different processing techniques, such as alkali (Dutch) processing, pressing cacao (to separate the butter and powder), and high-temperature roasting, destroy the beneficial compounds that make cacao so healthy. This is why, learning from traditional use, we recommend processing cacao as little as possible, which is healthier and has a larger effect.