Cacao (pronounced “ca-kow”) comes from the beans of the cacao plant and can be bought as a powder, nib or butter from health food stores or supermarkets. It has a slightly bitter flavour. It is a raw unprocessed product. As such maintains much of its nutrition, verse its processed cousin cocoa.
Cocoa is produced by roasting the Cocao Bean at high temperatures, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.
Cacao and cocoa are both strong antioxidants, though cacao is significantly more potent.
ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) is a method of measuring antioxidants potency.
Per 100 grams:
Raw cacao powder has an ORAC value of 95,500
Roasted cocoa powder as an ORAC value of 26,000 (precursor to making chocolate)
Blueberries ORAC value of 6500
Raw cacao powder therefore has significantly more antioxidant power. Raw cacao is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, fibre, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and sulphur.
Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate - more than 15 times than that of blueberries. Protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, sulfur, flavonoids, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids are also present. The precise blend of all these elements combined serve to kick in naturally occurring phytochemicals that have incredible benefits throughout the body, such as lowered LDL cholesterol, improved heart function, and reduced cancer risk....Mercola
Protect 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.
Shield nerve cells from damage.
Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cut your risk of stroke.
Lower blood pressure.
Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease: The antioxidants found in cacao help to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Although NO has heart-benefiting qualities, such as relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, it also produces toxins. The antioxidants in cacao neutralise these toxins, protecting your heart and preventing disease.
Guard against toxins: As a potent antioxidant, 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 per cent of the weight of raw cacao.
Boost 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.
Consuming Cocao has many health benefits, its antioxidant delivery is significantly more than that of the processed Cocoa. Although both are very high on the antioxidant tree.
As with many foods, particularly fruit and vegetables the closer to its natural state we consume the food the better are the foods nutritional properties for our health.
Regularly consuming cocao can improve heart health, cholesterol, stress levels, and inflammation, to list just a few physical advantages.
Be aware of caffeine and fat content, as both cocao and cocoa are high in calories.