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Article: Is Chocolate Good For You? Unwrapping The Health Benefits of Cacao

Is Chocolate Good For You? Unwrapping The Health Benefits of Cacao

Is Chocolate Good For You? Unwrapping The Health Benefits of Cacao

If you have a sweet tooth, as so many people do, you might be prone to regular chocolate cravings and frequently tempted by a piece of chocolate (or six!) but then feel terribly guilty for the rest of the day about indulging in a sugar laden treat. So we thought we’d take a look at some facts about chocolate. Is it really so bad for you? What is chocolate actually made of? Is cacao the same as cocoa? And what, if any, are the health benefits cacao offers? So many questions …and it’s not all bad news!

What Is Chocolate & Is It Good For You?

Chocolate, a universal symbol of indulgence, regularly gets a bad rap but is it completely warranted? The number of google searches for: ‘Is chocolate good for you?’ shows just how much guilt people feel about enjoying a cheeky sweet treat. But the reality is it all comes down to quality, how processed your chocolate is and how much you’re eating. There are, in fact, some chocolate products out there that actually have some decent health benefits associated with them (think Bliss Ball Mix!). But if you want to take some of the guilt of enjoying chocolate, you first need to understand the ingredients. The start of the journey is in understanding cacao, the source of all chocolate products.


Raw Organic Cacao vs Cocoa Powder

So, you're probably thinking, "Aren't cacao and cocoa just two ways of saying the same thing?" Not quite! Whilst both cacao and cocoa originate from the same source - the beans of the Theobroma Cacao tree, which translates to ‘food of the Gods’ and is native to South America - the difference lies in the journey from tree to treat.

Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans and nibs. Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been chopped into smaller pieces. They offer a crunchy texture and are a great way to enjoy the natural flavour of cacao.

The most basic process of producing raw cacao powder involves fermenting, drying and roasting the cacao beans, although in the case of raw cacao, this step is either skipped or done at very low temperatures (below 118°F or 48°C). The idea is to preserve more of the beans' natural enzymes and nutrients, which can be destroyed by high heat.

The dried beans are cracked, and the thin shells are removed, leaving behind cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground into a paste known as chocolate liquor or cacao mass. This paste contains both cacao solids and cacao butter. To make cacao powder, the cacao butter is removed from the chocolate liquor, usually through a cold-pressing process. This separates the dense cacao solids from the butter. Finally, the remaining solid mass is then finely milled into raw cacao powder.
What you get is raw cacao powder, the more bitter-tasting but more nutritious sibling of cocoa that also carries with it some impressive health benefits.

On the other side of the chocolate spectrum is cocoa powder. The beans for cocoa are roasted at high temperatures before being processed, which alters the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.

The choice between raw organic cacao and cocoa powder is kind of like the choice between a salad and veggie chips. Both come from plant origins, but one’s gone through a lot less meddling to get to your plate. It's worth noting that the added sugar and dairy in most commercially available cocoa products can further dampen the health benefits. So, if it’s healthier chocolate you’re after, organic, raw cacao powder is what you need to look for. 

The Nutritional Composition of Cacao

 So is chocolate good for you? Well if we’re talking raw organic cacao, you might be surprised to learn that it is actually a powerhouse of nutrition.

Rich In Antioxidants

Cacao is one of the richest sources of polyphenols, particularly flavonoids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory and heart-protective properties.

High Mineral Content

Cacao also has a high mineral content including iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, crucial for various body functions. In fact, cacao powder and nibs are one of the highest plant-based sources of iron.

Good Source of Fibre

It might surprise you to learn that cacao is also a good source of dietary fibre which is beneficial for digestive health. One ounce of cacao powder can contain around 9 grams of fibre which is roughly 35% of the recommended daily intake.

Mood-Enhancing Compounds

Cacao is also a great source of natural chemical compounds that are known to have mood enhancing effects such as phenylethylamine. It also contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid your body uses to make serotonin, a brain chemical that can help in both regulating mood and digesting food.

The Health Benefits of Cacao

The nutritional composition of cacao can translate into some impressive health benefits.

1. Heart Health

The flavonoids in cacao can improve blood flow to the heart and brain, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

2. Antioxidant Properties

Cacao is high in antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of several diseases, including cancer.

3. Improved Cognitive Function

Regular consumption of cacao has been linked to improved cognitive function, possibly due to increased blood flow to the brain.

4. Mood Enhancement

Compounds like phenylethylamine, tryptophan and the flavanols in cacao can boost mood and alleviate depression.

5. Skin Health

The antioxidants in cacao may also benefit the skin by protecting it against oxidative damage from the sun.

6. Weight Management

The fibre content in cacao can promote a feeling of fullness which might help you maintain a healthy weight.

If you’re looking for an alternative to chocolate that can deliver the health benefits of cacao, you have to give Bliss Ball Mix a try. It can really help to nail your chocolate cravings. Containing both organic raw cacao and raw cacao nibs, it is the perfect healthier alternative to a basic bar of chocolate and can also be used in so many recipes to create yummy chocolate treats.

While indulging in chocolate, particularly dark chocolate with high cacao content, can be beneficial, moderation is key. Look for products with higher percentages of cacao and lower amounts of added sugar to reap the most health benefits. Embracing cacao in its purest forms, like cacao nibs or powder, can be an even healthier way to enjoy the rich flavours and health benefits of this remarkable bean.

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