We probably don’t have to tell you what happens to your taste receptors when you eat a very nice piece of chocolate — but you might not know that it’s not just your taste buds that are taking full advantage. Eating the right kind of chocolate will contribute to all sorts of benefits inside your body. And the right kind of chocolate contains cacao paste.
It’s normal to be a little suspicious. Perhaps you have learned that chocolate isn’t the healthiest thing you can eat. But there is a significant difference between the milk chocolate candy bars you grab at the petrol station and the ones made from organic, raw chocolate.
Raw cacao, not to be confused with cocoa, is made from cold-pressing the raw beans and ensure no nutrients are lost by heat treatment. Unlike roasted and heavily processed cocoa, raw cacao retains its high nutritional profile which makes it a superfood loaded with flavonoids and magnesium.
What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao?
Cocoa powder and cacao powder are similar; the only difference is that cocoa is processed at a much higher temperature (and sometimes packaged cocoa includes added sugar and milk). Both start as beans from the plant, which is separated from the fatty component known as cocoa butter. Cacao beans are however fermented after harvesting to develop their flavour.
Top five benefits of cacao
#1: Full of Polyphenols
These are a type of antioxidants found in food such as fruit, vegetables, tea, chocolate and wine. Various health benefits have been linked to these antioxidants, including reduced inflammation, improved blood flow, lowering of blood pressure, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Cacao is one of the best sources of polyphenol.
#2: It could help you control your weight.
Your standard milk chocolate won’t help with weight loss since it’s filled with additives, sugar, refined ingredients and bad fats.
If you eat 80 per cent + organic chocolate, however, it could help with your weight loss. Cacao can help lower your appetite, increase fat oxidation, decrease inflammation, and control your energy use.
#3: It could help to boost your mood.
Cacao activates the brain to release neurotransmitters that may trigger euphoria. When you eat it, the body releases a natural chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA). This is the same chemical released when you are feeling excited or in love, causing your pulse to accelerate. PEA also provides for greater concentration and awareness.
It also includes anandamide. This clings to cannabinoid receptors and mimics the effects of THC — the psychoactive agent in cannabis, also known as the “bliss molecule.” Research shows that anandamide can inhibit breast cancer cell growth, in addition to improving your mood.
#4: It is loaded with flavonoids.
Cacao is riddled with flavonoids that are a member of the antioxidant family of polyphenols.
Flavonoids protect the body by taking care of the cardiovascular system in your body, which can help minimise the risk of stroke, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. You’ll find 43.6 milligrams of flavonoids for every gram of cacao.
#5: It could reduce high blood pressure.
The flavonols in dark chocolate will help the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide triggers a relaxation of the arteries, which can help normalise blood pressure. Research also indicates that in those with moderate hypertension, eating a small amount of dark chocolate per day could reduce blood pressure.
We only use the cacao paste for our chocolate snack bars, such as our activated choc seeds bar. This is made into a liquid by crushing raw cacao beans. At room temperature, this liquid quickly solidifies, and the result is cacao paste.
Since this process requires no oil, this retains the natural properties. Although cacao powder is sometimes sold as a superfood, we have found that the paste is even more effective because it still contains the high-grade cacao butter, the best carrier fat for its medicinal properties.