Cacao – Superfood of the Gods

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”
–Geronimo Piperni (1796)

I’m about to tell you why it’s totally ok to indulge in a daily square of dark chocolate – in fact, I’m going to tell you why you should! You’re welcome.

Cocoa VS Cacao
People often get confused over the difference between “cocoa” and “cacao” on food labels. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can get – it is raw and cold-pressed, meaning all of the good stuff stays inside. Cocoa, on the other hand, has been roasted at high temps, meaning a lot of that good stuff gets killed off.
When choosing your chocolate, always select products with “cacao” in the ingredients list. They may be a little more expensive, but the health benefits are worth it.

Cacao Loves You!
Cacao is thought by some to be the world’s most super superfood! It is extremely high in flavonoids, those plant antioxidants you keep hearing about. Flavonoids do great things like reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to the skin. Interestingly enough, a lot of these benefits are much more pronounced in women – my chocolate cravings are finally justified!
Cacao is also loaded with magnesium and iron. Magnesium is great for calming nerves and aiding in muscle pain and cramps, while iron is essential for the production of red blood cells and extra important for menstruating women.

Caffeine Alert!
Many people forget that chocolate contains CAFFEINE. Indulge in a 2 oz 70% dark chocolate bar before bed and you’ll be ingesting about 80mg of caffeine – yikes! That’s more than enough to keep you up until the wee hours of the morning. Stick to smaller doses at night, or get your chocolate fix earlier in the day.
Before You Eat That Snickers…
Chocolate is only beneficial when it is of good quality and without crappy additives. A snickers bar is not going to do you any favors, my friends. Instead, pick as dark a blend as you can enjoy (think 70% and up) and look for organic, fair trade products. Similar to coffee, cheap chocolate beans can contain fungi (among other things) that you won’t find in organic, high quality crops. Fair trade simply means that the conditions in which the product is produced were sustainable and ethical to the people involved as well as the planet – can’t be mad at that! Other things you might want to avoid in your chocolate – artificial AND natural flavors, emulsifiers like soy and sunflower lecithin, dairy (if your tummy doesn’t like it), and unnecessary amounts of sugar.

White Chocolate?
Sorry, but that milky, creamy, snowy goodness isn’t really chocolate. It’s usually made with cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and an emulsifier, but since it leaves out the actual cocoa solids (cocoa powder), it doesn’t qualify as chocolate. I won’t lie… I do enjoy a bit of white chocolate every now and then, especially with a dollop of natural peanut butter on top (mouth watering?). But don’t fool yourself into thinking that white chocolate is doing your body any favors.

How do you enjoy your chocolate? Any cool recipes you’ve been wanting to try? Let me know in the comments!

XoX Kelli

Published by kelliroseyates

Kelli Yates is a health and nutrition writer, dietetics student, and co-host and creator of The Nutrition Nerds Podcast. In her spare time she teaches the free class Well-Fed Survival: Eating Well After Disaster.

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