Chocolate is soul food. It’s at the heart of every sweet tooth and the forefront of every Sunday! Squares of satisfaction to tantalise the taste buds and tickle the tongues fancy. Unfortunately such delight comes with little wonders for the waistline. However, as with anything if you delve deep enough you’ll find goodness in amongst the naughtiest of nibbles. Cacao holds the halo here!
Cacao or cocoa? You have probably heard of both, but what is the real difference? It’s time to distinguish the naughty from the nice! Cacao is the purest form of raw chocolate extracted from the cacao pod. It is one of the richest food sources of antioxidants and magnesium. Diets rich in magnesium can help to fight off acid build up, neutralize toxins, build strong bones and teeth, and boost energy levels.
Cocoa is made in a similar way to cacao, the only difference being heat is used in the process. Even though it is not raw it still retains a lot of its nutrients and still provides health benefits like cacao as long as you avoid those with added sugar or oils. Cocoa is cheaper than cacao but is lower is good fats and fibre, so the choice is yours. I try to use cacao powder and raw chocolate when possible, but when watching the pennies a little Green and Blacks won’t hurt!
The plant based flavanols (catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins) found in cacao are anti-inflammatory antioxidants which have been linked to a reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, preventing strokes and improving blood circulation. An Australian study found that consumption of high quality cacao lowered blood pressure due to the flavanols increasing the volume of nitrous oxide (NO) in the blood. NO helps to dilate the blood vessels and hence a reduction in blood pressure. Other antioxidants found in cacao have been shown to help reduce insulin sensitivity in diabetics. This suggests that adding cacao to one’s diet could help prevent and/or treat diabetes! Not just a tasty treat eh?
Good fats are another reason it’s time to up the intake. Raw cacao is packed full of them! These fats are lost during the heating process, so in order to reap these superfood rewards you must make sure that you stick to the a not the o! The most common fat in cacao is oleic acid. Oleic acid in an unsaturated fat which has been linked to a reduction in total and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.
So we’ve discovered the superpowers linked to the right kinda coco. Just remember chomping down on a snickers bar sadly doesn’t have the same effect. Not only is the cocoa level low but it is also thought that the milk fats present in the chocolate prevent the action of the antioxidants found in the cocoa. Nice try though!
Luckily we’ve posted plenty of delicious recipes on the blog in line with our 10 weeks of MakeMyMeals. Each is packed with only the saintly features of the nation’s guilty pleasure, so you better get gobbling. Guilt free gobbling at that!