We all know that chocolate comes from cacao. The cacao seeds are basically the root of all happiness that we savour in our all-time favourite dessert and snack. But besides that, it seems that people know nothing more about it. That makes cacao one of, if not the most, underrated superfoods there is.
In this piece, we’re bringing cacao into the spotlight to prove that there’s more to it than chocolate bars and hot chocolate drinks.
But first, let’s set things straight.
Cacao is Different From Cocoa
While cocoa is essentially a cacao product, one must still know the distinction between the two. To put it simply, cocoa is the processed and final product, cacao is the raw one.
Cacao is a bean-shaped seed of the fleshy fruit of the cacao tree or in the science world, Theobroma cacao. These seeds undergo fermentation, roasting, and relentless pounding to make a paste called chocolate liqueur. This paste will then be treated to finally produce cocoa.
Cocoa, as you already know, is the key ingredient of your favourite choccy.
On the other hand, cacao only needs to be dried, fermented and ground into nibs. These nibs are considered the purest form of chocolate. You can either crunch on these cacao nibs straight from the pack (if your palate can take a more bitter flavour), or throw them into your smoothies, breakfast cereals, ice cream, or coffee to make them even more exciting!
Nutritional Benefits of Cacao
Cacao can work wonders to your body like it does to your food. It can enhance not only the flavour of your desserts and beverage, but also your overall health. Like any other superfood, every ounce of cacao is packed with nutritional benefits. Below are only some of them.
Fibre is one of the many nutrients that you will find in cacao but not in your regular choccies. For every 28 grams of cacao nibs, you’re getting some 5-9 grams of fibre! Not bad especially given that these fibres can promote healthy digestion in your body.
Cacao is one of the best sources of magnesium. It holds up to 272 milligrams of magnesium for every 100 grams of cacao nibs. Magnesium can improve the health of your heart and can help you achieve laser focus because it positively impacts your brain function.
If you’re working or studying at home, make sure to place a bowl of cacao nibs within reach!
When it comes to antioxidants, this wonder seed is king. Authentic raw cacao nibs have over 40 times the amount of antioxidants that blueberries have. You heard it, right! These antioxidants will certainly flush out all the free radicals that freeload in your body.
Iron is vital in the production of red blood cells. Good thing cacao has six percent of your RDI or recommended daily intake of iron. If you're on a plant-based or vegan diet but looking for a good source iron, no need for the meat! Cacao has plant-based iron so you can get all the nutrition you need without disrupting your well-kept diet!
5. Bliss Chemicals
Cacao is packed with happy chemicals like serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are proven scientifically to trigger happiness and enhance your mood.
In addition to that, cacao also holds a lipid called anandamide, also called the bliss molecule. This lipid is also responsible for initiating feel-good vibes, making cacao one of the best healthy comfort foods there is.
So whenever you’re feeling down, you know now what happy pill (or nibs, for that matter) to grab at the grocery store! Just make sure to read the ingredients carefully for you not to get deceived by knock-off and inauthentic brands.
Recipes to Make With Cacao
Like we’ve said earlier, you can either eat cacao as it is, or make a little something something out of it. Below are some easy recipes that don’t require expertise in the kitchen or an impeccable palate. Even you, who’s never lit up a stove your entire life, can pull these off:
Yes, you can curl up on your bed with a warm cuppa of cacao tea on your bedside table. It may sound hilarious at first but wait until you have a sip of this heart-warming cuppa.
1-2 teaspoon of cacao husks
8 ounces of water
1. Fixing your cacao tea is as simple as fixing any other types of tea. Boil your water first.
2. Throw in the cacao husks. You can add more if you want a stronger flavour.
3. Separate the husks from the tea using French press or strainer.
4. Pour it into your favourite mug, and enjoy!
Home-made Chocolate Spread
Ditch your store-bought Nutella and make your own chocolate spread! It’s much healthier and cheaper but you get the same chocolatey goodness!
3 cups of roasted hazelnuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon of cacao nibs
1-2 tablespoon maple syrup or coconut sugar
Steps:1. Heat the hazelnuts in the oven for 8-10 minutes to warm the natural oils and get rid of the skin.
2. After heating, let it cool. Peel the skin off the nuts.
3. Throw the nuts into a blender on low speed for about 8-10 minutes until a butter is formed.
4. Once the hazelnut is smooth and creamy, add vanilla extract and salt, then blend again.
5. Throw in the cacao nibs, then pour in the maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten the mixture. Add syrup to taste.
6. Blend, blend, blend until you achieve your desired texture and taste.
7. Toast some bread and spread your home-made Nutella!
Cacao is easy to blend in a lot of baking recipes. So having a cookie recipe on this list is a no-brainer. Here’s how you can whip up a healthy, chocolatey and fluffy jar of cookies in your own kitchen:
1 cup of cocoa nibs
220g of flour
120g of soft butter
1 cup of baking powder
80g of brown and white sugar each
1 cup of vanilla powder
¼ cup salt
80g of chocolate chips
Steps:1. Preheat your oven up to 180 °C
2. Mix brown and white sugar with butter.
3. Then throw in the vanilla powder and egg. Mix, mix, mix.
4. Add the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix until you achieve the right texture for a dough.
5. Pepper the dough with your preferred chocolate chips.
6. Make balls out of the dough using a spoon then arrange them on a baking tray with baking paper.
7. Flatten the cookie dough before throwing them into the oven.
8. Sing, dance, or clean your baking counter for 10 minutes.
9. When the oven bell dings, make sure the cookies crack up nice and fluffy!
10. Enjoy your cacao cookies!
Include Cacao Nibs on Your Grocery List
Now that you know how healthy cacao nibs are, and how they’re a better alternative for sweets, you won’t look at your fave choccy bars the same way again.
Cacao is certainly the ultimate superfood that we should start giving more the attention that it deserves. So when doing you weekly errands, try skipping the chocolate isle and grab a pack of cacao nibs instead.
Or better yet, order our Raw Organic Cacao Nibs online. Our cacao product is made from high-grade and authentic Peruvian Cacao which the Mayans made their chocolate drink from, thousands of years ago!
You can shop our entire range of superfoods available at Superfoods Australia right here. With AfterPay and ZipPay available, and free express shipping Australia-Wide for orders over $100, it doesn't get any easier to get your fix today!