Is there anything chocolate can’t do?
There’s no doubting that chocolate is delicious. However, this superfood holds powerful benefits and can be made part of a healthy diet. The trick is to skip the sugar-laden chocolate bars and opt for raw cacao instead, which is filled with some pretty impressive health benefits.
So, what exactly is raw cacao and what makes it better than just snacking on regular chocolate? Let’s dive in.
What is Raw Cacao and How is it Different From Regular Chocolate?
First and foremost, when you hear about the amazing health benefits of chocolate, it’s important to note that the health benefits come from raw cacao and not just regular old chocolate.
Unlike processed cocoa powder and regular old chocolate bars, raw cacao is not exposed to the high temperatures that diminish many of its unique health benefits. When you choose raw cacao, the live enzymes are still present, making it a much healthier choice.
Raw Cacao Nutritional Facts
Nutritional facts for 2.5 Tbsp raw cacao powder (1)
Fat: 1.5 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Carbs: 8 grams
Nutritional facts for 3 Tbsp raw cacao nibs (2)
Fat: 14 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Carbs: 10 grams
12 Health Benefits of Raw Cacao
We’re pretty sure you love chocolatey drinks and treats just as much as we do. Here are a dozen great excuses to add more of it to your diet!
Raw cacao beans are loaded with antioxidants, which fight off free radicals caused by stress, environmental toxins, or even poor lifestyle habits. This helps to reduce inflammation in the body, preventing chronic disease. (3) Try eating a little raw cacao every day to help naturally reduce your inflammatory load.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
If you’re concerned about your heart health, raw cacao boasts some impressive cardiovascular health benefits. Raw cacao is filled with nutrients called flavanols and procyanidins, which act as antioxidants. (4) Studies show that these antioxidants may help reduce the risk of vascular disease.
Boosts Your Mood
Aside from the fact that eating chocolate makes us happy simply because it tastes so good, there may actually be some valid reasons to reach for some chocolate on a bad day. Studies find that chocolate can positively affect your mood as it releases feel-good endorphins in the body. (5) That endorphin boost might be just what your sour mood needs.
Supports Brain Health
If you’re concerned about your cognitive functioning, you might want to keep some raw cacao on hand. Studies done on rats found that the flavonoids present in chocolate can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, while human studies discovered that raw cacao reduces the risk of stroke. (6) Other studies link the flavonoid content in cacao to better attention, higher processing speed, and stronger working memory. (7)
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Regular raw cacao consumption is linked to improved insulin sensitivity, thus reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe that the flavonols present in dark chocolate and raw cacao are responsible for this. (8) Other studies show that regular consumption of raw cacao helps prevent the inflammation caused by diabetes. (9)
If you’re feeling fatigued lately, the caffeine in raw cacao might give you the boost that you need. If coffee isn’t your thing, or it makes you too jittery, try adding a sprinkle or two of raw cacao to your morning cup of coconut yogurt or smoothie for an added energy boost.
We can all use less stress in our lives and raw cacao may be just the trick to help take the edge off. Researchers found that the flavonoids in chocolate with at least 70% or more cacao, helped to reduce stress levels. (10)
Gives you a Magnesium Boost
Did you know that magnesium is needed for at least 300 different enzyme systems? These chemical reactions in the body are responsible for regulating blood pressure, nerve functioning, blood sugar, and more. (11) Many of us don’t get enough magnesium from our diet, and raw cacao happens to be one of nature’s biggest sources of magnesium. (12)
Rich in Iron
If you’re at risk of anemia, chocolate might help get your iron levels up. Iron is essential for supporting blood health and energy levels, and it plays a crucial role in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. When you don’t get enough iron in your diet, you may not be able to make enough of these blood cells, which can lead to iron deficiency anemia. The good news is that raw cacao happens to be an excellent source. (13)
Chocolate’s strong antioxidant content provides yet another health benefit, and this one has to do with its ability to fight premature aging. When we age, we tend to lose elasticity in our skin, leading to wrinkles and sagging. Fortunately, one study found that regular consumption of cacao helps to support skin elasticity, promoting younger-looking skin. (14)
Soothes an Achy Cough
If you are suffering from a chronic cough, a bit of pure chocolate may be able to help. A UK research study found that theobromine, found in raw cacao, reduces a chronic cough by acting on sensory nerve endings. (15) The next time you’re facing an annoying cough that just won’t go away, make yourself a warm mug of hot chocolate with raw cacao to stop it at its source.
Gives You a Vitamin & Mineral Boost
From the iron content to the magnesium, raw cacao is loaded with nutritional value. Raw cacao is also a great source of B vitamins which are essential for energy and boasts plenty of zinc to help the immune system. Think of real chocolate as an all-natural multivitamin!
How to Eat Raw Cacao
Need some inspiration for how to eat cacao? We’ve got some great ideas for you here:
- Sprinkle raw cacao nibs over dairy-free chia pudding or coconut milk yogurt
- Add a scoop of raw unsweetened cacao powder to smoothies
- Bake raw cacao powder into almond flour donuts or avocado blueberry muffins
- Whip up a dark chocolate almond butter mousse
- Add cacao powder and nibs to homemade protein bars
- Brew dandelion tea with cacao nibs for a healthy latte
- Enjoy it straight! Snack on a square of pure dark chocolate as an after-dinner treat or with your morning cup of coffee
Where to Find High-Quality Raw Cocoa
Remember that all of the health benefits you find in chocolate come from raw cacao, so you want to make sure you are getting a high-quality product. Check the bulk section of your local health food stores or shop online. Be sure to look at the ingredient list and choose a product that only contains raw cacao.
The Bottom Line
The take-home message here is to enjoy your chocolate! In fact, you should go ahead and treat yourself to some raw cacao each day. This deliciously sweet treat supports your health in a myriad of ways.
(Read This Next: Cacao vs Cocoa – The Difference and Why It Matters)