When it comes to cacao or more aptly known as chocolate, nothing is off limits. When we hear this word spoken anywhere, our ears perk up and we immediately picture a fancy box of bonbons, a bar or a bunny.
Correct us if we are wrong: the verb you mostly associate with it is “eat” not “drink”, right? As for the adjective, “sweet” seems to be everyone’s favorite.
Here’s something mind-blowing: 90% of the history of cacao talks about it strictly as a beverage, without any sugar. According to the book “The True History of Chocolate”, cacao dates back to the 1200 B.C.E. It was discovered by the Mayans in the Mesoamerican civilization like the Olmec.
It is believed that the Mayans used cacao as a ritual beverage which was shared between the bride and groom during a betrothal. This is how the first link was created between romance and chocolate. By the 1600s, the drink had gained widespread popularity in France, England and London.
Uses of Cacao
Apart from the obvious that is chocolate, cacao seeds and their shells are used for various purposes. The cacao pulp is used to make alcoholic beverages and other drinks whereas the husk is pelletized dry and is used in animal feed, as well as potash for soap manufacturing.
In other cases, it is used as a fertilizer for vegetables, cocoa and other food crops. The pectin in the cacao seed is extracted by precipitation through alcohol, which is followed by distillation. This is used to make marmalade and jam.
Once the cacao seed is dried, apart from being used in the making of chocolate and alcoholic beverages, it is also used to make cocoa butter. This butter is used in essentials oils for aromatherapy and hair, in creams as a moisturizer and in shampoos and conditioners.
Benefits of Cacao
Often people are confused between cacao and cocoa. The difference between these two is more than just about the spelling. Cacao bean is the raw, unprocessed and fresh version, whereas cocoa is the roasted and processed version in powdered form, which is commonly sweetened.
Following are five benefits of raw cacao:
A Healthy Source of Magnesium
Cacao is one of the largest sources of magnesium in the world. It is extremely important for brain and heart health, as it helps convert glucose into energy, which allows your brain to have laser-sharp focus and clarity.
Has More Calcium
A hot cup of cacao is an excellent way to get your daily needed intake of calcium, to keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. A small packet of cacao gives you around 350 mg of calcium, whereas a cup of milk gives you 300 mg calcium. This is why cacao is also considered to be a great source of calcium.
Acts as an Antioxidant
This little bean has 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries. It boosts your immune system and eradicates free radicals that might be circulating in your body.
Great Source of Iron
Cacao is known as the highest and best plant-based source that offers iron. It improves blood circulation in the body and prevents blood clots.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Yes, cacao in its raw form can be great for the heart! It has phytonutrients that help with overall heart health and keep the blood healthy. Moreover, its blood-thinning properties help lower your blood pressure and keep the cholesterol levels healthy.
Good Source of Dietary Fiber
Raw cacao is extremely low in sugar. Most of the carbohydrates in this bean come from fiber, which helps with the digestive system and aids in weight loss.
There’s a reason why people feel good after having a bite of chocolate. Cacao stimulates your brain and releases neurotransmitters like tryptophan, tyrosine, serotonin, phenylethylamine and anandamide. These activate positive emotions and provide a positive attitude. The neurotransmitter anandamide is known as “bliss chemical”, which induces a happy feeling when you are feeling low.
No-Bake Dark Chocolate Brownies
This simple, no-bake recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. These brownies are 100% healthy and can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or after dinner.
* Flavored organic protein powder: 4 scoops
* Pumpkin seed protein: ½ cup
* Almonds: ½ cup
* Coconut flakes: ½ cup
* Raw cacao nibs: ½ cup
* Raw Chia seeds (soaked): ½ cup
* Pitted dates: 1-3
* Pinch of salt
* Add all the ingredients together in a blender
* Blend for one minute on a low setting
* Slowly increase the speed and blend until the mixture starts sticking to the side
* Scrape the mixture into a bowl
* Make shapes (can be anything from balls to rolls or small patties)
* Place it in the fridge for one hour and serve cold