Does cacao deserve its place among superfood greats like extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds and berries? Short answer – yes. Buckle up for the long answer; we’ll be diving into antioxidants, nutrient-density, anti-anxiety properties and everything in between.
Cacao, the purest form of chocolate derived from the seeds of the cacao tree, has been cherished for centuries not just for its rich, indulgent flavour but also for its numerous health benefits. Packed with powerful antioxidants, minerals, and mood-enhancing compounds, cacao is more than just a treat for your taste buds. Let's delve into the impressive benefits that make cacao a superfood for your overall wellbeing.
Rich Source of Antioxidants
Cacao is renowned for its exceptionally high antioxidant content. Antioxidants combat free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage and contribute to various chronic diseases. Flavonoids and polyphenols found in cacao contribute to its potent antioxidant properties, offering protection against oxidative stress.
Ever wonder why a piece of chocolate can lift your spirits? Cacao contains several compounds that contribute to its mood-enhancing effects. Theobromine, a natural stimulant found in cacao, stimulates the release of endorphins, the "feel-good" hormones in the brain. Additionally, cacao contains serotonin precursors, contributing to an improved sense of wellbeing.
Heart Health Support
Numerous studies suggest that moderate consumption of cacao may have positive effects on heart health. Flavonoids in cacao have been associated with lower blood pressure, improved blood vessel function, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. Including cacao in your diet may contribute to maintaining a healthy heart.
Cacao is not just about flavour; it's a nutritional powerhouse. It's a good source of essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. These minerals play crucial roles in various bodily functions, including energy metabolism, immune support, and muscle function. Incorporating cacao into your diet provides a delicious way to boost your nutrient intake.
Nutritional Panel for Cacao (Per 100 grams):
- Calories: 228 kcal
- Protein: 4.9 g
- Total Fat: 13.7 g
- Dietary Fibre: 37.0 g
- Magnesium: 499 mg (125% DV)
- Iron: 13.9 mg (77% DV)
- Calcium: 128 mg (13% DV)
- Phosphorus: 734 mg (73% DV)
- Zinc: 3.3 mg (22% DV)
- Potassium: 1524 mg (31% DV)
Note: Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a daily intake of 2000 calories.
Brain Health and Cognitive Function
The flavonoids present in cacao have been linked to cognitive benefits. Research suggests that regular consumption may improve cognitive function, enhance memory, and protect against age-related decline. The neuroprotective properties of cacao make it a delightful addition to support overall brain health.
Incorporating Cacao into Your Lifestyle
To reap the benefits of cacao, consider incorporating it into your daily routine. Choose high-quality, organic cacao products to ensure maximum nutritional value. Enjoy a square or two of dark chocolate with high cacao content, add raw cacao nibs to your smoothies, or indulge in a comforting cup of hot cocoa made with pure cacao powder.
Cacao vs Cocoa
Raw vs Processed Form: Cacao refers to the beans and their derivatives from the Theobroma cacao tree in their raw and unprocessed form, while cocoa typically refers to cacao beans that have undergone processing, including roasting at higher temperatures. Cacao products are minimally processed to preserve their natural state and retain their nutritional content.
Nutrient-Rich: Cacao is considered more nutrient-dense as it undergoes less processing, retaining higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Bitter Taste: Cacao products can have a more intense and slightly bitter taste due to the absence of added sugars or sweeteners.
Commonly Used Term: In everyday language, "cocoa" is often used to describe processed forms of cacao, such as cocoa powder and chocolate products.
Sweetened Products: Cocoa products commonly found in stores, like cocoa powder and chocolate bars, often contain added sugars and may have a sweeter taste.
Altered Nutrient Content: The roasting process can reduce some of the nutritional content, including antioxidants, compared to raw cacao.
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