I remember when I first started reading heathy food blogs and wondering why they kept spelling cocoa wrong. I soon figured out cacao was a real ingredient, and went looking for it in the health food shop.
Since then, I’ve gotten rid of cocoa from my pantry and only use cacao for everything. I love the taste of cacao, especially when it’s used right.
Cacao is raw chocolate beans. You can buy raw cacao nibs, raw cacao butter, raw cacao paste and raw cacao powder, and all have uses in desserts. Cacao nibs are great in raw dessert balls, acting as chic chips. Cacao butter, cacao paste and cacao powder can be combined to create raw chocolate. Cacao powder works great in raw and baked desserts and smoothies.
The media is always telling us how good dark chocolate is for us. And they are kind-of sort-of of right for once. Cacao, in it’s purest form is good for us – as long as it doesn’t come with the sugar, dairy products and soy lecithin found in commercial chocolate bars, which block the positive effects of cacao.
Cacao vs. Cocoa: What’s the Diff?
The main difference is the amount of processing that cocoa goes through, which removes a lot of the mineral nutrients in cacao beans.
Cocoa powder is a highly processed product. The cacao beans are are roasted, hulled and ground into chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor is then pressed to separate into two products, cocoa butter and cocoa solids. The cocoa solids are pressed (again) producing a substance called press cake, which is then dried and ground into cocoa powder. Phew!
Cacao powder, on the other hand, is simply ground cacao nibs separated into cacao powder and cacao butter.
What Should I Look for When Buying Cacao?
Make sure you purchase raw, organic and fair trade cacao products to be sure you are getting all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Raw – look for the words raw on the label to ensure the cacao has not been heated or processed and lost nutrients.
Organic – a certified organic label assures that the cacao was grown with no dangerous chemicals.
Fair Trade – cacao beans are mostly grown in poorer countries, where workers are often paid low wages and work in harsh conditions. A fair trade label ensures fair working conditions and and above market wages.
Here are a few brands that produce quality, organic raw cacao products:
Can I Use Cacao to Replace Cocoa in Recipes?
I have tried this a few times with success. I will say that theres not much point using high quality cacao in an unhealthy cake recipe, though.
5 Reasons You Will Fall in Love With Cacao
1. // According to David Wolfe, the leading expert on raw foods, cacao beans are the number one antioxidant food on the planet. Cacao is abundant in easily metabolised flavonol antioxidants, containing about 10g per 100g (an incredible 10%) – almost 4 times that of goji berries.
We love antioxidants because they absorb cancer-promoting, cell and tissue damaging free radicals.
2. // Cacao is a very high source of magnesium and sulphur, which are two of the minerals the western diet is most deficient in. Magnesium is important for healthy heart function and brain clarity and focus. It is also more helpful for building strong bones than calcium. Sulphur promotes stronger hair and nails, as well as beautiful skin.
3. // Cacao contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) which decreases appetite (chocolate helps with losing weight!) and gives a youthful and healthy glow.
4. // Cacao has the brain chemicals anandamide (nicknamed the ‘bliss’ chemical), serotonin, dopamine which alleviate depression and give you a euphoric feeling.
5. // Cacao has the phytochemicals theobromine, which is considered an aphrodisiac and phenylethylamine (PEA), which is released when we released when we fall in love (see what I did there with the post title 😉 ).
Plus, it’s an excuse to eat more chocolate – it’s health food! Eating healthly doesn’t mean giving up chocolate at all.
(Vegan, Gluten Free and Raw)
(Vegan, Dairy Free, Raw)
You can even use it in savoury recipes…
(Vegan, Gluten Free)