A growing number of studies show that chocolate, especially antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, has health benefits that put it squarely on the latest list of superfoods. This sounds fantastic because chocolate is so delicious. But, are you actually eating real chocolate? The disappointing answer is most likely not. The studies that boast of chocolate’s amazing health benefits are not referring to your average store-bought chocolate bar, they are referring to cacao.
Remember my article 5 Ingredient Swaps For Healthier Eating? Little by little you can substitute healthier ingredients. Eating clean is a long process. This time, my new healthy ingredient substitution is switching from cocoa to cacao. Cacao beans are one of nature’s most potent antioxidant foods. Cacao powder is the basic, most important ingredient for making real chocolate. Remember that always making your own food is the best choice. For other great homemade snacks, including how to make your own Goldfish Crackers, check out my 5 Processed Kids Snacks You Should Avoid article.
So, What Is The Difference Between Cocoa And Cacao? Cocoa is processed cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. Cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process of making cacao is minimal and preserves all the antioxidants, while roasting at high temperatures destroys them in cocoa.
Let’s take for example a popular brand: Hershey’s chocolates. Like other industrial chocolate makers, for the most part, their products aren’t really chocolate. During their manufacturing process, cocoa butter is mixed with other vegetable oils. This is a cheaper way of producing chocolate but the problem is the final product is something other than “real chocolate”. Most of them also contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup and use soy lecithin as an emulsifier.
Studies show that the darker the chocolate, the better. Eat only less-processed chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, recommends Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. Not only does dark chocolate have a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate, but milk chocolate is also higher in added sugar and unhealthy fats.
Did you know also that dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from cacao? Making your own real chocolate using non-dairy ingredients is the best way to preserve all the health benefits.
Cacao contains far more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries. It is also rich in minerals like magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese. Did you know that cacao can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being? It is the same brain chemical (phenylethylamine) that is released when we experience deep feelings of love.
Of the many flavonoids in cacao, two in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties. Eating real chocolate helps prevent cancer! This DIY: 3 Ingredient Real Chocolate Recipe is perfect in so many ways. A true superfood!
7 Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao
- It can improve memory loss
- Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Improves vision
- Protects your nervous system
- Lowers blood pressure
- It can boost your mood
- Helps prevent cancer
Luckily, I was able to find an organic cacao powder at Whole Foods but it is also available online. I thought of making my own chocolate and found an amazing 3 ingredient recipe. Yes, only 3 super healthy ingredients. Now this is what I call a healthy treat. Eating chocolate can bring health benefits, lots of health benefits! Make sure you choose a virgin coconut oil and raw honey. You can also use maple syrup instead of honey if you like it better.
I am so excited about my new chocolate recipe! Not only are the chocolates delicious and my family loves them, but I know they are good for our health too. I highly recommend you try this recipe. It literally takes 5 minutes and the chocolates taste way better than store-bought versions.
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (make sure it is melted).
4-6 tablespoons raw honey (depending on how sweet you like your chocolates)
1. In a medium size bowl, mix all ingredients. You want to incorporate all ingredients really well. You can whisk by hand or using a hand blender.