International Chocolate Day 2017 | Ingredient Spotlight: Cacao
Is there any better day to celebrate than International Chocolate Day? We don’t think so!
In honour of July 7, we wanted to share some of the benefits of including more cacao in your diet. But first, let’s cover off on the differences between cacao, cocoa and chocolate and how this delicious, rich and always adored food is processed.
We start with the cacao pod which contains the amazing cacao bean. Here is where things diverge a little. You might know of cacao nibs (crunchy, chocolatey little bits) or raw cacao powder. Cacao is the unprocessed cousin of cocoa. Whereas cocoa is processed with heat and chemicals, cacao remains relatively untouched, which means the good stuff stays in.
To make chocolate, at least the stuff you see in the supermarket aisle, the refined and processed cocoa powder is mixed with things like cream, milk and sugar – among more unsavoury things like preservatives and artificial flavours.
What are we getting at? The amazing benefits you can reap from this superfood are best available to you from cacao rather than cocoa. And it goes without saying, chocolate full of sugar and artificial nasties isn’t going to do you much good at all!
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s get into the benefits:
Boost your mood
A study has found that the micronutrients known as polyphenols, which are abundant in cacao, have a positive effect on mood. The authors say that “this randomised controlled trial is perhaps the first to demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood in healthy participants”. This perhaps explains why when we’re feeling down we automatically reach for the chocolate! Instead, next time go for a healthier alternative with all the benefits such as our Cocoa and black plum porridge.
Chill out with chocolate
Did you know that stress is the number one reason our hormones can become unbalanced? This is because when we’re stressed we are in our sympathetic nervous system (think of this as flight or fight mode) and our body is releasing tonnes of the stress hormone cortisol as well as a (un)healthy dose of adrenaline. A study found that participants who rated themselves highly stressed at the beginning of the study had lower levels of stress hormones after eating chocolate every day for two weeks. Amplify these effects by sticking to the healthy alternative cacao!
Chockas with plant-based iron (excuse the pun)
Cacao contains the most iron of any plant-based food known to us. If you’re vegan or vegetarian this is the perfect reason to include more in your diet. Clocking in at over 7mg of iron per 100g of powder, cacao beats both beef and, the better know iron source, spinach! Note here that all plant-based iron is non-heme, meaning it is absorbed at a lesser rate than heme iron. So you can either up your intake of these foods, or pair your non-heme iron sources with foods high in vitamin C to help with absorption (think oranges, red capsicum or grapefruit!).
All the antioxidants
It’s well know that chocolate is a great source of antioxidants but did you know that being unprocessed, cacao has more than 50% more antioxidants than cocoa! We love antioxidants as they promote cellular repair and blood flow. They’re amazing for our overall health and they can keep us looking and feeling younger for longer. Cacao has been shown to have 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries, making it a very rich (and tasty!) source for you to take advantage of.
Sweet for magnesium
This superfood is one of the richest sources of magnesium you will come across. Why do we love magnesium? Magnesium is crucial to over 300 processes in the body including:
- Proper nerve function
- Ensuring a steady heart beat
- Supporting your immune system
- Helps bone health
- Regulates blood glucose levels
You’re looking for about a 400-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women of magnesium and 100g of cacao is going to easily surpass that at 499 mg!
Is it time you added more cacao into your day? Try our Cocoa and black plum porridge or Cherry ripe chocolate slice.
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