Cacao is one of the most delicious and satisfying ways to get a good antioxidant dose and feel indulgent at the same time. All of our cacao products have at least 70% cacao content to ensure you’re getting all the antioxidant health benefits.
Read on to learn more about the beloved cacao bean...
WHAT IS CACAO?
Cacao (also commonly known as cocoa) is the dried and fully fermented seed of a plant called Theobroma cacao. You probably know cacao in its most popular form - chocolate. Cacao solids and cocoa butter are extracted from cacao beans. About 300 - 600 beans are processed to make 1kg of chocolate, depending on the desired cacao content. For example, milk chocolate has less cacao content than dark chocolate.
Cacao is thought to have been first used by the Mayan civilization in Mesoamerica, which is the Central American region today. Artifacts found in this region suggest that cacao was cultivated and consumed as early as 1500BC. Cacao was common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest. The Spaniards introduced cacao to Europe, the West Indies and the Philippines in the 16th-17th centuries followed by the rest of Europe introducing cacao to the rest of Asia and West Africa. Today, nearly 70% of the world's cacao crop is grown in West Africa.
Cacao has historically been consumed as for its purported healing properties. In Mesoamerica cacao was used as either the primary healing remedy or as a vehicle to deliver other medicines. Between the 16th and 20th centuries there have been over 100 documented medicinal uses for cacao and chocolate, including inducing weight gain in emaciated patients, to stimulate the nervous system, and to improve digestion and elimination.
NUTRIENTS AND PHYTOCHEMICALS
Cacao contains numerous phytochemicals and is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants found in cacao include catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, resveratrol and quercetin. Cacao also contains methylxanthines, such as theobromine and caffeine, which are stimulant compounds that also have antioxidant properties.
Cacao is also high in mineral content, especially magnesium, copper, and iron. Magnesium is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. This includes maintaining bone health, supporting normal nerve and muscle health, regulating blood glucose levels, and aiding the production of energy. Both iron and copper are required to build red blood cells, maintain healthy brain function and ensure proper immune function.
POTENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS
A group of antioxidants found in cacao known as flavanols have been studied to improve significant cardiovascular factors. The flavanols in cacao are thought to improve nitric oxide levels in the blood which promotes dilation of blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Cacao has also been found to reduce LDL cholesterol, have similar blood thinning effects to aspirin, and reduce inflammation. These factors have been linked to reduce the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
Flavanols can cross the blood-brain barrier and are involved in biochemical mechanisms that can produce neurons and molecules needed for your brain to function. Some studies have suggested that cacao flavanols can improve mental performance in people with and without mental impairments. Recall that flavanols in cacao can help produce nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels. This also means it improves blood flow and blood supply to the brain which promotes cognitive health.
Improve Mood Symptoms of Depression
It’s probably safe to say for a lot of people, eating chocolate makes them feel good. The improvement of mood may be due to cacao’s flavanol content, its role in converting tryptophan to serotonin (the “happy” hormone), the activity of phytochemicals like caffeine, theobromine, and anandamide, or even just the sensory pleasures of eating chocolate.
Some human studies have shown that higher intake of flavanols, including those found in cacao, can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A review of human studies have found that diabetic and non-diabetic people that eat dark chocolate or flavanol-rich cocoa powder show improved insulin sensitivity, reduced blood sugar levels, and reduced inflammation. It is important to note that most cacao products are in chocolate form with added sugars, so these types of products should be consumed in moderation.
Cancer Protective Properties
Currently, most studies on the cancer protective properties of cacao have been done in the lab. Test tube studies have found that the antioxidant components in cacao protect cells against damage from reactive molecules, fight inflammation, inhibit cell growth, induce cancer cell death and prevent the spread of cancer cells.
HOW TO ENJOY OUR CACAO PRODUCTS
The health benefits of chocolate products occur when the cacao content is 70-90%. That’s why all of our cacao products have at least 70% cacao, like our organic dark chocolate chips. Our chocolate covered dried berries and nuts are a great way to combine the super phytochemical and antioxidant powers of chocolate in combination with superfruits and nuts. If you want to go hardcore on that antioxidant and mineral-rich cacao, then try cacao nibs. Satisfyingly crunchy with a pure chocolate flavour. Try them as a super-powered substitute for chocolate chips.
Any of our cacao products can be added to trail mixes, yogurts, cereals, deserts, smoothie bowls, or baked goods (hello, chocolate chip cookies). Of course, if you’re a chocolate purist, you can just eat any of our products on their own. Choose whichever one tantalizes your taste buds knowing that you’ll get decadent nutrient-packed treat.