Cocoa: The word that turns your cereal remnants into chocolate milk and warms chilly nights with a mugful of sweetness, that recalls your favorite from-scratch brownies or rich pudding. You probably associate “cocoa” with all things sweet and sugary and delicious…and maybe not the best things to put in your body on a regular basis. But we are firm believers that you should never sacrifice nostalgic treats and homemade recipes. Instead, swap around a few vowels, and meet your new best friend: cacao. Spoiler alert: We’re talking about a superfood.
What Even Is Cacao?
When we refer to cacao that you can get in your diet, we’re talking about cacao beans in their least-processed form. First, seed pods are harvested from the cacao tree. The beans from these pods are then dried, fermented and heated at a low temperature to separate the fatty part (which makes cacao butter) from the rest of the bean (what becomes cacao powder). Cacao powder can be used in baking and happens to boast a ton of health benefits.
Cacao Health Benefits
- Protects your heart. Flavanols and procyandins from cacao can increase antioxidant capacity in the blood plasma and reduce platelet reactivity, aka making your heart overall healthier.
- Chock full of antioxidants. Raw cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. We never want to tell you to ditch the fruit -- but chocolate flavor that absorbs toxins and prevents cell damage? Yes, please!
- Regulates insulin levels. Cacao contains a flavanol called epicatechin which improves insulin signaling, aka acts as a traffic director for your body’s glucose production.
- Nutrient-rich. Looking to up your magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium or manganese intake? Cacao may be your new best friend.
- Makes you happy. A flavonoid in cacao called epicatechin is linked to improved aspects of cognition and better moods.
Cocoa vs. Cacao
Though cacao may just sound like a posh way to say cocoa (like a chocolate equivalent of Targé), it actually means something quite different. While cocoa and cacao share the same humble beginnings as a bean from the cacao plant’s seed pods, cocoa goes through a lot more before it lands on your supermarket shelf in the form of cocoa powder or chocolate chips. Where cacao is heated at a low temperature, cocoa is heated at much higher temperatures, generating its sweet flavor but altering the health effects. Cocoa powder, a popular ingredient in sweet treats, is often altered on a molecular level to richen the taste and eliminate acidity. In this process, the antioxidant capacity is lowered. Cocoa is generally a lot cheaper than cacao and easier to find. But if you’re looking for the benefits listed above, the hunt for chocolate in a more raw form may be worth it.
Though just a few letters off, cacao boasts benefits that leave cocoa in the dust. That’s why we’re proud to incorporate cacao powder in our delicious Coco Cacao gr8nola. But the real moral of the story? This gives us a pretty good excuse to be chocolate lovers.