Cacao is a plant that produces beans inside its fruit, which were first used by the Mayo-Chinchipe civilization in Ecuador over 5,300 years ago.
The Olmec civilization in Latin America was the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate, and the Mayans and Aztecs consumed it in drinks and valued it as currency and medicine.
Columbus encountered cacao in 1542, and it spread to Spain among the upper class. However, it was not until the 18th century that it became more widely consumed, and with colonialism, slavery, and the industrial revolution, it became more accessible and affordable.
Today, over 4 million tons of cacao are produced worldwide each year.
Cacao refers to the plant (Teobroma Cacao) and the raw beans inside the fruit, Teobroma is a greek word that means “food of the Gods“.
Cocoa refers to processed cacao beans after they have been either fermented or roasted, and the products derived , like cocoa powder.
Therefore, raw cacao is less processed and has more nutrients than cocoa, but it can taste slightly bitter and may take some time getting used to it.
Chocolate is anything made of cocoa, usually when fat and sugar as well as more processed elements are added to it.
There are several valid reasons for the meaning of the word cacao, its use for medicinal purposes for centuries, and for being considered a “superfood.”
It has numerous health benefits, including:
- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,
- enhancing cognitive functions,
- and improving mood as well as
- boosting the immune system.
The reason for these health advantages is that cacao is high in
- and is packed with flavonoids.
These are bliss compounds found in nature, more specifically, type of antioxidant that can help protect the body from ageing and disease, lower blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. For these reasons, cacao can also raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol), protect against oxidation, reduce inflammation, and aid in preventing blood clots. Moreover, cacao has been found to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin, improve blood sugars, which have been linked to a lower risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
At the cardiovascular level still, cacao improves vascular function, and tissue repair.
As mentioned, raw cacao is rich in flavonols, that can increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, leading to significant improvements in mental focus and attention span as well as protect against cell damage, dementia and stroke.
The flavonoids in cocoa can also enter the brain and accumulate in regions involved in learning and memory, therefore improving cognitive function. Additionally, cocoa has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and can counteract cognitive decline.
Raw cocoa also contains scientifically proven bliss chemicals such as tryptophan, serotonin, and endorphins, which can boost mood and brain power and increase energy.
Being a vasodilator, raw cacao can help to
- calm the mind,
- enhance mood,
- and reduce stress, therefore
- increase feelings of happiness
- and overall well-being.
Cacao can increase energy levels due to its high theobromine content. This is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that gives cacao its unique bitter taste and powerful properties.
Theobromine provides a gentler and more sustained energy boost compared to caffeine. Thus, cacao has been shown to be an effective way to enhance energy levels before any physical activity and increase motivation.
Raw cacao is high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals (natural compounds found in plants), which can affect the immune system.
Cacao, found in dark chocolate, has been suggested to have immune-boosting properties. In fact, dark chocolate with at least 70 to 80 per cent cacao and its ability to enhance blood flow, improve gut health, and ease stress may indirectly strengthen the immune system.
Additionally, cacao has been shown to regulate cellular immune response, neural signalling, and sensory perception, which can activate the immune system.
A cocoa diet
Drinking cocoa has been shown to provide stronger natural immunity.
There are several studies that suggest cacao may have positive effects on stem cells:
A study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that participants who received a cocoa-based chocolate drink twice a day had twice as many stem cells in their blood as the control group.
Taking all these health benefits into consideration, it can be easily understood that raw cacao can be a delicious and healthy indulgence that can give you outstanding energy and mental clarity.
Why not try adding it to your diet today? Brew up a cup of cacao or use it in your favourite recipes. It can be easily added to stews or any tomato sauce to give a darker colour, without altering the flavour. Or try to dip bananas into cacao nibs for a super-boost in happiness hormone serotonin.
And don’t forget to share your experiences with us!
Feel free to indulge in raw cacao and experience its many benefits for yourself.
Signing off now to a regenerative and super-healthy cup of hot cacao. ☕
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