Friday, 30 September 2016

CACAO vs COCOA – why make the swap?

Firstly, you may be wondering what the difference is between these two products so I’ll start by saying that cocoa is the processed version of cacao and it’s what you’ll find in commercial chocolate bars and baked goods. Cocoa is what’s formed when you roast raw cacao at high temperatures, resulting in a product with a significantly lower nutritional value.

So if you’re now reaching for that Dairy Milk bar and thinking ‘I don’t really give a toss that cocoa is processed’, then read on!

To be honest, if you’re consuming pure cocoa powder, then in my opinion, it’s not necessarily the fact it’s processed that’s the issue. The real problem is that cocoa is almost always used in products that contain lots of other additives, such as high quantities of sugar and hydrogenated oils. But the biggest downside in my eyes, is that you’re missing out on all the benefits of the incredible superfood, cacao.

"Dark Sugars" chocolate shop, Brick Lane aka where dreams come true

Benefits of cacao

Numerous studies have shown raw cacao to have the following benefits:

HEART HEALTH - cacao can contribute to healthy levels of nitric oxide, which can help dilate blood vessels and result in:
Lower blood pressure
Lower risk of stroke
Lower LDL cholesterol 
Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Lower insulin resistance

POTENT ANTIOXIDANT - cacao is believed to contain the highest level of antioxidants per 100g of any food, including blueberries and acai.
Antioxidants help repair free radical damage, which occurs in everyday life but is extremely high in those that work in busy cities, such as London – basically working in LDN = excuse to eat aaall the raw cacao you can get your hands on..!

HIGH FIBRE - I don't think the benefits of high fibre need much of an explanation... *insert smiling shit emoji*

RICH SOURCE OF MINERALS - cacao provides one of the highest sources of magnesium you can find in a food, as well as supplying us with potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.

APHRODISIAC - need I say more? Whack out those cacao chocolates and cue Marvin Gaye Let's Get It On.. 

BRAIN FUNCTION - high levels of flavanols in cacao have been demonstrated to increase cognitive function 

MOOD BOOSTER - cacao can increase levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happier. This would explain why PMT is reduced with chocolate - I'm sure most females can relate! And if you're not female and don't fancy getting shouted at for things that are not your fault once a month, then stock up on the dark chocolate and have it at the ready for her!

How to use cacao

There is literally not a day that goes by when I don’t use cacao in some form. Whether it’s as a powder, in chocolate, as cacao nibs or baked into sweet or even savoury foods, I absolutely love its rich taste and as mentioned above, the benefits of incorporating it into your diet are pretty amazing.

Creamy raw cacao oatmeal 

My favourite way of using it would have to be in my morning zoats or oatmeal as above, where I add ½-1 tbsp of cacao depending on how rich I want the flavour. Other ways of using it are:

  • Hot chocolate – replace your usual powder with 1tsp cacao and if you want it a bit sweeter, add 1tsp coconut sugar too
  • Raw chocolate e.g. the raw chocolate company
  • Raw chocolate covered food e.g. raw chocolate covered almonds, cacao cinnamon kale chips
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate cakes
  • Raw cacao smoothies 
  • Chocolate chilli – you’ll have to trust me on this one but try adding 1tbsp cacao into your usual beef chilli recipe and it will transform your dish from basic to next level in no time
  • Cacao nibs added on top of breakfast bowls, yoghurt or as smoothie toppings

My sweet oat crepe topped with kefir, granola, chia & cacao nibs

Where can I get cacao?

Cacao has now become readily available in lots of health food shops such as Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett and even some large supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbuys.

If you have any favourite recipes that you like using cacao in or any particular products you love then let me know in the comments below as I'd love to check them out too.

Jess x



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