As the “superfood” takeover is at a high, chances are you have been hearing a lot about goji berries, chia, dragonfruit, flax, acai, hemp seeds, maca powder, and last but not least… cacao. But what is cacao? Is it just a fancy name for chocolate in disguise?
The most common misconception is that cocoa (think hot chocolate, M&M’s, chocolate chips, and the most commonly consumed forms of chocolate) and cacao (an amazing “superfood”) are the same thing, just spelled differently. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Chocolate is made of the beans from the cacao tree, so in essence, cacao is chocolate in it’s purest form. Not only is cacao a tasty treat, it is jam packed with benefits. Cocoa on the other hand, is not…
Though cocoa does contain small amounts of cacao, it also contains other ingredients such as sugar (and lots of it), fat, unhealthy oils, and artificial flavorings. Yes, it’s delicious, but unfortunately… not so nutritious.
Cacao on it’s own has quite a unique and different flavor and consistency than the chocolate we all know and love. The cacao bean is quite bitter, whereas chocolate is sweet and creamy. This is due to the added sugar, cream, etc. The good news is, there are many types of “healthy” chocolates available to satisfy your sweet tooth.
How can I tell which chocolates are “healthy” you may ask. The easiest way to determine a “healthy” chocolate from a “not so healthy” chocolate is by looking at it’s percentage of cacao. Aim for 70% and higher to ensure your body reaps some of the healthy benefits of cacao including glowing skin and hearth health and avoids the not so healthy pitfalls of sugar, milk-fat, highly processed oils, and other not so nice ingredients found in cocoa. You can also find chocolates sweetened with agave, coconut syrup, palm sugar, and other natural sweeteners.
Remember, moderation is the key! If it is good old-fashioned chocolate you are craving, then indulge yourself and have a bite (or two)… but if you are looking for a sweet treat that may do more good than harm, give cacao a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.