I'm excited about writing this 'ingredients spotlight' episode cause it's all about one of my very favorite ingredient!
Hell yeah. My very favorite.
Love eating it. Love working with it. Love everything about it.
SOOOOO Welcome to the Ingredient spotlight issue #3: CACAO.
Well, I guess some of you are sharing this big love with me, but do you really know why is it good for you?
IMPORTANT TO NOTE - You just saw my excitement about cacao, but when i'm talk about cacao and it's benefits, i'm not talking about the chocolate that most of us know. I'm talking about cacao in its purest form.
I'm not saying that chocolate is bad for you, i'm saying that chocolate that is made mostly with sugar can't represent the benefits of cacao. Choose your chocolate wisely and consume 70% (or higher) chocolate. Choose raw. Choose the ones that might still have good nutritional value for your body.
So, first thing first-
Cacao is a plant found in Central and South America. Its seeds are actually the cacao beans, and from them all of the cacao and chocolate products are from.
The raw beans naturally tastes very bitter and going through the process of fermentation and sun-dehydration before we consume it.
In the Mayan culture, cacao on it's natural form is used as a plant medicine for thousands of years for medicinal, spiritual and ceremonial purposes to enhance connection with the Earth.
But it's not all just an holistic belief -
Here are some cacao evidence-based health benefits of cacao:
Antioxidants rich in general - specifically high in flavanols and polyphenols: Dark chocolate is naturally loaded with antioxidants like polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. These antioxidants helps protect cells by reduce free radical damage (caused by pollution, sun UV rays, cigarette smoke and other environmental factors) and slow the aging process of the cells. The antioxidants such as polyphenols**, especially flavanols*, present in large quantities in cocoa. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, even more than superfoods fruits like blueberries and acai berries (1). *Flavanols - Flavanols have been shown to support blood pressure (2,3,4) by producing nitric oxide, reducing risk of diabetes (5,6) by increasing insulin sensitivity, improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions (7, 8) by improving the blood flow to the brain. **Polyphenols - Polyphenols have been shown to support cholesterol - A 2017 study reported that eating dark chocolate for 15 days raised HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) levels while not affecting the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the study participants. (9)
Anti-inflammatory: Dark chocolate contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body. researchers found that eating 30 g of 84% dark chocolate each day for 8 weeks significantly reduced inflammatory biomarkers in Diabetic Patients (10)
Rich in IRON & other vitamins and minerals: Important to know, the darker the chocolate (higher % cacao content) the higher the mineral content in the cacao (11) . Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron, 7.3mg per 100g (more than spinach and beef). Cacao is also rich in magnesium, zinc, copper and more that are important to all of our body systems operations.
Contains serotonin, tryptophan, phenylethylamine, tyrosine, tryptamine and tyramine: Cacao is a great source of these scientifically proven bliss chemicals that contribute to appetite, reward and mood regulation which makes cacao A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant (12)
How and where do we use cacao in Piece of nature?
We use cacao in so many different forms and most of our products contains one of these - cacao nibs, cacao paste, cacao butter and cacao powder.
We have cacao in our chocolates and we use cacao also in our raw cakes, baked goods and even in our cashew butter & cranberries raw granola.
As usual, later this week we will post a recipe with CACAO as the main ingredient.
You can also check out these AMAZING Sour cherries & Pecans baked brownies recipe.
Don't forget to tag me and let me know how it turned out for you!