Now that Easter is behind us, it's time to talk chocolate, or more specifically, the difference between cocoa and cacao and which is best.
Raw cacao is unheated and unprocessed cacao beans. Typically, you’ll find raw cacao available in powder form – or as nibs. Raw cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been ground into smaller pieces. Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing cacao beans. Because raw cacao isn’t taken through high-heat processing, it’s packed with antioxidants, fibre and important minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Cocoa, on the other hand, is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. After being roasted, the beans are cracked, crushed, ground into a paste, and slammed with a large hydraulic press to create a powder. This processing substantially reduces the antioxidant content, and many of the nutritional benefits are lost. Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa that has been further processed with an alkalized solution, making it less acidic. As you may expect, alkalization reduces cocoa’s antioxidant content.
Cacao is definitely the superior product when it comes to packing in the good stuff, for instance, it has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. For vegetarians and vegans, cacao has the highest plant-based source of iron known to man, at a whopping 7.3mg per 100g. This compares to beef and lamb at 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg. Note the iron in cacao is non-heme (as is all plant-based iron), so to get the maximum benefits you'll want to combine it with some vitamin C like oranges or kiwifruit. Yum, what a classic combo!
For a quick pick me up, try a raw cacao hot choc.
2 teaspoons raw cacao
1 teaspoon natural sweetener like honey or coconut sugar
pinch of cinnamon
Add all this to 1 warm cup of plant-based milk (dairy products block the absorption of antioxidants and calcium in cacao). You can make the same thing cold, but dissolve the cacao in some warm water first.