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It’s tough eating healthy sometimes, isn’t it? If it’s healthy for you, it’s not likely to be tasty for the untrained tongue. If it’s healthy and tasty, it’s likely to be expensive and out of your budget (think quinoa). It’s a wonderful thing that cacao exists then because, yes, it hits the perfect trifecta.

Before we dive into the nutrition, let’s address the most obvious thing first. Yes, cacao looks and sounds a lot like cocoa, and for good reason. They are both derived from the same plant and are very similar in properties except for the way they’re made. Unlike raw cacao, which is treated at temperatures lower than 40*C, cocoa is subject to temperatures exceeding 150*C, and in some cases, pH-changing conditions. The harshness of the heat in cocoa production destabilizes the integrity of the nutrients and essentially destroys the nutritional value found in raw cacao. As a result, cacao has a much higher nutritional value than cocoa.

So what’s so great about cacao? Here are a few of the health benefits:

  1. Antioxidants: Antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer by reducing damage to DNA caused by free radicals created by our body’s metabolism. Cacao has almost four times as many antioxidants as acai berries and goji berries.
  2. Minerals: It’s loaded with healthy minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus. In fact, one serving of cacao (10g) contains 105% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium.
  3. Aids digestive system: raw cacao contains a lot of dietary fiber, which makes it easier to digest your food and eliminate food waste.
  4. Feel-good chemicals: Cacao powders contain dopamine and phenylethylamine, which are neurotransmitters that make you feel good and boost your mood for the day. Phenylethylamine also helps with staying alert and weight loss!

Cacao powder is also reasonably affordable, as far as healthy foods go. A 2-Lb bag of raw cacao powder on Ebay sells for $24.99, which can last you at least a month assuming regular consumption.

 Cacao beans look almost exactly like cocoa beans but pack quite a nutritional punch.

Image Source: Isabelle Rozenbaum & Frederic Cirou

The benefits that cacao provides indeed make it worthwhile to give this healthy “chocolate” a sincere try. Of course, as with everything, it’s safe to consume in moderation. Definitely don’t go cuckoo for these cacao puffs, as excess consumption may put strain on your body, specifically your liver and adrenal glands.

Other than that, you can definitely count on raw cacao to be your guilt-free chocolate fix.

Feature Image Source: … co + coa = chocolate by Darlyn Meyer

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