The Cacao Bean
When following a balanced and healthy diet, you want to eliminate such unhealthy foods such as sweets and chocolate. However, you might not want to give up all forms of chocolate. In fact, cacao, the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate is something you want to add into your diet.
Considered a superfood, cocoa beans provide a wealth of benefits including enhanced cardiovascular health and neutralizing free radicals roaming the body. So while you’re putting together a new diet to promote a healthier lifestyle, consider having a little bit of raw chocolate as a delicious, beneficial treat.
What is Cacao?
As previously mentioned, cacao is raw, unprocessed chocolate. You may have heard how dark chocolate is good for you, however, the sad truth is, most dark chocolate has been so processed, that the healthy benefits are flushed out of it. Cacao is a healthier option, containing four times the amount of antioxidants of dark chocolate. In fact, cacao beans contain even more antioxidants than blueberries and bananas, two fruits famous for their antioxidant value.
Cacao beans were first discovered in the Amazon. They now enjoy the shady, warm and moist climates of Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Cacao beans are extracted from the Theobroma cacao plant. The Theobroma plant, which means “food of the gods,” is named for the plentiful health benefits the cacao bean provides.
What Does Cacao Taste Like?
Cacao beans go through a fermentation process that strips away the bitterness yet preserves the antioxidant value of the bean. When you eat a raw, naturally fermented cacao bean, you will detect notes of coffee and berry. You may notice that raw, fermented cacao beans taste similar to baker’s chocolate.
The Health Benefits of Cacao Powder
Cacao beans are considered a superfood because of all the health benefits consuming them provide. From establishing mental wellness to clearing clogged arteries, adding cacao beans to your diet is a great way to enhance your health.
1) Nutritional Value
Added to the superfood category, cacao beans have significant nutritional value. In cacao beans, you can find a significant amount of the minerals calcium, zinc, iron, sulfur, manganese, copper, and potassium.
In terms of vitamins, you will find vitamin E and B-vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9. Cacao beans are also a great source of protein and fiber while providing the heart-healthy fat, oleic acid. Finally, if you’re looking for another way to infuse antioxidants in your diet, look no further than cacao beans, which are a tremendous source.
2) Reduce Blood Pressure
Cacao beans contain all sorts of compounds that are great for the heart and blood pressure. In each bean, you will find theobromine and flavanols that encourage the health of your blood vessels by fortifying their strength and enhancing their ability to dilate.
By improving the health of the blood vessels and increasing circulation, cacao beans help to lower blood pressure, and therefore reduce the probability that you will experience strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease.
3) Improve Cardiovascular Health
The rich nutritional value of cacao beans make it a heart-smart food. Boasting a high vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content, cacao beans fully support the health of your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving the flexibility and strength of your blood vessels, removing plaque build up in the arteries, and decreasing bad, LDL cholesterol.
4) Boosts Mood
Feeling a little blue? Try snacking on some raw chocolate! Cacao beans contain a “bliss” molecule called anandamide, which facilitates the release of such feel good hormones as serotonin and dopamine. These hormones help alleviate feelings of depression while actively boosting your mood.
Women in the throws of PMS will find that cacao beans help to stabilize their mood and hormones by restoring serotonin levels.
5) Antioxidant Activity
Cacao beans contain a significant amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants instantly go to work, repairing damaged cells, preventing the onset of disease, and staving off premature aging. When antioxidants enter your body, they scavenge roaming free radicals, which do damage to your cells and body.
Antioxidants neutralize these free-radicals and help to reverse the damage done. As a result, antioxidants are known to help prevent the onset of disease and cancer while preventing premature aging of the skin, eyes, and body.
6) Improve Digestion
Cacao beans are a great source of fiber which helps to jumpstart digestion. Fiber is essential to digestion because it has the ability to get things moving through the gastrointestinal tract. This helps to prevent build up in the GI tract, helping to treat and prevent constipation. Fiber also helps to prevent diarrhea but adding bulk to stools and preventing the loss of essential nutrients.
7) Increase Energy Levels
Cacao beans boost energy in a couple ways. First of all, cacao beans improve circulation, dispersing oxygen to all your organs and energizing your body. Secondly, cacao beans are rich in magnesium, which synthesize protein into energy boosting hormones, keeping you active and healthy without the crash of coffee.
If you’re considering adding cacao beans to your diet, consult your physician or dietitian to see how cacao beans can best suit your needs. While there are plenty of benefits associated with raw chocolate, more rigorous scientific testing is needed to determine their efficacy in treating and preventing diseases and illness.
Be advised that cacao beans contain caffeine so eating raw chocolate in large amounts may initiate the same symptoms as drinking large amounts of caffeine-infused products. These symptoms are nervousness, fast heartbeat, insomnia, and increased urination.
If you’re taking any medications that may be affected by the consumption of caffeine, either speak to your physician or avoid cacao beans altogether.