Cacao versus Cocoa and Chocolate
Perhaps I should start by clarifying that cacao and chocolate are not the same thing, even cocoa has come to be synonymous with a more processed form of cacao. Chocolate has milk, sugar and commonly emulsifiers added (even dark chocolate) to make it into the smooth and tasty treat we know and love.
Cacao beans or seeds are the key ingredient of most high quality chocolates, coming from the small evergreen tree; Theobroma cacao. Many commercial cocoas and chocolates are actually stripped of some of the more medicinal content of the cacao bean due to its bitter taste.
Cacao Nibs and Powder
Cacao supplements come either in nib or powder form. Cacao “Nibs” are the rawest form of cacao that is available commercially. The nibs are the raw, crushed beans and contain high amounts of the antioxidants that dark chocolate (with 70% cacao solids) has become famous for. Cacao Nibs can be added to smoothies, trail mix, or chewed on their own for a rich, cacao flavour.
The powder form of cacao is made by grinding the cacao beans into a powder as fine as flour. This makes the cacao powder ideal in any recipe as cacao powder will mix well with just about anything. It’s fantastic in healthy smoothies, but be sure to mix your cacao powder with a healthy sweetener such as stevia or xylitol as this will make the cacao powder more palatable.
Epicatechins: Cacao Nibs and Powder Active Ingredients
Flavanols have been found in high concentrations in certain fruits and vegetables, teas, wine, grape juice, most berries, and particularly high in cacao. Epicatechins are thought to be the flavanols that are responsible for many of the proposed health benefits of the cacao bean, mainly significant cardiovascular health benefits. Studies have shown that epicatechins in cacao have a short term benefit on LDL (commonly referred to as ‘bad’) cholesterol, has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve vascular platelet function, as well as decrease insulin resistance, indicating cacao in the treatment and prevention of metabolic syndrome. Epicatechins in cacao are potent antioxidants, and have both anti-inflammatory and Nitric Oxide (NO) synthase activating effects.
NO activation may play a role in the reduction of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes; all the major causes of death in North America. Some data has linked a deficiency in epicatechins to these diseases. Island dwelling populations off the coast of Panama who consume an abundance of raw cacao have been shown to have lower blood pressure levels and no age related decline in kidney function, as well as overall significantly less mortality resulting from cardiovascular events. This protective effect is lost on the same population when they migrate to nearby cities where there is less raw cacao consumption.
Not available at your local convenient store
In case I have yet to make this clear, I am not proposing that a KitKat bar from your local variety store will help to prevent heart disease. Milk may have a negative effect on epicatechin action and flavonoids, in general, degrade during cooking.
Raw (unprocessed) cacao, both in powder form and cacao nibs are now widely available at your local health food store. As mentioned, this raw from is quite bitter on it’s own, but makes a great addition to your morning smoothie, when paired with almond milk, banana, almond butter and a hint of raw honey or maple syrup (try it, you’ll love it!) Or add cacao nibs to your homemade trail mix. There is little data available in terms of therapeutic dosage. Cacao does contain caffeine, meaning in young children and those sensitive to the effects of caffeine, consumption may delay sleep. Some individuals will find that cacao exacerbates heart burn, anxiety and migraine headaches. The caffeine content in cacao may interfere with how quickly some medications pass through the system. Talk to your MD or Naturopath before using cacao medicinally when taking other medications.
Organic Traditions Eco-Mission
The commitment to heal the planet begins with the commitment to “Go Green” within. At Organic Traditions, they are committed to supporting farmers who are dedicated to the principles of sustainable agriculture. Their superfoods are either certified organic, wildcrafted or ethically grown and harvested. Our eco-mission is a conscious commitment to support farming communities and ecosystems through fair trade initiatives.
Superfoods From Around The World
At Organic Traditions they provide nutrient dense superfoods from many healing traditions. They are committed to supporting farmers who are dedicated to their principals of sustainable and fair-trade agriculture. Now more than ever we need to nourish ourselves with the nutrition needed to support the challenges that come with living in a faced paced world.
Be adventurous! These superfoods are versatile. Incorporate them into recipes in any creative way you see fit. Create smoothies, sauces, soups, marinades, dips and more! Food is powerful. Make choices for a better you and for a better planet.