Chocolate. We desire it, we enjoy it, we gift and battle for it. I am snatching a jar of raw chocolate right this second. I have to pause between bites. My eyes close and I have a big, grin on my face. Nothing else really matters. It is easy to lose yourself in chocolate.
When you think of cacao, you generally think of chocolate or consuming cocoa based drinks like a hot chocolate. You might have even heard about the health benefits of the cacao when you remove all the added sugar from processed products we've been craving. The reason being, cacao is a superb ingredient.
In its purest form, it is high in antioxidants and natural sources of magnesium and can fight free radicals - molecules in the body that have gone awry and, thus, cause damage. Free radicals can be highly reactive substances that can do damage to cells, causing them to function poorly or at all. This can promote disease in the body. Antioxidants from foods like cacao are able to prevent the damage done by free radicals.
Cacao Is A Superfood
The superfood of all superfoods, cacao—the dried pod of a tree that grows in cocoa plants and is processed into creating chocolate—is also one of the highest sources of magnesium in nature, full of antioxidants, calcium, zinc, copper and selenium. It contains more antioxidants per gram than blueberries, goji berries, red wine, raisins, prunes and even pomegranates.
In moderation, it can be a strong weapon for body, mind and soul. However, over the years, the processing of chocolate has led to many products containing less and less cacao with chemicals, pesticides, zero nutrients and lots of dairy and sugar, which can spike insulin levels.
What is cacao?
Cacao grows on trees like these amazing pods here. Samoa is known for growing one of the most rarest types of cacao in the world because of its unusual flavour and health properties. When you break the pod open, you get those delicious aromatic fleshy seeds inside. When I was a child, we used to eat these. And they taste sweet and scrumptious and they are packed with goodness.
We take these soft seeds, let them ferment a little and then dry them in the sun for five to ten days when they are ready to be harvested, and we get these amazing raw beans, containing all the natural nutrients found in nature. Traditionally, we would smoke these beans over a fire to prepare them to be turned into the drink called Koko Samoa (imagine drinking the healthiest cup of hot chocolate your taste buds ever came into contact with).
Just like our friends in the chocolate making world, here at Koko Samoa, we use a more controlled roasting process to get the consistency and quality we want. We have especially created our delicious cacao flavor profile that we want to be known for. We also have a zero waste way of thinking. Why waste good nutrients? From the cacao husk that is removed from the bean, and is usually discarded, we create our cacao tea.
The bean once roasted and crushed becomes these delicious, pure cacao nibbles that are called cacao nibs. As cacao nibs are crushed, they release more and more of the cacao butter, and it begins to transform into paste. You can even divide it up again and extract a fatty contents of the bean, which is cacao butter. Cacao powder that you buy at the shops is essentially cacao paste with the cacao butter removed.
After a few of hours, the chocolate transforms again into a pure, dark chocolate. If you want a smoother and more milky chocolate, you can add more cacao butter at this point of the process. The best chocolatiers in the world let this process go on for days, getting a smoother and more advanced chocolate.
What Are The Health Benefits of Cacao?
Rich in Antioxidants
Raw cacao retains high levels of flavonoids, which have been shown to boost heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and blood pressure. Flavonoids are a kind of antioxidant, which protect the body from aging and disease. In fact, in raw cacao contains up to four times the antioxidants of traditional cacao powder—making it a food with the highest antioxidant score. It has a whopping 95,000 ORAC value per 100gms.
High in Essential Nutrients
If you’re looking to get more magnesium and iron in your diet—look no further. Cacao is the richest food source of both these nutrients. Magnesium is important to relieve muscle tension and anxiety—a reason why women crave chocolate every month! The cacao bean is also a good source of protein, potassium, essential fatty acids, calcium, chromium, zinc and sulfur.
Chronic and acute inflammation underlies the molecular basis of many chronic diseases. Research has shown that isolated flavanols and procyanidins fractions have been shown to temper the release of inflammatory cytokines and to promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-4 and interleukin-5. This explains why cacao is so beneficial for our heart and overall health.
The common myth that chocolate causes or contributes to acne has been reviewed for years. In fact, it has been established that perhaps the dairy and sugar component of chocolate is what contributes to breakouts not the cacao content. In dermatology, a cacao skin care product has many benefits for our skin including improved circulation and hydration.
The amino acid tryptophan is found naturally in cacao. It helps to enhance relaxation, boost mood and promote better sleep. This effect has been attributed to the conversion of tryptophan from cocoa into serotonin and the presence of some compounds in cacao that alleviate mood, thereby protecting against depression. Enhanced alertness and focus has also been associated with cacao consumption.
How to use raw cacao
Pure Chocolate Drink (Koko Samoa)
The Koko Samoa offers the world's only single-serve raw cacao drink pods. Simply pop one into a mug of hot water, and stir.
Cacao Husk Tea
Enjoy the incredible benefits of delicious chocolate tea - cacao husk tea, with aromas reminiscent of hot chocolate, and none of the guilt.
Our teas and tisanes are a single-origin cacao husk from plantations in Samoa. Its fine flavour profile comes from a rich history, volcanic soils, and lush green mountains surrounded by sea and sun. Our cacao is sustainably sourced, vegan friendly and 100% organic. We have taken what nature has created in one of the world's rarest types of cacao and bring you a delicious tea you'll love.
Ground cacao nibs can be used to replace store-bought cocoa powder to use in cakes, biscuits, slices and muffins. If you prefer to retain more of the antioxidants you can then make raw foods and include cacao to protein balls, raw brownies, tarts along with other healthy mouses.
Cereal topper or Breakfast Bowls. Cacao Nibs are nature's way to give you magnesium
Add extra flavour and a nutritional boost to your traditional breakfast cereal or breakfast bowl with a sprinkling of raw cacao nibs. Add it to corn flakes, puffed rice, porridge, or a healthy muesli.
As a growing number of consumers become more aware of the health benefits of raw cacao, organic chocolate bars are becoming more popular on the market. Break into little pieces, eat with raw nuts, berries and an herbal tea as a mid-day treat.
That's the wonderful world of cacao
This is why we are so obsessed with these tiny little beans. Thanks for reading and please do share your cacao recipes, pics and videos with us as you take your own delicious and nutritious cacao adventures.
We leave you with a final word of cacao inspiration. Play with it, experiment by using different sweeteners, spices and/or other superfoods. Keep a backup stash for those rainy days and continue to share the chocolate love. Source sustainably, try it raw, without added sugars or dairy. Respect cacao and all of its benefits and it will bestow much pleasure upon you. Trust us, we know! So what do you think? Is cacao good for you?