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I felt that cacao deserved a whole blog post of its own to clear up any confusion over whether chocolate is in fact good for you or not. And to explain the differences between cacao and cocoa…. A lot more than just the minor difference in spelling!

You’ve probably heard it before but sometimes news this good bears repeating: chocolate is good for you!!

As long as its the right kind of chocolate… You have the green light to indulge!

Raw, unprocessed cacao is one of natures best sources of nutrition.

The compounds found in raw cacao have been shown to:

  • Lower insulin resistance
  • Protect your nervous system: Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.
  • Shield nerve cells from damage.
  • Cut your risk of stroke.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease: The antioxidants found in cacao help to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Although NO has heart-benefiting qualities, such as relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, it also produces toxins. The antioxidants in cacao neutralise these toxins, protecting your heart and preventing disease.
  • Guard against toxins: As a potent antioxidant, cacao can repair the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. In fact, cacao contains far more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries. Antioxidants are responsible for 10 per cent of the weight of raw cacao.
  • Boost your mood: Cacao can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being. And the same brain chemical that is released when we experience deep feelings of love – phenylethylamine – is found in chocolate.
  • Provide minerals: Magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese

Raw cacao is placed under strict quality control meaning that temperatures are kept below 115 degrees Fahrenheit  throughout the journey from farm to table, making the nibs truly raw and retaining maximum nutritional value. Cacao found in this state is unpolluted with the sugar, dairy and stabilisers that classify commercial chocolate as junk food, cacao nibs provide bittersweet chocolate decadence and add superior superfood nutrition to any mixture.

Studies show that dairy reduces the absorption of the antioxidants in raw cacao. So if you’re making a cacao shake you’re better off using a non-dairy milk, such as almond or coconut, in order to reap all of the antioxidant benefits.

Mix them in to a homemade banana bread or granola bars to add depth and texture to nutritious treats or grind them in a nutribullet or coffee grinder and mix with heated almond milk for a superfood hot chocolate…The possibilities are endless!

Now it may take a little getting used to to start with, as it did for me. No surprise seeing as we have all been used to consuming chocolate that is so processed and laden with sugar and dairy that it barely resembles chocolate anymore at all. Stripping it back lets you appreciate the actual deep flavours of cacao which can be slightly bitter to start with. This can be overcome by adding a little raw honey while you get used to the flavour, it won’t take long before you can’t get enough of the rich and deep flavours of cacao on its own.

And the great thing is, you can’t really over eat on raw cacao like you could demolish a whole bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk. It’s richness is so satisfying that you only need a little bit to feel content.

Quite a lot of my recipes include organic raw cacao, and one of the best places to start is with my healthy homemade Nutella, give it a whirl and let me know what you think!