The low down on chocolate, in particular Cacao.
So, we all love a little bit of chocolate but know that conventional chocolate products are not that good for us. Oh the irony!
What if I told you that having cacao everyday is actually good for your health. Would you believe me?
We thought we would help answer some of your questions about chocolate and present to you some of the amazing health benefits associated with 100% raw, pure cacao, minimally processed and taken with intention.
Firstly, let's talk about Cacao...
What is Cacao?
Image credit dimarik
Cacao is made from the beans and seeds of the fruit, from the cacao tree. Cacao has been said to be a superfood and was once the “food of the gods”. Cacao has been cultivated and used for many health reasons and has also been said to be highly valued by ancient native people. Indigenous people all across the world used cacao daily as either medicine, food or as currency.
What are the different forms of Cacao?
Cacao can be processed in many different forms. It can be processed into a butter, paste, powder or into nibs.
When consuming cacao it is recommended to eat it as naturally as possible, meaning minimal processing. It is also best to consume it with minimal additives, preservatives, sugars and oils.
What about Cocoa? Isn’t chocolate, cacao and cocoa all the same?
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Technically all cocoa and cacao products and bi-products originate from the ‘chocolate tree’ or cacao tree called Theobroma cacao.
The difference between cacao and cocoa is that fact that cocoa has been highly processed, often at a much higher temperature.
Traditional cocoa powder that you may be familiar with has also been roasted where as cacao is made from raw and sometimes fermented cacao beans only.
You will find cocoa in your everyday, average chocolate bar, chocolate dessert, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate muffin or chocolate busicut. Cocoa is usually mixed with added sugars, oil and dairy products which have been linked to compromise ones health.
Modern processing methods used to create cocoa powder have also been said to remove over half of the original antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, destroying the majority of the main nutrients.
Next time you are purchasing any chocolate flavoured or chocolate based product, check the nutritional label and notice whether cocoa or cacao powder has been used and be mindful of any nasties additives used to enhance the flavour.
In short: Cocoa is the bi-product of processed and roasted cacao beans that are turned into powder, nibs or butter and then used for chocolate products.
Cacao is the raw beans, minimally processed from the cacao pods of the cacao tree
Does this mean chocolate is vegan?
Yes! This means cacao itself is actually vegan. No animal products are present in raw, 100% pure cacao or cocoa. What makes dairy milk chocolate not vegan is all about the added dairy. What is added and mixed to cacao or cocoa will alter it’s original nutrient values and will determine whether or not it is good to eat for long term health.
What about organic and non organic cacao?
Did you know that cacao beans that are conventionally grown and not organic, will contain traces of toxic herbicides, pesticides, chemicals and could also include GMO ingredients, altering the compounds and nutrients?
At Garden of Vegan, we are advocates for 100% certified oganic ingredients only.
Remember If its not certified, then its not organic.
So, why is cacao good for my health?
Image credit BestForBest
100% raw cacao has been classified as a superfood. According to Dr Axe, real, organic, raw cacao contains a variety of unique phytonutrients including high amounts of flavonoids, sulfur, magnesium and phenylethylamine.
Cacao also has high amounts of iron, is a good source of Vitamin K, Vitamin B1, B2, B12, Vitamin E, calcium, Zinc, potassium, protecting antioxidants and selenium. Cacao has also been linked to decreased inflammation, has been said to help fight oxidative stress, helps support digestion, great for gut health and has also been said to improve focus and mood.
Cacao may also help relax tense muscles aiding in healing and recovery, supports your immune system, boosts red blood cell production and iron absorption.
WOW! Who would've thought that cacao has so many health benefits?
No wonder why women crave this highly nutrient dense superfood during the luteal and menstrual phases of their cycle. All the nutrients that women require during these times are present in high amounts.
If Cacao is really a superfood, then is all chocolate good for my health to some extent?
What we are saying is that if you source good quality cacao that has not been stripped of its nutrients during processing and has no added oils or sugars then it is absolutely a superfood and extremely beneficial for your long term health.
What most people don’t realise is that most conventional chocolate does not contain any actual real cacao at all. What this means is that it is missing all those vital nutrients, minerals and compounds.
Once cacao has been heavily processed, all the good stuff is removed. This leaves you with a somewhat chocolate tasting product lacking any real health benefits, more so often or not containing added oils, sugars or sweeteners that are detrimental to your health.
So what about Ceremonial Cacao?
Image credit Boryanallieva
What makes ceremonial cacao different from the rest?
Ceremonial cacao is very special. It is a specific type of cacao grown deep in the amazon jungle, specifically the rainforests of Peru. This crop has been seeded, nurtured and cared for using unique and ancient wisdom from local organic farmers. Ceremonial cacao is all about the genetics of the tree, the energy of the land, the growing climate and the love for the land.
Ceremonial cacao is 100% organically grown, whole, pure cacao beans which are ground with minimal processing. Nothing added and no nutrients taken away.
In comparison to most other chocolate products, ceremonial grade cacao has the cacao butter and fibres still present. The integrity of the bean remains as in tact and as close to its natural state as possible. The bean is slightly heated, shelled, and ground, forming a block that can then be shaved and used in treats, cooking, added to smoothies raw or re-heated with liquid to make the best hot chocolate EVER!
When researching how ceremonial cacao is grown, harvested and processed in the Amazon, the words; sustainable, ethically sourced, bio-dynamic, family run farms, generational wisdom, and organic all presented. The true native growers of cacao respect the land and the plant, ensuring the best quality product whilst keeping production sustainable and giving back to local native communities.
It is designed to be appreciated and enjoyed through ceremony for health reasons including the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and cultural. It is believed by ancient cultures to be a plant medicine, a teacher, a heart opener, a spiritual guide and so much more.
Did you know that cacao has the highest level of magnesium than any other raw food product?
What are the effects of Ceremonial Cacao?
Like any substance, cacao may present different effects for different people. It has been said that by consuming ceremonial grade cacao in it’s purest form, you may experience some of the following;
-Natural antidepressant due to the release of serotonin, dopamine and some endorphins
-Calms the Central Nervous System
-Natural aphrodisiac through the release of phenylethylamine which also may help to increases libido
-Helps to sustain energy throughout the day
-Increases presence, awareness and mental clarity
-Increases blood flow
-Low doses can help assist with weight loss as it satisfies hanger cravings
-Deep spiritual connection and enhanced meditation
Our favourite Ceremonial Hot Cacao recipe:
Image credit DragonFly
Makes 2-4 serves of hot, medicinal cacao, pending on how big you like your cup
1L of filtered water
4 tablespoons of shaved Ceremonial Grade Cacao
2 teaspoons of your favourite medicinal mushrooms (we like Reishi, Lions Mane and Tremella)
1 tablespoon of turmeric. Our favourite brand of certified organic turmeric powder is Love Organic Living which can be found here; https://www.loveorganicliving.com.au/collections/featured-products/products/golden-turmeric-blend-250g-barista-bags?variant=32317173831
For a kick of spice and warmth, add a pinch of cayenne pepper
For a little sweetness, add a splash of maple syrup or vanilla bean
Add everything to a pot. Bring to heat stirring slowly.
Serve hot and enjoy.
5 ways to use ceremonial cacao
Make your favourite hot elixir and enjoy in ceremony alone or in the company of community.
See our Ceremonial Hot Cacao recipe above.
Recipe variations; You can also add cinnamon, maca powder, some carob, cardamon, salt, agave syrup and so much more. We encourage you to get creative.
- Add to your daily smoothie
- Add to your favourite nice cream recipe
- Make energy balls or bars
- Add to you brownie recipe