So, snacking on your favorite bar of chocolate won’t do much for your health or waistline. However, consuming one of the key ingredients used to make it may have some real health benefits. Cacao has long been the foundation of chocolate and in its raw form is a powerful food. Here’s 5 of the health benefits of raw cacao and how you can include it in your diet…
Cacao benefit 1: Antioxidants
Raw Organic Cacao has an amazing antioxidant content. In fact, it has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. When you think about it that’s incredible! Cacao’s ORAC rating (the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals that come from pollution and toxins in our environment and cause cell and tissue damage) is 98,000 per 100g. The meager blueberry, whilst still good, only has a 2,400 ORAC score in comparison.
Furthermore, it has exceptionally high levels of flavonoids. One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the antioxidant capacity of black tea, green tea, red wine and cocoa. The study concluded that cocoa has the highest antioxidant activity of them all and the most potential for health benefits.
Cacao benefit 2: Heart Health
Raw cacao has some brilliant benefits where cardiovascular health is concerned. It is high in magnesium and this mineral is one of the most lacking minerals in the Western diet. Magnesium is very important where heart health is concerned so cacao is one way for us to include this in our diet.
In addition, cacao’s Flavanols are anti-inflammatory and heart protective antioxidants. These protect against cardiovascular disease and may reduce the risk of strokes. As well as this, they may help improve blood circulation around the body. Finally, it contains polyphenols which may help reduce bad cholesterol and stop the clogging of arteries.
Cacao benefit 3: Energy boost
We already know that cacao’s magnesium can improve cardiovascular health. However, it may also help us have more energy. Cacao contains 499mg magnesium per 100 grams and this is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, magnesium helps turn glucose into energy which means it allows your brain to work more efficiently.
Magnesium also helps with sleep. Getting sufficient magnesium in our diets helps calm our minds, relax our muscles and generally promote better sleep. This means that you will have no trouble getting good, quality rest at night and therefore more energy!
Cacao benefit 4: Diabetes
Chocolate helping diabetes!?!? Yup, you read it right a study has found that eating cocoa can improve insulin resistance and how your body processes glucose. The effect of this is that the regulation of sugar within the body is improved. Therefore, this reduces the risk of diabetes so eating cacao in moderation can help prevent diabetes.
Finally, another study alludes to the flavonols that are in high concentrations in cocoa providing vascular benefits in diabetics. In short, these flavonols may help improve the effectiveness of the blood flow ans vascular function in some diabetics. This again helps with the regulation of blood flow and glucose in their bodies.
How to include it…
Now we know how cacao can benefit our health, the big question is around how we include this into our daily diets. Well, luckily, you can buy the powder from most health food shops such as Holland & Barrett it available to buy. Alternatively, you can get it delivered straight to your front door from sites such as Amazon. Whatever you choose to do, here’s how you can include it.
Settle down with a cup of hot chocolate. One of the easiest ways to include cacao in your diet is to make a cup of natural hot chocolate! Yes this really is as good as it sounds. There are tons of recipes to do this, some of which can be found here. However, a simple way to do so is to take a scoop of the powder and mix it into warm milk and add some natural sweetener (100% maple syrup) to taste.
Get you apron on. Raw brownies are a really good way to get cacao into your diet whilst having a bit of fun. Recipes vary but a good one can be found by the Minimalist Baker. You will need a couple of extra ingredients such as nuts or dates, however making them this way also has another benefit. They’re raw so no actual cooking time is needed! Simply make the mix, let it set and enjoy!!!
Steak anyone? Okay, so, I now this one may be a little out there but stay with me on this. I found a great recipe from Daily Superfood Love which includes cacao in a steak seasoning. You basically need some common kitchen spices such as paprika, turmeric, black pepper to combine with the powder. You then simply rub this onto your steak and leave to settle for a few hours. Once you’ve done this fry to your liking and serve with a side of your choice. Before you know it hey presto… chocolate steak!!!