Healthy Pantry: Cacao
Cacao is basically the raw, unprocessed beans that eventually become cocoa and chocolate. That’s why cacao is not only delicious but it’s also really good for our health too. Cacao is packed with antioxidants and is high in iron. This is a crucial mineral that we need to create hemoglobin (the protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues).
It’s also one of the best food sources of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that’s really important because it supports over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. This supports muscle and nerve function and the immune system.
But isn’t cacao just the same as chocolate? Well, not really. That’s because while cacao and cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) start from the same place, they are treated completely differently when they are processed. That’s why they have such contrasting nutritional properties.
You see, all cacao and chocolate begins its life as a Theobroma cacao tree. This is a native of South America that produces seed pods. These pods are cracked open and the cacao beans are harvested.
Unlike chocolate, cacao or cacao powder has a very bitter flavour and that’s how you know you are eating or drinking the real thing.
Here’s four more good reasons why cacao has a place in our healthy pantry:
- Full of antioxidants - Cacao contains plant oils and compounds that mean its packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells against free radical damage.
- Supports enhanced mood – The pigment in the plant (scientifically known as a flavanol) is proven by science to improve and preserve cognitive function as we age because it pumps up the blood flow to the brain. It also improves mood.
- Regulates insulin levels – This same flavanol mentioned above (called epicatechin) also activates key proteins that help regulate our glucose production. This is particularly important for diabetics.
- Lowers blood pressure – This study found that the flavanols in cacao lowers blood pressure and increase blood vessel function in healthy people.