Have you heard the amazing news?! Chocolate is good for you! Well… not exactly.
Whilst chocolate does come from a highly prestigious source, Theobroma Cacao, or ‘food of the gods’ no less - not all of it is equal. Unfortunately, by the time your everyday chocolate bar arrives on the shelves of the store the benefits held by the precious cacao beans have almost all been lost.
The goodness of different types of chocolate depends on how the cacao bean used to make it has been treated on its chocolatey journey. This starts with the difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder.
Don't let a slight letter rearrangement fool you, cacao and cocoa are very different.
What is Cacao?
Cacao beans, extracted directly from cacao pods, are one of the most nutrient-dense foods known to mankind (and probably anyone else for that matter). To get to the powdery stuff, the raw cacao beans are dried and fermented bringing out the wonderfully distinct chocolate aromas and flavours. They are then typically chopped to create nibs or finely ground and pressed (removing fat, known as cacao butter) to create a powder. This process keeps the goodness of the cacao bean safe and intact.
What is Cocoa?
Cocoa powder also comes from the cacao bean, however, has gone through a different process to reach its powdery form. The cacao beans are roasted at extremely high temperatures and taken through an alkalizing process known as Dutching. Dutching combines the powder with alkalizing agents, giving it a milder, more ‘mass market’ taste than cacao. Cocoa powder also often has additives and preservatives mixed in giving it a longer shelf life and again a milder taste, all whilst reducing its nutrient concentration.
Most store-bought chocolate is made with cocoa powder, rather than natural cacao, which is why it doesn’t actually contain many of the health benefits. Chocolate made with cacao is better for you, depending on the amount of cacao it contains.
Keep it simple
We like to keep things simple, so why not go straight to the source, remove the uncertainty, and eat cacao powder – guaranteed to deliver the benefits of cacao beans! What’s more, you can create wonderfully rich chocolate recipes with cacao, such as Cacao and Spirulina Energy Balls, or this Chocolate Smoothie.