Cacao vs. Cocoa: What’s The Difference?
How delicious is chocolate? Ummmmm it’s so delicious, but there’s also a lot of confusion about chocolate—what type to eat, how much, and what types to avoid.
So I decided it was time to get educated about all the new research on chocolate. I didn’t even know how to pronounce ‘cacao’! Any time I can learn or share something that will help Mothers and Wives get or stay healthier so we can be strong and serve our families better, I am all for that! We all pretty much love chocolate, right?
With the help of Dr. Joe Mercola, let’s define a few terms:
- Cacao (pronounced “kuh-KOW”) refers to the plant, a small evergreen tree of the species Theobroma cacao, cultivated for its seeds, also known as cacao beans or cocoa beans
- Cocoa refers to the powder made from roasted, husked and ground cacao seeds, from which most of the fat has been removed
- Cocoa butter is the fat component of the cacao seed
- Chocolate is the solid food or candy made from a preparation of cacao seeds (roasted); if the cacao seeds are not roasted but cold-pressed instead keeping the living enzymes, then you have “raw chocolate,” which is also typically sweetened
species Theobroma cacao (Creative Commons)
Health benefits now associated with the cocoa bean are impressive:
Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women
Anti-inflammatory (including 17 percent reduction in C-reactive protein)
Lowers Alzheimer’s risk
Improves gastrointestinal flora
Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity
Slows progression of periodontitis
Improves exercise endurance
Reduces stress hormones
Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis
Although raw cacao is the most nutritious form, most of the health studies to date involve consumption of cocoa or chocolate, not raw cacao. But the results are STILL very, very positive. It seems like a good amount of the nutritional and health benefits are retained after processing. Our goal then is to find a chocolate that’s as minimally processed as possible, but still tastes good.
Choose chocolate with a cocoa/cacao percentage of 70 percent or higher. The higher the percent of cacao, the lower the percentage of sugar.
This Theo (for the Theobroma cacao tree) Chili 70 percent Dark Chocolate is spicy, complex, and Oh! so amazing!
~Great ingredients ~non-GMO~
Most store-bought chocolates also contain bad oils and additives and retain less nutritional value than hand-crafted or homemade chocolate as the cacao has been heated and refined. You don’t want to eliminate too many of the health benefits by eating a product that contains a lot of sugar and chemicals.
Ingredients to Avoid according to Dr. Mercola:
Read your labels carefully and look for the following:
- Type of sweetener: Not only should you choose chocolate with low sugar content, but you should also look at what form of sugar it contains. Honey is sometimes used to sweeten raw chocolate products, which is far better than refined sugar. Many so-called “sugar-free” chocolates, in fact, contain agave which is up to 90 percent fructose. Fructose will reverse some of the positive benefits of chocolate. For example, fructose breaks down into a variety of waste products that are bad for your body, one of which is uric acid, and uric acid drives up your blood pressure. Strictly avoid cocoa powders that contain harmful aspartame (some Nestle & Ovaltine drinks).
- Genetically engineered cocoa beans: Select chocolate products that are certified organic so that you be sure they aren’t genetically engineered (GE). Most chocolate today (even dark chocolate) is GE, unfortunately. Also opt for fair-trade products.
- Type of fat: Fat in chocolate, as long as it’s the right kind, is a good thing. It slows down the absorption of sugar, lessening the insulin spike. Ideally, the type of fat in your chocolate bar should be what is contained in the natural plant—cocoa butter. Coconut oil would be the next best fat in chocolate. Make sure you avoid soybean oil (and any other form of soy), and other vegetable oils and trans fats.
The bottom line? It’s best to make your own chocolate which is quite easy and very healthy if you just follow a few guidelines. Here are some tried and true recipes we make in our home:
- Best Ever Homemade Chocolate Bonbons~ Actually Good For You
- Crispy Coconut and Chocolate Pie
- Chocolate Silk Mousse
Good health and Bon appétit!
“Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Thanks for reading!