What is the difference between Cocoa (co-co) and Cacao, (ka-cow) aren’t they both just chocolate?
Theobroma cacao is translated to mean “Food of the Gods.” There are many who would agree with that statement. The world is full of chocolate lovers, but the chocolate we have come to love is far from the tropical seed of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs.
The Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and as food and beverage for the privileged. It wasn’t until Spanish conquistadors began their conquest of the new world that the old world was introduced to this decadent food, and by the end of the seventeenth chocolate was spreading all over Europe.
Much research has been done to discover the health benefits of chocolate, and it is true…chocolate is good for you! But it depends on how you eat your chocolate and more importantly how your chocolate is processed. When I first started learning about cacao I thought that someone was just getting fancy with the vowels to make cocoa sound more exotic. Actually, it is just a way to differentiate the processing of the cacao bean.
Cacao is made by cold-pressing, not roasting, cacao beans and is considered a raw food. Cold processing maintains the live enzymes and the potency of the abundant antioxidants. It is also an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, and calcium. Raw cacao is the chocolate that is healthy for you.
Cocoa looks the same but does not contain all the health benefits because it has been processed at high temperatures. These temperatures needed to roast the beans reduce the enzyme content significantly and lower the antioxidant level and the overall nutritional value. Cocoa is usually alkalized (Dutch-processing), treated with a potassium carbonate solution, this neutralizes the acidity of the cocoa bean and makes the powder much darker.
Health Benefits of Raw Cacao:
Lowers insulin resistance
Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease: the antioxidants found in cacao protect your heart and reduce blood pressure.
Guards against toxins: antioxidants in cacao can repair damage from free-radicals to help reduce the risk of cancer.
Boosts your mood: increases feelings of well-being.
You can find raw cacao at your local health food store, Whole Foods, or on amazon.com