Real, dark chocolate and cacao contain numerous natural compounds offering a myriad of health benefits. No wonder that chocolate has long been known as “Food of the Gods” due to its many health-enhancing qualities.
What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao? Cacao is the bean from the plant in its raw, unprocessed state. It becomes cocoa once roasted and processed. While dark chocolate still retains a lot of nutritional benefits, only cacao nibs can rightly claim superfood status. Here are the top reasons to enjoy this well-loved food.
Vitamins & minerals
Cacao and dark chocolate supply potassium, calcium, vitamin C, iron and copper. Chocolate and cacao are also rich in iron and magnesium.
Cacao and dark chocolate contain some of the same antioxidant compounds found in grains, fruits, veggies and nuts. Their antioxidant levels rival those of blueberries and acai berries. Cacao and dark chocolate surpass the antioxidant qualities of red wine and green tea. Antioxidants are generally valued for their anti-aging benefits.
The magnesium, vitamin E and copper in cacao and dark chocolate may be helpful in preventing heart disease. Magnesium increases and promotes heart function and keeps blood flowing better; copper allows blood cells to receive oxygen.
Unsweetened cacao is especially good for those with diabetes or sensitivities to sugars. It does not increase blood sugar levels or lead to a sugar crash. It also improves cell function.
Compounds in pure chocolate and cacao have long been credited with increasing and balance serotonin levels, contributing to feelings of contentment and happiness. And though it’s hard to prove such things, chocolate has long been considered an aphrodisiac for both men and women. Could that explain its link to Valentine’s Day?
A cousin to caffeine, cacao can give the brain a gentle boost without the shakiness and headaches. About 2 ounces of dark chocolate contains 27 mg of caffeine, while a cup of regular coffee contains 200 mg.
- See the related article, Be Choosy About Chocolate.