November 12, 2020 4 min read
You probably remember the flowing rivers of chocolate in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It probably wouldn't be healthy to drink so much chocolate unless the drink was made of raw cacao powder and not the usual milk chocolate.
Raw cacao powder is the raw, pure, and nutritious form of chocolate. It's a great alternative for chocolate lovers who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are some more facts about raw cacao powder and its nutritional benefits.
People often mistake raw cacao powder for cacao powder. Both are extracted from the cacao tree, separated from the fatty cocoa butter pulp, milled, and processed. That's where the similarity ends.
Contrary to what the name suggests, raw cacao powder is not exactly, well, raw. All forms of cacao powder have to be processed. After the cacao beans are removed from the shells, they are roasted at a low temperature to kill germs and extract the chocolate flavor.
The beans are then ground to make cocoa liquor, from which cocoa butter is removed, leaving behind pure cocoa. This is then milled into fine raw cacao powder, which is bitter in taste but retains all its nutrients.
Cocoa powder is also roasted, but at much higher temperatures than cacao powder. It loses many nutrients as a result of this. Unlike cacao powder, cocoa powder is also alkalized with potassium bicarbonate to give it a more market-friendly taste and color.
Like the high temperatures, the alkalizing process removes some of the minerals found naturally in cacao beans.
So in short, raw cacao powder is more bitter but also more nutritious than cocoa powder.
Cholesterol is naturally found in the body, but if it becomes too much, it can combine with proteins to form Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), or bad, cholesterol. Bad cholesterol can build up in the arteries, clogging them and leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
Raw cacao powder has antioxidants that prevent lipoproteins from oxidizing and forming LDL cholesterol.
Flavanols are a type of antioxidant found in abundance in raw cacao powder. They slow down the loss of elasticity in blood vessels due to aging, which leads to improved blood flow. This in turn protects the heart from overworking itself and leads to better cardiovascular health.
Flavanols in raw cacao powder get into the bloodstream and are transported to the brain, where they build up in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. The flavanols help in the formation and development of new neurons and protect them from destructive free radicals, thus improving cognitive function.
Raw cacao powder is one of the most abundant sources of plant-based magnesium. Magnesium helps convert glucose to energy, leading to better focus and clarity.
Indigestion causes a lot of discomforts, so any food which improves digestion is your friend. Raw cacao powder is rich in dietary fiber and magnesium, both of which improve the movement of digested food in the gut, which prevents constipation.
Aging is unavoidable, but sometimes it begins too early. One of the main causes of premature aging is the destruction of cells by free radicals. Antioxidants in raw cacao powder eliminate free radicals, protecting cells from being destroyed. Flavonoids also increase the flow of blood to the skin, which provides nourishment to the skin cells, leading to the growth and development of new cells.
Raw cacao powder is rich in anandamide, a natural mood-boosting compound sometimes known as the bliss molecule. It binds to receptors in the brain which enhances your mood and gives a feeling of happiness. It's like a mood-enhancing drug but without the side effects.
Tryptophan in raw cacao also has natural anti-depressant properties and helps keep your mood up. Cacao powder also boosts levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps control mood swings. So the next time you're feeling blue, make up a smoothie with raw cacao powder.
Sometimes fatigue is a result of low levels of magnesium in the body. Raw cacao powder is high in magnesium and can raise your energy levels significantly. Some pre-workout and post-workout supplements include cacao powder in their ingredients for this reason.
Theobromine in raw cacao powder has been found to work as well as codeine in relieving coughs by acting on the nerve responsible for coughing fits.
Flavonoids in cacao powder help to raise insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is how our cells respond to insulin. When insulin sensitivity is low, our cells can't use insulin to move sugar out of the blood into the cells. This leads to high blood sugar, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Increased insulin sensitivity lowers the risk of diabetes.
Flavonoids and potassium in raw cacao powder reduce inflammation in the body. Lower levels of inflammation reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and even depression.
Raw cacao powder has the highest levels of plant-based iron. Take that, spinach. It also has higher levels of iron than beef. The only catch is that plant-based iron is more difficult to absorb than animal-based iron, so you would have to combine raw cacao powder with sources of vitamin C like citrus fruits to maximize absorption.
How to use Raw Cacao Powder
Raw cacao powder may not be as tasty as cocoa powder, but it's healthier. You can now mask the bitter flavor with other foods and still enjoy its rich chocolate flavor.