Cacao beans are the source of all happiness. Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter: these are just some of the delicacies whose life begins as a cacao bean and ends in our favorite dish. We would like to say this love is based on all that natural goodness, but as usual, somewhere along the production line, additives like sugar and chemicals end up cancelling that goodness out. Lucky for you, we’re helping it make a comeback. Below you’ll find a 5-rule-guide to keeping your cacao clean and tasting mean:
#1 Keep it real, keep it raw
Didn’t know there was a difference between cacao and cocoa? You’re not the only one. Most people think cacao and cocoa are the same thing, but the difference lies in their nutritional value.
Cacao is raw and the purest form of “chocolate” you can find. It contains several vitamins and minerals like iron, antioxidants and calcium, which are known to lower blood pressure, protect against cell damage, regulate insulin levels, strengthen bones and even put us in a better mood.
Cocoa on the other hand, starts the same way cacao does – harvested from the cacao plant’s seed – but during processing, is heated at much higher temperatures, affecting the beans and degrading their nutrient content. It may be cheaper and easier to get your hands on, but you’ll struggle to find cocoa without added sugar, artificial sweeteners or high fructose sweeteners.
#2 Sugar-free please
Always check the ingredients list and ensure there is no added sugar to your cacao powder – it’s a no brainer.
#3 No foul play – fair trade only
Always choose fair trade. Especially with cacao, it’s not uncommon for child labour to be involved in the process. It might not affect the taste or nutritional value, but it’s an important movement we should all be backing. #playfair
#4 Always do dark
Calling all chocoholics…from now on, curb your cravings with dark chocolate. Why?
Firstly, because dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cacao and a lower percentage of milk compared to milk or white chocolate. In case you didn’t know, dairy limits the body’s ability to absorb the phytonutrients found in chocolate. And second, milk chocolate and white chocolate tend to have a higher sugar content.
Extra tip: When it comes to baking, try swapping chocolate chips for cacao nibs. They are by far the healthier option.
#5 DIY – do it yourself
If reading this is enough to make you stressed at the thought of how much time you’re likely to spend reading labels in the confectionery aisle, we have a solution: simplify things and make your own. All you need is raw, high quality cacao powder and coconut oil. You can also add dates, honey or another sugar alternative if it’s not sweet enough for you. Melt together in a pan over medium heat (amounts depend on your desired consistency – for thickness add more cacao powder and vice versa) and stir constantly until smooth. Drizzle this over your favorite fruit or sugar-free cake, or refrigerate and eat later on just like your favorite chocolate bar.
Now you know the real clean cacao, you can enjoy it in your breakfast oats, post-workout shakes, snacks and desserts. For plenty of healthy recipes and inspiration, try out the Nutrition Coach and make your kitchen the source of all things good.