Waaaaay back in 2019 (you know, before we had a pandemic that has felt like it’s been going on for five years), I hosted a cacao retreat. Little did I know then that even though it was the first of its kind for Hello Happiest., it would be one of the last in-person retreats we would be able to put on before the pandemic changed everything. The weekend was a great learning experience for all the guests, no matter how much they knew about cacao before it started, but one thing was sure for me after it wrapped up. I now know more than ever that I ADORE CACAO, not only for its great taste, but because of all its health benefits too. In order to wrap our heads around its power, and what it can do for you on your wellness journey, let’s start at the very beginning today.
Cacao vs. Cocoa: What’s The Difference?
Cacao was first brought into homes around 5000 years ago in South America, in cities where cacao trees grew far and wide, and people were able to harvest beans from these trees to make cocoa and cacao powder. While both come from the same bean (which probably explains why they have such similar names!), it’s the fermentation process that changes the flavour and texture into one or the other. Cocoa powder is created at very high temperatures, which creates a sweet, but less bitter taste than cacao. Cacao powder is the result of beans being roasted at low temperatures, before it gets milled. As a result, cacao is generally considered the healthier alternative, especially for traditional chocolate-based recipes that bank on a lot of cocoa powder.
Cacao’s Health Benefits
Because cocoa and chocolate are often associated with sugary treats, having an alternative in the form of cacao powder adds an additional layer of health benefits, without compromising the great taste of the recipe. Using cacao instead of cocoa can do many things, including potentially lowering your blood pressure over time (cacao powder is packed with flavonoids, a nutrient). These nutrients also work to prevent blood clots, and can even aid blood flow to the heart and the brain. In turn, this can reduce the risk of diabetes, and even heart disease. The latter is true because cacao powder is magnesium and potassium rich. Potassium also helps to lower inflammation in the body, and decreases stress on the cells that allow us to function every single day of our lives.
Have Your Chocolate And Eat It Too
If only it was possible to have our cake, and eat it too! When you substitute cocoa for cacao, it is actually possible to have your chocolate and eat it too, mostly because you’re able to enjoy something delicious while taking advantage of the many health benefits in the process. I have a practical example that might help drive this point home. I was recently asked to take part in an Instagram Live, where I go to teach participants how to create delicious home made cacao truffles. In the days leading up to the class, I was testing out the recipe a bunch of times, and frankly, consuming a LOT of cacao. I noticed right away that my energy levels were higher than usual, and that my coffee cravings had subsided dramatically (more on this later). Cacao is known for being a mood elevator too, which I could use that week, and which we could all use during these uncertain times.
Reducing Those Coffee Cravings
Most people love a good coffee fix in the morning, but what happens when we start to consume four or more cups within the first hour of the work day out of habit? A crash, that’s what. In my experience, eating a cacao truffle or three instead can help with reducing excessive coffee cravings. Cacao only contains a small amount of caffeine, making up roughly 1% of its total composition. Because of this, it may scratch that itch for you, which helps you to reduce your coffee intake. In turn, you might even get a better night’s sleep as well (a double win).
Can't wait for you to feel the new energy you'll gain moving forward!