5 Benefits Of Cacao: Food of the Gods

5 Benefits of Cacao

An excuse to eat chocolate? How could we pass this up! As you know, chocolate is made from the cacao plant, specifically the beans found in its fruit. The use of cacao and the first chocoholics date back to 1800 B.C. by the Olmecs and Mayans. It was named Theobroma cacao or the “Food of the Gods because the benefits of eating or drinking it were unsurpassed.

Cacao is not simply a superfood, it is arguably one of the most incredible superfoods. In Mayan culture it is believed that cacao was only enjoyed by the elite and used also for medicinal purposes.(1) The Aztecs are thought to have used it for ceremonial purposes. Dr.  Debra Miller, states that, “Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit” providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition.”(2)  But what are all the benefits of cacao and what are its purest forms?


 Cacao seeds and fruit

Antioxidant:


According to the Chemistry Central Journal, “chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants and contains more polyphenols and flavanols than fruit juice.” (3) The antioxidants may also contribute to improving cardiovascular health, (4) lowering your cholesterol, and improving your blood pressure! 

Anti-depressant: 


Cacao increases the amounts of serotonin in the body which affects one’s mood.  This is because serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter in the body.  Such transmitters can be found in the intestinal wall, large blood vessels and the central nervous system,” but most importantly “within the brain [neurotransmitters] function to regulate arousal, temperature regulation, mood, appetite, sleep and pain.”(5)   

chocolate-laura 

Anti-inflammatory:


You may think of chocolate as a delectable dessert, but did you realize the cacao in the chocolate actually has real, tangible health benefits?  Cacao is an anti-inflammatory due to the compounds it contains, such as bifidobacterium and lactic acid, which can “lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”(6)

More Energy:


Cacao is also a subtle natural stimulant. So if you are wishing to have a little boost of energy during the day without the same effects as coffee, cacao might just be your answer.  Chocolate contains carbohydrates, fats, and sugars as well as alkaloids.  One of these alkaloids is theobromine, which acts in a similar way to caffeine, but without the same effects on the central nervous system. Cacao also accelerates the heart more than caffeine and dilates blood vessels, enabling better blood flow. (7)

chocolate-laura-3

 May Prevent Memory Loss:


Cacao dilates blood vessels according to studies, which suggests that its consumption in quality chocolates increases blood flow to the brain helping memory retention. (8)


Cacao products that are best to include in your diet are: 

It’s important to realize that cacao the superfood, and chocolate are not one and the same thing.  Quality dark chocolates are an excellent source of this superfood and the darker or higher percentage of cacao, the more nutrients it retains.  Keep in mind that there are varying amounts of other ingredients in chocolates too, such as processed sugars and fats (such as milk chocolate). Consequently, we recommend choosing only those chocolates that are the highest in cacao, while minimizing sugars and fats.

cocolate with cacao beans  

If you want to be sure that your children are also getting superfoods in their diet, read Superfood Breakfasts For Your School Aged Superstar. For information on another great superfood check out our post on 4 Reasons Why You Should Be Cooking With Coconut Oil.

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.

Sources:

Photo Credit: Ashley Sisk PhotographyThe Whimsical PhotographerFresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe, cacao fruit and beans, Everjean  (CC); Rogue Chocolatier, chocolate bar with beans, Everjean  (CC);

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Kirsten

Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.

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