The Cacao plant is indigenous to Central and South America. Now, it is also cultivated in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Hawaii. The Cacao plant is prized for its seeds which are harvested, dried, and ground to produce powder.
Cacao has become popular as an ingredient in sweets and cosmetic products; in fact, the demand for Cacao across the globe has grown 13 percent in these last five years.
Cacao powder is responsible for the rich flavor of hot chocolate and the sharp bite of dark chocolate. But its merits are not limited to its flavor: Cacao provides a wealth of health benefits.
Cacao health benefits
- Rejuvenates skin
- Boosts heart health
- Increases immunity
- Eases symptoms of depression
- Relieves stress
- Minimizes symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Assists in weight loss
- Improves quality of sleep
- Brightens mood
Cacao and its antioxidant properties
Rich in polyphenols and flavonols, flavonoids which are found to lower blood pressure, Cacao has levels of antioxidants superior to most fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants found in Cacao also repair skin and eliminate free radicals responsible for visible aging.
Cacao has proven to be an effective holistic treatment for wrinkles and stretch marks. Enhanced circulation is yet another beauty-enhancing property.
Cacao - an excellent source of nutrients
Cacao provides high levels of essential minerals such as calcium (more than cow's milk), potassium, copper, iron (the highest plant-based source!), zinc, and magnesium. It delivers the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E, and pantothenic acid.
Two tablespoons of Cacao contain approximately 25 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 3 to 4 grams of dietary fiber. Cacao is also an excellent source of protein, but the exact content varies widely between brands.
Basically, unprocessed forms of Cacao deliver the most nutritional value. Cacao contains few naturally-occurring sugars. Therefore remember - chocolate products with high levels of sugar are mostly that: sugar. Avoid alkalized and "Dutch processed" versions which have less macro- and micronutrients.
Cacao and its effect on mind and mood
Consuming Cacao is a feel-good experience. Cacao increases the body's levels of serotonin because of it´s content of L-Tryptophan. Low levels of serotonin contribute to fibromyalgia, obesity, PMS, addiction, migraines and insomnia.
Taking Cacao relaxes your mind and relieves stress. It also is linked to improved cognitive function and decreases the risk of degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Cacao is a mood-enhancer because it contains anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA), the chemicals associated with love, euphoria and feelings of bliss. This chemical stimulates the release of dopamine, the hormone that causes feelings of enthusiasm.
Cacao and the hearth
Dark chocolate has been lauded as a heart-healthy treat, but the real source of the nutritional value is the Cacao. Research has linked increased dark chocolate consumption to lower average blood pressure, and the risk of death from heart disease and other conditions.
Additionally, study results have found that eating chocolate leads to higher performance of the inner lining (endothelium) of blood vessels.
Who may benefit from taking Cacao?
- Cacao powder was first reserved for Mayan royalty, but today, everyone can take advantage of its preventative and restorative properties.
- Cacao is for those who wish to lead a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying indulgent flavor.
- Cacao capsules and Cacao nibs are convenient alternatives to powders that have similar advantages.
- For anyone dealing with depression, heart condition predisposition, troubled sleep, or fibromyalgia, Cacao supplements will have added benefits.
- However, it should be avoided by those prone to kidney stones because of its oxalate content. Individuals sensitive to caffeine should likewise avoid Cacao.
Cacao dosage and recommendations
There is no maximum recommended dosage for Cacao, but the recommended daily serving size is two tablespoons. For treating high blood pressure, 213-500 mg of the active ingredients, polyphenols, are recommended. This is equivalent to about 7 to 17 grams of powder.
Please review the recommended daily intake shown on the packaging of capsules and other non-powder Cacao supplements. Since Cacao has a high fat content, overweight people should include its calories into their daily diet regimen.