Ruby Pryde - May 21 2021

Why we should be adding cacao to our list of must haves this Winter

As we move into the cooler months, it can be easy finding ourselves reaching for things that will naturally help to warm us up from the inside out.

Undoubtedly, the thought of a steaming hot chocolate is at the top of many of our lists, but at what cost?

These days, we often find our favourite treats packed with high levels of sugar, as well as highly processed cocoa with little to no nutritional benefits. And if the past year is anything to go by, we know just how important it is to support our immune systems.

So, is there a way to indulge in our favourite hot choccy without compromising our health?

The infamous, and rather superior superfood, Cacao! Before we get into the nitty gritty details of why this super antioxidant is getting so much screen time, we wanted to decipher the difference between Cacao and it’s better known ‘cousin’ - Cocoa. 

Cacao and cocoa explained in simple terms

Cacao is unprocessed, operates at superfood status and has some of the highest antioxidant levels in the plant world.

Cocoa on the other hand, is a highly processed version of the latter, with little to no nutritional benefits and usually packed with high levels of sugar to offset the natural bitterness of cacao. You might be familiar with this version from many baking recipes.

Now that we’ve got the politics out of the way, let’s dive into why Cacao has created such a name for itself.

Made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, a native evergreen from South Africa, cacao beans are the seeds extracted from the pods of these trees.

Cacao is dried at low temperatures and virtually unprocessed, ensuring that the nutritional benefits and rich taste are kept afloat.

But why is Cacao classified as a superfood?

A superfood, by definition, is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing. Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, Cacao as a superfood is the perfect fit, providing an abundance of essential nutrients such as B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, potassium and iron, just to name a few!

It really is a potent hit of everything our bodies and immune systems require to help keep us in tip top condition.

The benefits you might not know about

B-Vitamins: increase energy levels, support brain function and cellularmetabolism.

Magnesium: lowers blood pressure, necessary for calcium absorption, increases energy levels, improves mood and in turn alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as relieves muscle tension, even menstrual cramps!

Calcium: builds and maintains strong bones as well as supports heart, muscle and nerve function.

Vitamin E: reduces the effects of free radical damage and slows down the ageing process of cells.

Vitamin C: supports healthy immunity and wound healing, as well as the production of collagen within the body (goodbye botox!).

But there's more! Cacao is packed with certain compounds that make us feel good. So, if the enticing aesthetic of a warm hot chocolate wasn’t enough, then this will be sure to get you over the line.

Feel good compounds are simply that! Mood enhancers that help reduce stress and inflammation, as well as support our immune system and memory function.

Phenylethylamine (PEA):
found naturally in the body, PEA is a chemical that is released when we are in an emotional state of love. It helps release endorphins, improve our mood and metabolism and increase our memory function and mental focus.

is an amino acid that helps the body make proteins and certain brain signalling chemicals. Our bodies turn L-Tryptophan into serotonin, which is the king chemical for improving just about everything in the body, from energy levels and overall mood, to reducing stress and even improving your sleep.

Because cacao also contains high levels of manganese and iron, this action packed superfood is also in support of healthy blood.

Manganese, a trace mineral, is needed for the normal (and optimal) functioning of our nervous system and the body’s enzyme systems. Manganese also helps to support normal blood clotting, reducing inflammation and the oxygenating of blood.

Iron may be a nutrient that most of us are more familiar with, particularly those that suffer with iron deficiency - one of the most common mineral deficiencies found amongst our society today. Iron helps to convert food into energy, supports cognitive function and produces haemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins found in our bodies that both contribute to the forming and oxygenating of our blood.

Arguably the ‘coolest’ part of cacao has to be the fact that it is considered to be a super-antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds found in your body, as well as certain foods, that help defend your cells from oxidative or degenerative stress i.e. slowing down the ever feared ageing process.

High levels of antioxidants in the body can reduce the risk of many diseases (including heart disease and cancer). These guys act as scavengers within the body, removing any free radicals from our cells. 

So, what about that hot choccy?

Blend 1 of tablespoon organic cacao and 1 cup of your favourite milk with a teaspoon coconut oil, pinch of cinnamon and Pink Himalayan salt.

To sweeten, use honey or maple syrup to taste, and simmer at a low heat until all combined.