Cacao Nutrition - Health Benefits of Cacao

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The source of cacao powder is cacao beans which grow on a tropical tree scientifically known as Theobroma Cacao.  The cacao tree produces several pods of fruit that yield segmented protions in the form of cacao beans.  During the processing of cacao, the beans are fermented and roasted, then ground into a paste.  In the production of raw cacao powder, low heat temperatures are used to preserve more of cacao's nutrient properties, and therefore provide more health benefits.

Cacao is not only interesting because of its unique taste, it's also interesting because of the many health benefits it provides.  Cacao is a bitter natural food that's been appreciated for its health benefits since ancient times.  The ancient Mayans are believed to be the first people who found cacao and consumed it as a food.  Today, cacao grows in many of the world's tropical regions and is consumed by people all over the world.  Although cacao is well known today as an ingredient in sweet chocolate snacks and deserts, the ancient Mayans made a drink from it that wouldn't be considered tasty by most people in our modern world.  The ancient Mayan recipe for their cacao drink consisted of ground cacao beans, water, cornmeal, and chili peppers.  Never the less, they valued cacao by such incredible measure that they traded it as a form of currency.

Cacao is a good source of several nutrients, particularly flavonoid antioxidants.  Flavonoids are plant pigments that are especially important in protecting against chronic illnesses and conditions such as heart disease and cancer.  Flavonoids, like other antioxidants, also provide benefits for collagen.  They help to slow the aging process.  Cacao also contains cacao butter, a healthy saturated fat that does not elevate cholesterol levels.  Cacao contains several other nutrients including essential minerals and amino acids, vitamin c, and theobromine.  Theobromine is a plant chemical that belongs in the same family as caffeine, but that provide very mild caffeine-like effects. 

To get the most nutrition out of cacao, it's recommended that you consume it raw.  Raw cacao chocolate, raw cacao powder, and raw cacao nibs are a great addition to a healthy diet.  Like other superfoods, cacao should be consumed in moderation. 
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