Chocolate makes you happy – for many of us, this is both a curse and a blessing. But why is that actually the case? Many chocolate products are fortified with sugar, palm oil and other empty calories. It tastes delicious, but settles on your hips just as quickly. Nevertheless, I have good news for those who do not want to resist the sweet temptation: Raw cacao beans or cacao nibs. The brown gold of the indigenous people of South America is the purest form of chocolate and supplies the body with valuable vitamins, minerals and happiness hormones along the way. It’s not for nothing that raw cacao was already called “food of the gods” back then and is now one of the hip superfoods (not only among the hipsters among us).
What are actually cocoa beans?
Cacao beans are the seeds of the raw cacao fruit. These fruits, up to 20 centimeters long, grow directly on the trunk of the cacao tree in the undergrowth of the Latin American rainforests. Cocoa mass and cocoa butter are produced from the coveted seeds.
There are the following three basic varieties:
The true fine cocoa Criollo is very valuable and the bean is considered the most beautiful among cocoa plants. Forastero accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the world’s cocoa production and is therefore also called “consumer cocoa”. The oldest cross of the two varieties Trinitario comes from the island of Trindad and is very rare to find.
The raw cacao fruit has a very high proportion of sweet pulp and contains approximately 30 to 50 cacao beans. It is only during the drying process that the originally white beans acquire their brownish color, as is the case with cocoa nibs.
Why is raw cacao healthy?
In the production of conventional chocolate and cocoa drink powder, the ingredients are usually heated above 130 degrees. In the process, the valuable flavonoids of the raw cacao bean are destroyed and thus worthless for our health. Raw cacao powder and dark chocolate in raw food quality (also called raw cacao or raw chocolate) are gently dried and not heated above 42 degrees. In this way, the nutrient-rich ingredients of the cocoa bean are retained. It is therefore best not to use raw cacao for cooking or baking, but rather for cold to lukewarm dishes.
What makes the raw cacao bean so special?
The raw cacao bean is particularly rich in alkaloids, which can stimulate mental and physical performance and reduce stress. In addition, the consumption of raw cacao powder increases the natural production of serotonin, the well-known “happiness hormone“. The raw, unprocessed cacao of cacao beans contains an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, so it’s definitely one of my top 10 superfoods.
Raw cacao ingredients
Cocoa contains antioxidants
Raw cacao and cacao nibs contain magnesium, calcium and fiber, as well as particularly valuable antioxidants such as phenols and flavonoids. Raw cacao powder is one of the foods with the strongest antioxidant effect, acting up to 100 times stronger than broccoli.
The power antioxidants have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, dilate blood vessels and thus improve blood circulation. Already many studies have confirmed that they can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Regular consumption can also have a positive effect on diabetes. The antioxidants contained are also important to protect your skin from free radicals and prevent premature aging.
Nutrition table per 100g
Cocoa provides valuable magnesium
The superfood is one of the best sources of magnesium, a mineral that fights muscle cramps, relieves pain, strengthens bones and teeth, supports the heart and circulation, and can even help you sleep better. Especially for active people, such as athletes, raw cacao is a tasty alternative to cover the daily need for magnesium. But also for people with high stress levels, raw cacao can significantly help to strengthen the nerves.
Cocoa contains many vitamins
Of course, the mysterious cocoa beans are also full of vitamins, especially vitamins E and C. When talking about vitamin E, usually not a single substance is meant, but several active substances, which are also called tocopherols. These protect the human organism from so-called free radicals and can thus prevent premature aging of the skin.
Unlike most animals, we humans cannot produce vitamin C (ascorbic acid) ourselves, but must take it with our food. In addition, the acid contributes significantly to the formation and maintenance of collagen. You could therefore almost call raw cacao a beauty superfood.
Cocoa contains valuable iron
Iron is responsible for cellular respiration and the blood pigment hemoglobin. Therefore, this trace element is one of the most important in our body. In addition, the substance is important for the transport of oxygen in the organism and the provision of energy in the cells. Reason enough to take a closer look at the values of raw cacao. Raw cacao provides a whopping 7.3 milligrams per 100g. However, you should always take iron-containing foods in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to increase the absorption and effect. Parsley, peppers or sea buckthorn, for example, are valuable sources of vitamin C.
What effect does raw cacao have?
Raw cacao makes happy
For the Mayans and Aztecs, cocoa was not only food, but also medicine and aphrodisiac at the same time. However, modern science also agrees that the nutrients contained in raw cacao uplift our mood and create feelings of happiness. Several important neurotransmitters play a role here.
The brown superfood contains theobromine and phenylethylamine, which release the body’s own happiness hormones (endorphins). Interestingly, these messenger substances are also released in lovers and increase concentration and alertness. But even more exciting is the fact that cocoa also contains small amounts of anandamides. This substance behaves similarly to hemp’s THC and can be intoxicating even at a very low level. A feeling of relaxation and bliss.
But that’s not all, because the real star is the neurotransmitter serotonin. It helps you to more serenity, balance, inner peace and contentment. So we are getting closer and closer to the famous “cocoa rush”. Serotonin is also involved in our sense of satiety, anxiety and appetite. Would you have thought that raw cacao could make such a significant contribution to your daily well-being?
Buy raw cacao
Raw cacao powder is the finest form and works very well as an addition in Smoothies , snacks and many raw food dishes. For example, you can mix it very well into my Chocolate Blueberry Energy Balls, Chocolate Cashew Butter Truffles or Chocolate Chia Smoothie. There are no limits to your creativity here.
Cocoa Nibs, or cocoa bean chips, are made from crushed cocoa beans and are especially good for smoothie toppings, cookies and energy bars. But how are the nibs actually produced? After harvesting, the raw cacao bean is broken apart and fermented. During this process, the inside of the pod melts and at the same time the beans become less bitter. The kernel is then removed, broken raw into pieces and the super healthy cacao nibs are ready.
Cacao butter is a light yellow fat extract from cacao beans and is excellent for raw cakes, chocolates and many other snacks. I also love using them to make my homemade chocolate sauce. Don’t feel like making chocolate yourself? In well-stocked organic supermarkets there is now a very good selection of raw chocolate, classic or with many delicious exotic ingredients.
Raw cocoa vs. cocoa powder
You may have asked yourself what the difference is between raw cacao and the classic cacao powder. By classic cocoa powder, I mean the usually heavily de-oiled baking cocoa from the supermarket, which is great for cooking and baking. Raw cocoa powder is usually much more expensive, but is it worth the difference? I have summarized the facts for you:
- Raw cocoa and baking cocoa both come from the same tree.
- Baking cocoa is roasted at high temperatures and treated with an alkaline agent. As a result, it loses some of its valuable nutrient profile.
- Raw cacao contains more nutrients because it is not treated and heated as much.
- Many chocolate products usually contain a very low percentage of cocoa, so always check the ingredients list.
My superfood tip: Raw cacao powder is best used only as a topping or for raw foods (so do not heat more than 42 degrees). Baking cacao is still a valuable ingredient and is especially suitable for classic baking and cooking.
- has the highest antioxidant effect and is up to 100 times stronger than broccoli
- is one of the best sources of iron with 7.3g per 100g
- contains theobromine and phenylethylamine, which release the body’s own happiness hormones (endorphins) … So cocoa does make you happy after all?
- is a very good supplier of magnesium
My favorite products (not spronsored, but to my personal taste):
- Organic cocoa in raw food quality: https://amzn.to/2Re6meF
- Organic cocoa nibs: https://amzn.to/2P4REVo