What are they?
Cacao beans are the all important basis of chocolate. Yes, this is the bean that delivers all the feel good constituents of chocolate. It is the purest form of chocolate before any processing has occurred. The cacao bean is used in many different ways, to produce chocolate, cocoa butter, cacao nibs and cacao powder. Most people typically don’t use the whole bean but I will explain exactly how we can use this potent super food to benefit our health!
Where do they come from?
The origins of the cacao tree aren’t known 100% but it is believed to have originated in current day Venezuala. About 70% of the world’s cacao supply comes from West Africa. The top three producers are the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia. Cacao trees grow best in hot, rainy, tropical areas.
How do I use them?
Cacao beans can be used in many, many ways. I often use them in the form of cacao nibs, which basically means the bean has been grinded into smaller ‘nib’ – like pieces. These are great to put in cereal, yogurt, in a smoothie or in any other food you want to add a strong chocolate flavour to. The strong bitter flavour also compliments well with goji berries, which are very sweet.
You can also get cacao powder, which is simply the bean ground into a very fine powder. This can be used as a base for hot chocolate, in baking, in smoothies or even to make chocolate milk.
Cacao is of course found in chocolate. When you’re purchasing chocolate choose one with 70% or greater cacao content to experience the greatest health benefits!
Many people do not know this, but the cacao bean has the highest antioxidant content of all food items in the world! It’s no wonder everyone flocks to chocolate. To get the most antioxidant content choose a cacao powder as these antioxidants are further concentrated in a smaller space when ground to a powder.
There are over 300 chemical constituents in the cacao bean, but the two chemicals that create feelings of euphoria and alertness are anandine and phenylethylamine. Cacao also has a chemical theobromine in it. This is a relative of caffeine, however is not as stimulatory. Although, those that are sensitive to caffeine should not consume large amounts of cacao products as the theobromine may be too stimulating.
Cacao is also rich in the minerals magnesium, zinc and copper. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and promotes restful sleep and relaxation. Many do not know this but cacao is also an excellent source of fibre.
How often and how much should I use?
Cacao products are a great addition to anyone’s diet on a daily basis. Adding 1-2 tablespoons of either cacao nibs or powder into cereal, yogurt, smoothies, baking or whatever your heart desires is a great way to get a potent dose of antioxidants, minerals and feel good chemicals. This is also the best way to get the feel good components of chocolate in a concentrated, pure form.
Where do I get them?
Cacao products are becoming more mainstream now. Some places you can purchase them are…
- Any health food store will have cacao products. If the store has a bulk section, cacao nibs and powder will likely be there. You can also get many packaged cacao products. I will outline some good brands below.
- The Bulk Barn now carries many super foods. This is another great place to purchase cacao products.
- They can also be purchased from online retailers if you don’t feel like leaving your house. www.iherb.com is a great place to purchase health food products online.
What brands should I Use?
There are many great brands that offer cacao products. Some good quality brands include:
- Mum’s Original Superfoods (cacao powder, nibs, coconut nibs)
- Camino (dark chocolate, cacao powder)
- Organic Traditions (Cacao powder, nibs)
- Navitas Naturals (cacao beans, powder, nibs and sweet nibs and more)
How much do they cost?
In bulk, cacao nibs typically cost approximately $11-$15 (CDN) per pound. Many products now follow suit to those pricing guidelines. You can purchase a half pound for about $7-$10. This may seem expensive to some, but remember a little bit goes a long way! Cacao powder prices vary but a good quality powder will cost approximately $6-$10 for 250-400 grams.
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