Raw cacao is considered a super food and has been growing in popularity as an alternative to processed chocolates, which are stripped of their healthy benefits. Eating raw cacao nibs has been linked with lower blood pressure, better digestive health, better heart health, healthier blood flow, and a reduced risk of stroke. Bet you can’t say that about your favorite candy bar!
Both The Journal of the American College of Cardiology and The Journal of Internal Medicine have published findings about the super food that is cacao.
They both set up studies to determine what result if any eating cacao nibs would have on people in regards to the frequencies of stroke and heart attacks in humans. Interestingly they found that the people who consumed cacao multiple times a day had lower rates of both strokes and heart attacks. So what’s at play here?
How Cacao Helps Your Heart
Cacao is high in polyphenols, which is a type of antioxidant that has been shown to lower the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. This in itself can go along way towards protecting heart health.
Cacao also contains flavonoids which have been linked to improving blood flow in the body, improving arterial elasticity, lowering the blood pressure, and lowering the amounts of platelet aggregation.
Cacao Improves Digestion
Cacao is also an anti-inflammatory in the body, high in iron and potassium, and can improve digestion. Cacao is actually quite high in fiber and in magnesium, both of which can speed things up in the digestive system and help with proper elimination.
One-ounce serving of raw cacao contains 36% of the daily-recommended amount of fiber, or 9 grams. A study published in Nutrition and Metabolism found a notable difference in the study’s participants habits with their bowels in relation to how much cacao they ate. The weeks that they were instructed to eat cacao they saw increases in the amount of bowel movements they had and decreases in feelings of constipation.
Stick to Cacao Nibs or Dark Chocolate
Keep in mind that most chocolate we see on our shelves have come a long way from it’s original form of cacao. To improve the taste most chocolate in foods has been processed and mixed with sugars, butters, and milks, none of which you should be adding to a health oriented diet in the name of antioxidants.
Instead go for completely raw cacao nibs, which are closest to their natural state being only mildly roasted after they’ve been dried and gathered from the seeds of the cacao tree.
Cacao nibs are easy to come by and taste great when they’re mixed into smoothies or protein drinks, sprinkled on yogurt, or found in energy bars and vegan foods. If you are baking with cacao nibs and find them to be a little on the bitter side, you can try sweetening them with a touch of honey. When eating chocolate, always go for the darkest and least processed versions possible.