A lot of small but significant changes took place when I became vegan. All at once, I greatly reduced my gluten consumption, started popping probiotics, became one with green smoothies, and began practically bathing myself organic body oils. (I know. It was so amazing.)
I also discovered chia seeds, rooibos tea, and, of course—cacao.
Raw cacoa was (and still is) a special force of good in my life. Whether I’m making peppermint hot chocolate or no-bake vegan mocha “cheesecake,” cacao is my way to get my chocolate fix without resorting to something sugary, processed, and filled with dairy.
Nonetheless, I’m always game to explore. Last time I was at the health food store, I bought a tin of cocoa. It’s only after my purchase (naturally) that I’m looking into the difference between the two.
Cacao is the raw, unprocessed form of the cacao bean. Cocoa, on the other hand, is cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures, obviously rendering it un-raw. Sometimes a small amount of cocoa butter is added as well.
As you can imagine, the cooking process reduces its enzyme content and nutritional value, which, when unprocessed, is rather significant.
Raw cacao is in fact quite the superfood. It can:
- Lower insulin resistance (learn more about insulin resistance and acne here.)
- Protect nerve cells from damage
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Help metabolize nitric oxide
- Pack a serious antioxidant punch (antioxidants make up to 10% of cacao’s weight, and nearly double the amount in a cup of green tea!)
Cacao is also rich in essential fatty acids, fiber, zinc, copper, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium.
But what about recipes?
It’s pretty clear that raw cacao is the winner in any nutritional competition with cocoa, but what about recipes?
Fortunately, as far as taste and texture goes, the two are pretty interchangeable. I even made a cup of hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa (I usually use unsweetened cacao), to experiment (the things I go through for the sake of an article!).
While the taste was a bit smoother, the difference was so slight, so there’s really no reason for me to abandon my beloved cacao. But don’t get me wrong, I will let no chocolate in my house go unused! My tin of cocoa will find its way into many a baked recipe, I’m sure 🙂
What’s your favorite chocolate recipe?
Also in Healthy Eating: Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar + DIY Braggs Drink Recipe!
Photos: Mary Hood