Chances are, you’ve heard that dark chocolate is a healthier choice than is milk chocolate. And you may have also heard that dark chocolate can offer several health benefits. While that is true, it only applies to a particular kind of dark chocolate—raw chocolate, or cacao. A large portion of the dark chocolate you can buy is so processed that it loses a great amount of its nutrients and antioxidants. However, cacao beans health benefits remain intact. Cacao beans are truly to be considered a superfood. Read below to find out why!
For example, here are 5 cacao beans health benefits:
1. Lowers Blood Pressure & Improves Circulation
The flavanols, theobromine and other agents cacao contains promote dilation, strength and health of blood vessels. As such, cacao beans health benefits include the ability to lower blood pressure. (1)
2. Supports Cardiovascular Function & Health
Cacao beans health benefits continues with the ability to reduce cholesterol levels. This again is due to the flavonoid content as well as the essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao. These components can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, lower cholesterol and reduce the buildup of plaque on artery walls. (2, 3)
3. Neutralizes Free Radicals
Also on the list of cacao beans health benefits is the ability to help protect the body from disease. Cacao beans, with their high level of antioxidants, can fight free radicals within the body that arise due to sun exposure, pollution, and toxins in our food. These free radicals, left unchecked, can lead to a variety of diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
4) Improves Digestion
Due to the fiber content, cacao beans health benefits include aiding in the digestive process. Fiber helps move food through your digestive system more quickly, which prevents constipation. Furthermore, cacao beans health benefits include the ability to stimulate digestive enzymes, also aiding in the overall digestive process.
5) Promotes Physical and Mental Health
Cacao beans health benefits extend to your mental health, as well. There is a good reason why you feel happy after (and while!) eating chocolate. Cacao contains theobromine, which stimulates the nervous system, relaxes muscles and dilates blood vessels. This leads to a boost in energy as well an overall feeling of contentment. (4)
Additionally, cacao beans health benefits include a vast amount of nutrients. For example, cacao contains alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase and lysine, all of which contribute to the improvement of physical and mental health. They are also good sources of potassium as well as magnesium, zinc, manganese and copper.
How to Incorporate Raw Cacao Into Your Diet:
Now that you know some cacao beans health benefits, you may be wondering how to fit this superfood into your diet. There are a number of ways you can enjoy cacao beans. For example, you can snack on them whole or crush them into nibs and add them to various snacks. Alternatively, if the beans are too bitter for your taste, grind them into a powder. This will help to better hide the taste in your foods and drinks.
Here are some ideas for using cacao in your food:
- Blend into fruit smoothies
- Add whole beans or nibs to granola and trail mixes
- Add nibs or powder to oatmeal or yogurt
- Mix powder with your favorite nut milk
- Add powder to your favorite protein drink
- Use cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips in frozen yogurt, pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc.