Benefits of Cacao
Health Benefits of Cacao
The scientific name of the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao. This name is derived from the Greek words ‘theos’ meaning ‘god’ and ‘broma’ meaning ‘food’ – cacao is therefore literally the Food of the Gods!
Cacao trees are evergreen and can grow up to 8m tall. The cacao fruits grow up to 30cm long and come in a range of colour: yellow, brown, green, pink and purple. The cacao seeds are enclosed within a white pulp which is fermented, dried and ground into a paste.
Theobroma cacao comes from the Malvaceae family, which is the same as cola and hibiscus! Theobroma cacao is native to lowland, tropical regions of the Americas, but is now cultivated all over the world. It thrives in a humid climate with rich soil, regular rainfall and shade. Learn more from The Eden Project.
Cacao for the Body
Our delicious cacao paste is rich in potassium, magnesium and iron
Cacao is the richest naturally occurring source of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for energy production – as it turns the food we eat into energy. It also helps to regulate the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones that are important for bone health.
The richest plant based source of iron?… You guessed it – cacao! Cacao contains a whopping 14.85mg of iron per 100g. In comparison, spinach only contains 3.6mg per 100g (some sources suggest as low as 2.7mg). Iron is an important building block in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Women may need extra iron during their menstrual cycles.
Last, but not least, cacao is also high in potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps our bodies to control a balance of fluids. Potassium also helps the muscles of the heart to work properly.
We geeked out and broke down how much a gentle serving (15g) would go to meet the recommended intake of potassium, iron and magnesium. This would obviously increase if you increased the strength of your cacao.
As you can see, a single gentle serving of cacao meets 32.7% of your daily need for potassium, 15.9% of your daily need of iron and 5.2% of your daily need for magnesium. Who would have thought that something so delicious could be so good for you?
|Per gentle serve (15g)||% RI* per serve|
Cacao v Coffee
Consumption of cacao can reduce cortisol (the hormone that increases when we are under stress). This is because cacao uniquely combines magnesium and theobromine, which widen the arteries and large blood vessels. This helps to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the areas of the body that need it the most. In contrast, studies have shown an increase in cortisol after the consumption of coffee.
Jitter & Crash Free
Cacao naturally contains large amounts of theobromine, which is a bioactive compound that is anti-inflammatory, antitumoral (meaning it prevents or inhibits the formation or growth of tumours) and is a cardiovascular protector molecule. The composition of theobromine is similar to caffeine (the stimulant commonly found in tea and coffee), but promotes a more gentle and long lasting boost. Unlike caffeine, theobromine doesn’t stimulate the nervous system, which is why we are less likely to feel that jittery sensation that we might feel when we have had a bit too much caffeine.
Research also shows that theobromine is present in higher quantities in cacao paste than powder.
Cacao as a Mood Booster
benefits of cacao
the love drug
Cacao contains phenylethylamine (also known as P.E.A), which is an alkaloid and a mono amine that is believed to operate as a neuromodulator or a neurotransmitter. It is naturally produced in the brain when we are excited – and is also naturally found in cacao!
Studies have shown that P.E.A has demonstrable anti-depressant effects. P.E.A is sometimes called ‘the love drug’ and that’s because P.E.A stimulates the brain to release B-endorphins, opioid peptides which stimulate a feeling of euphoria and ecstasy that we feel when we fall in love.
the bliss transmitter
Anandamide is the most commonly studied endocannabinoid, that plays an important role in the central nervous system.
The name ‘anandamide’ is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ which means ‘bliss’. It operates as a pain moderator, an antidepressant. Trace levels of anandamide can be found in sea urchin roe, pig brain and mice livers, but the only two natural (and substantial) sources of it are the human brain and cacao.
the gentle, long-lasting stimulant
What makes cacao super unique is its high levels of theobromine. It’s the reason why cacao gives us a heart-felt energy boost and doesn’t give us the midday crash. Learn more in the section ‘Cacao v Coffee’ above.
the happy transmitter
Cacao contains serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is believed to positively uplift our mood, emotions and our sleep.
Take a deep dive into the science! Find the web links and full references to scientific journal articles that inspired & informed us.
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