It is very important that raw cacao is not confused with cocoa, its roasted, processed and nutrient-poor distant relative. Cacao is busting with nutrition and an excellent source of magnesium in particular but also other minerals such as iron, zinc, copper and calcium, in addition to fatty acids. It is also full of polyphenols which makes it a great fertiliser for your microbiome.
It’s no coincidence that (due to its tryptophan content) cacao may actually boost the body’s production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Another messenger molecule called anandamide is also present in cacao and has been dubbed the ‘bliss chemical’. No arguments there. It also contains the chemical phenylethylamine (PEA) which is created when we are excited or falling in love. It just gets better and better.
Cacao packs a very powerful antioxidant punch to protect cells against aging and damage. It ranks even higher (per 100g) than blueberries, goji berries or pomegranate on the ORAC scale – that’s Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is a measure of antioxidant capacity. This antioxidant content is also protective of cardiovascular disease and health in general. Here are 5 ways to use it.
100g cacao butter, 4 tablespoons of nut butter (we love crunchy hazelnut) and ½ cup of coconut sugar. Melt all this gently together then add around ¾ cup raw cacao powder and whatever combo of gogi berries, raisins, nuts you like – or leave plain. Mix well and pour into a small tray and freeze. Cut into bite size pieces and enjoy.
These are really decadent and the perfect after dinner bite if you don’t want to faff around with a big desert. So, 1 cup of cashew nut butter, ½ cup of medjool dates, ½ teaspoon of vanilla paste, 1/3 cup of melted cacao butter and ½ cup of cacao powder. Pinch of salt and blend in a blender until smooth. Press into a lined container and allow to set before cutting into squares. You can also roll into balls and dust with desiccated coconut.
The calcium bursting tahini gives a grown up feel to these but if you can get the kids to eat them, you are onto a winner. Take ½ cup of cacao, ¼ cup of nut butter of your choice, ¾ of a cup of tahini and a glug of honey or maple syrup. Roll into little balls and, for extra goodness, roll them some more in sesame seeds.
Cacao blueberry smoothie
1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of coconut milk (from a tin), 1 tablespoon of cacao powder and 2 dates or prunes. Blend and drink, you may want to thin out with a little water to gain desired consistency.
Cacao infused granola
Think healthy cocoa pops. You need 4 cups of oats and 2 cups of mixed nuts and seeds. Blend together ¼ cup of water, 4 ripe bananas, ¼ cup of cacao powder, ¼ cup of maple syrup (or less) and a pinch of salt. Mix this into the oats and nut mix and bake for around 40 minutes until crunchy, stir intermittently so it doesn’t burn.
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