It’s been a happy Easter for me thus far. While I didn’t partake in any fun egg hunts or breakfast buffets, I have been enjoying a quiet morning of work from home. Working from home is great. Additionally, I poked my head out the back door this morning to find it’s summer outside. Summer is great too. Sometimes working from home coincides with summer, which mathematically seems like it should add up to great, but it’s not always that simple of an equation. However- yay for unseasonable warm weather and a slow work day!
While I wait for 4:30pm to arrive so I can begin my festive Easter dinner plans, I am meditating on the benefits of cacao powder. As promised in my last chocolate milk recipe post, I have been thinking of doing an informational post about cacao. If you’re wondering where it is, you’re here.
Cacao. This is the rich, chocolatey stuff that gives homemade brownies or chocolate cake their irresistible flavor. As you can see below, some folks just can’t get enough (myself included).
There are many benefits to cacao that often go largely unacknowledged due to its propensity to be used as a “sweets” ingredient. I feel that we box cacao into a dessert-y realm, and at the expense of viewing cacao as solely a brownie ingredient, we forget all about its benefits as a superfood in and of itself. The human tendency to think in a black-and-white format comes back to bite us yet again. But revel in this, ye unbelievers: it is one of the miracles of cacao that it is both a superfood and something that makes desserts quite fabulous. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Here is the nutrition facts panel for 1 cup of cocoa powder. Notice the low sugar content (and also notice how 1 cup is much more than a serving!)
Cocoa powder, which is made of 100% cacao (dry, solid remnants of fermented and roasted cacao beans ground into a paste) contains a substance known as phenethylamine. This is the reason why Moon Juice Kitchen’s Deep Chocolate Moon Milk (my recipe adaptation here) is considered a “joy promoting” beverage. Phenethylamine is a neurotransmitter which elevates mood and works to naturally reverse feelings of depression. Coupled with increase in serotonin levels, it’s clear to see why you’d be a happy camper after eating a chocolate bar!
Cocoa powder also increases your endorphins, more brain compounds that some folks know as “happy opiates.” If you’re not kooky for cacao and you want to reap the benefits of these endorphins I speak of, you can exercise, belly laugh, or have sex. All are options I endorse.
Cacao boosts serotonin levels in the brain, may work to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and reduces risk of blood clotting. Through these mechanisms it may also be attributed to lowering blood pressure. Some even say it boosts brain function. I’d love to believe it.
Cacao is a powerhouse for antioxidants. As the name suggests, antioxidants are compounds that work against oxidative damage in the body. It contains about 43.5 mg flavonoids per gram. Flavonoids are types of polyphenols, which have been proven to fight cancer, heart disease, signs of aging, and cell damage. For best results and least processed cocoa powder, consider buying yours raw- often, processors remove some of the flavonoids as they give the cocoa powder more bitter taste.
Cacao contains essential minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It is a high plant source of iron. Lastly, it contains caffeine. Unlike caffeine in coffee, however, cacao powder gives me a clean energy feeling- no head fog included. I do love my coffee and never plan on giving it up, but starting my day with my version of Chocolate Milk makes me so much happier and more energized!
Do you love cacao? Let me know your thoughts!