The cacao bean is the source of both cacao powder and cocoa powder. However, if you are looking for the purest form of chocolate you can consume packed with the most nutrients, raw cacao is your answer.
Cacao powder has been enjoyed for centuries in the kitchen and as a health aide. It is believed to be the highest source of antioxidants of all foods and the highest source of magnesium of all foods – it even trumps dark chocolate when it comes to antioxidants provided offering 300 different chemical compounds with nearly 4 times the antioxidant power of dark chocolate. Cacao powder is also considered brain food because it contributes to cognitive function and the flow of blood to the brain – it improves heart health, stress and cholesterol levels and reduces inflammation. It is perfect for desserts, smoothies and even makes the cross-over easily to savory dishes.
Cacao beans grow in cacao pods on the fruit tree known as “Theobroma Cacao.” When the pods are cracked open the cacao bean is released. The bean is then harvested, fermented (not always) and dried.
Cacao and cocoa powder are not the same
In cacao powder the bean is still in its raw state – uncooked, unprocessed and additive free. It is unadulterated and is not as processed as traditional cocoa powder. It is processed by cold-pressing (pressing the oil/cocoa butter out) unroasted cocoa beans which removes the fat but keeps the living enzymes active. Cocoa powder on the other hand has been roasted at high temperatures which changes the molecular structure of the bean and reduces the enzyme activity lowering the nutritional value.
The fattest part of the cacao fruit is the cacao butter that lines the inside of the cacao bean. Offering a rich, buttery texture similar in taste and texture to white chocolate.
Cacao powder is what remains of the fruit once the cacao butter is cold-pressed removed. It is the most important ingredient for making chocolate. An excellent source of nutrients, offering monounsaturated fats and cholesterol-free saturated fats. It also offers a wealth of vitamins, minerals, fiber, natural carbohydrates and protein.
Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been chopped into edible pieces similar to chocolate chips but with no added sugars or fats. They do contain the same wealth of nutrients, fiber and fat you find in cacao beans. Nibs are just small bits of fermented, roasted, dried and crushed cacao bean. Offering an intense, non-sweet, chocolaty taste, they are very good for your health.
Cacao nibs and cacao powder are becoming a healthy cook’s best friend and are showing up everywhere.
The versatility of cacao nibs is one reason for their recent popularity. Similar to a macadamia nut in texture, cacao nibs are crunchy yet tender. If chocolate is already a favorite treat of yours, then you’ll likely fall in love with cacao nibs – even if their somewhat “bitter” taste takes a bit of getting used to.
They are perfect as is just sprinkled on your favorite gluten and sugar free cupcakes or mixed into your favorite homemade granola.
Ready to take your traditional desserts and turn them into “life giving” desserts? “50 Desserts with Hidden Veggies” was written with you in mind. In it you will discover no bake, Paleo friendly, no sugar, gluten free healthy sweet treat and dessert recipes…
Isn’t it time to make every bite you take count!