Chocolate has made the world a better place, and everyone loves it. Or is that just the Belgian in me talking.
It smells good and tastes good — especially when you’re having it as a pick-me-up after an especially challenging day. But have you ever wondered where this delicious treat comes from? A lot of people may or may not know this, but chocolate comes from a plant — the cacao plant to be exact.
If you’ve ever read the ingredients list of any chocolate wrapper, the words “cacao” or “cocoa” might ring a bell. While it’s quite obvious that they both come from the cacao plant, what’s the difference between them and which one is best?
You might get the impression that the only real difference between cacao and cocoa is their spelling, but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that.
Cacao vs Cocoa — What’s The Difference?
Cacao refers to any food product made out of cacao beans. These beans, which are the seeds or nuts of the cacao tree, are used to make a variety of products. It’s the most natural kind of chocolate you can consume since it can be eaten raw and comes in packages that are much less processed than chocolate bars or cocoa powder.
Like cocoa, cacao can also be crushed into a powder. However, cacao doesn’t have all the sweeteners and additives cocoa has. It basically comes straight from the cacao pod — just cold-press those unroasted beans up and they’re good to go. By cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, living enzymes inside the beans are kept. Common products made out of cacao include cacao nibs, cacao butter, cacao paste and of course, cacao powder.
Cocoa, on the other hand, is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Cocoa’s what you commonly see on the grocery shelves, and they’re probably what your favorite chocolate bars are made of. However, unlike their unroasted kin, the roasting alters the cocoa bean’s structure in such a way that its enzyme content and nutritional value are reduced.
But don’t worry, it isn’t all bad. Aside from tasting really good, cocoa retains lots of antioxidants from the roasting process and is still great for your heart, skin, blood pressure, and stress levels.
Which Is Better?
Now that you have an idea on the differences between cacao and cocoa, you might be wondering which is better.
While both have their own advantages, cacao is generally known to have more health benefits than cocoa. It has higher antioxidant content, which makes it good for your heart health and lowers your risk of infections.
Cacao can even protect against the risk of certain cancers. As a potent antioxidant, it can repair the damage caused by free radicals and can help maintain healthy nitric oxide levels in the body.
Though cocoa may seem inferior to raw cacao, it’s actually very good for you if you choose a variety without added sugars and milk fats or oils. Plus it is cheaper too. While I’ll prefer the taste and bitterness of chocolate made of raw cacao, cocoa isn’t too bad either! In moderation of course!!!
Ever wondered how chocolate manages to instantly cheer anyone up? The amino acids found in cacao can help boost your mood and put you in a cheerful disposition. No wonder chocolate makes everyone happy — it doesn’t just taste good, it’s healthy too!
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.