Chocolate comes from Theobroma cacao, the scientific name for the cacao tree. A small tree native to the Amazon Basin, the cacao tree grows throughout the tropics, mostly in Africa.
The fleshy fruit of the cacao tree contains brown seeds called cacao. Fermenting and roasting cacao is the first step in making chocolate. People mash the seeds into a paste called chocolate liqueur which they then treat with heat to create cocoa. Cocoa is the key ingredient in most chocolate products.
Cold-pressing unroasted cacao makes raw cacao, which has gained a reputation as a “superfood” due to its high amount of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Raw cacao on its own tastes very bitter, so it is often made into a powder that can be added to other foods.
Raw cacao is full of antioxidants called flavanols. Eating foods rich in flavanols has a variety of health benefits for your body, including the following:
Many scientific studies show that flavanol-rich foods might help lower your blood pressure and improve the way your blood vessels’ walls function, lowering your risk of heart disease.
✨Improved Digestive Health
Cacao contains fiber that bacteria eat to create fatty acid chains. These fatty acids benefit your digestive system. Drinks made with cacao might also increase the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Research shows that eating dark chocolate can reduce stress, which boosts your overall mental and physical health.
✨Improved Cognitive Function
A specific flavanol in cacao called epicatechin may help with some parts of brain health, including cognition, blood flow, and risk of dementia.
✨Lower Risk of Diabetes
Studies show that eating cacao may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
The chocolate-making process removes a lot of the antioxidants in raw cacao (almost 60%). However, if you’d still prefer to eat raw cacao in the form of chocolate, you can still get many of the nutrients by eating very dark chocolate (60% to 70% cacao).
Raw cacao is a good source of: