At four times the cost of cocoa, is cacao worth the extra dollars?
What is it?
Cacao, like cocoa, is a product of the cocoa bean. Essentially, cacao and cocoa are the same until they are processed. Beans that are harvested, fermented, chopped, pressed and dried are called cacao and are known as nibs. Cocoa is made in a similar way, except the beans are roasted after harvesting. Raw enthusiasts prefer pure cacao that hasn’t been heated above 42°C as this process destroys the health-bearing flavonoids.
How is it used?
Cacao powder can replace cocoa powder in baking, but its intense, bitter flavour means you only need half the amount. It can also be added to smoothies, or to a casserole or chilli con carne for depth. Use cacao nibs as you would chocolate chips or nuts: Sprinkle over ice cream or add them to homemade muesli or trail mix.
Is it healthier than chocolate?
Pure cacao is less processed than milk chocolate which has added sugar and milk to make it creamy and sweet, but many cacao products also have added fat and sugar — so don’t be fooled by cacao’s health halo. Chocolate, in any form, is a treat. Savour a small amount (2 to 3 squares) on special occasions — like Easter!
Raw cacao retains high levels of flavonoids, which have been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost heart health. But, if you’re baking with cacao, the heat will reduce the flavonoid content.
From the shop to your table
These are some of our favourite cacao products on supermarket shelves, for blending, nibbling and baking…
Connect Foods Organic Cacao Nibs: Make trail mix with nibs, dried fruit and nuts.
Willie’s Cacao Venezuelan Gold (72% cacao): Savour a square or two after dinner.
Bioglan Organic Cacao Powder: Add a teaspoon to your morning smoothie.