Cacao Powder: Benefits And How-Tos
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile or have been making some of my recipes, I’m sure you’ve come across the words ‘cacao powder’ before!
Cacao is touted as a superfood but are you feeling a little unsure about how to use it?
Maybe you’re wondering whether cacao powder is actually different from cocoa! I’ve put this blog together to help answer those questions and to give you some ideas for how to use cacao powder. Read on to find out more.
What is cacao powder?
Cacao powder comes from cacao beans, the seed pods of the cacao tree. The beans are harvested, dried and pressed to remove the fatty outer layer (which can be made into cacao butter) and what’s left is then milled to make cacao powder.
Cacao is also available in nibs — often used as a topping for smoothie bowls or smoothies.
What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?
While they both come from the cacao bean, cacao and cocoa are not the same thing.
The big difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder is the cacao is made by milling the beans at low temperatures, while cocoa is milled at a very high temperature.
This means cacao tends to retain more nutrients (including antioxidants) and natural flavour, while cocoa may be more processed and may also be combined with sugar and other additives.
When cacao is roasted to be made into something like a chocolate bar, some of the antioxidants and nutrients are lost. If sugars are then added on top of this, it changes the nutritional value further. So, next time you're wondering 'is cacao and cocoa the same thing', remember to double check labels before buying and look out for any hidden sugars!
Is cacao powder good for you?
And what are the health benefits of cacao?
Cacao is packed full of flavonoids, which can help build your immune system and has heart health benefits too!
Raw cacao powder has nearly four times the antioxidant power of regular dark chocolate — in fact, of all the natural foods in the world, raw cacao has the highest antioxidant value. It is also a good source of magnesium, which is important for your nervous system, building strong bones and helping you to feel calm.
Raw cacao powder also contains natural mood stimulants, including anandamide, which helps to lift your mood, and arginine, an amino acid which helps to relax your blood vessels.
What to do with cacao powder
Cacao powder has a lovely rich flavour, so while you might not find it as sweet as cocoa or chocolate powders, the health benefits make the switch worthwhile!
What does cacao powder do? If you mix cacao powder with an ingredient that has a natural sweetness (such as berries), you should find any bitterness is balanced out. Here are a few ways to use cacao powder:
Make a healthier hot chocolate with cacao powder. Raw cacao powder contains tryptophan, which helps us to relax and feel sleepy.
Cacao is also delicious in a smoothie with banana or you can make this yummy dairy-free cacao protein smoothie!
Another great way to use cacao powder is in desserts! When you’re trying to eat healthier, you might think dessert is off the menu but that doesn’t have to be the case! Using cacao instead of chocolate means you still get plenty of flavour without going overboard on refined sugars. My healthy chocolate cake recipe uses cacao and cacao nibs for a rich and delicious flavour, with some maple syrup for sweetness.
Some healthy snacks with cacao powder, like these bliss balls, are super quick to make and easily packed into a container to take on-the-go.
Good reasons to use cacao powder
If the idea of a healthier alternative to chocolate didn’t convince you to try cacao powder, then I’m sure the health benefits can! Cacao is such a handy pantry staple to have because you can add it to lots of your favourite drinks and snacks.
Do you have a favourite way to use cacao powder? Let me know in the comments!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.