What is raw cacao powder?
Cacao trees are found in the tropical regions all over the world but predominantly two thirds of the world’s cacao supply comes from West Africa. The cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, bears large melon size fruits called cacao pods. When the pods are ripe, they are cut from the tree, collected and split open to reveal rows of cacao beans covered in a white pulp. The pulp is removed, the beans are fermented, dried and cleaned before processing into cacao powder.
Cacao powder vs. cocoa powder
Although cocoa powder is derived from the same cacao bean which provides cacao powder, there is a marked difference between cocoa powder and cacao powder. Cocoa powder is obtained by roasting the beans at much higher temperatures than cacao powder. As heat destroys many compounds, the benefits of cocoa powder are greatly reduced. Additionally, cocoa powder goes through an alkalising process, usually with potassium bicarbonate, to develop a more mass-market flavour and colour that we associate with chocolate. Unfortunately, this alkalising process is liable to remove some of the minerals such as magnesium and calcium found naturally in cacao beans.
The processes involved in achieving high quality cacao powder
The processing of cacao beans into powder is a four stage process:
Winnowing: a machine is usually used to separate the cacao beans from the shells.
Roasting: technically, there is no such thing as ‘raw’ cacao powder. All beans have to be roasted at a temperature that eradicates bacteria and brings out the chocolate flavour. The length of time and temperature are crucial in retaining the benefits that the cacao bean has to offer.
Grinding: the roasted beans are ground to produce a cocoa liquor.
Milling: the cocoa butter is removed from the liquor leaving pure cocoa which is them milled into a fine powder.
The health benefits of cacao powder
The health benefits of cacao powder have been known for decades but never proven until now. Many of us will have read or heard of dark chocolate being good for our heart and for our mood. It is true that the cacao beans contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and beneficial amino acids. It is also true that dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate in the amount present of these nutrients. However, this is only part of the story. Chocolate contains a high amount of saturated fats and is high in calories. Additionally, the poor farming practices for the cacao bean powder required for the chocolate industry results in a lack of these nutrients in any meaningful quantity.
Cacao powder is often labelled a “super-food” and with good reason. The cacao bean has over 300 identifiable compounds including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients. High in magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, beta-carotene and omega 6 fatty acids, cacao powder provides these and other nutrients so that your body performs at its peak levels.
Cacao also contains anandamide, a natural euphoric compound. This means that cacao can act as a mood enhancer and unlike traditional drugs, it is without side effects. Another compound found in cacao beans is tryptophan, a potent natural antidepressant. This means that cacao has two mood enhancing compounds that can help you from feeling blue.
Other benefits of cacao powder include:
May aid weight loss due to its chromium content
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Has a high content of arginine which is known to have aphrodisiac properties.
Helps enhance circulation
Aduna Super-Cacao is the first cacao powder with a heart health claim approved by the European Food Safety Authority. It is obtained from specially selected, gently roasted, high-flavanol beans Flavanols are plant derived antioxidants which help maintain the elasticity of the blood vessels within our body.
As we age, our blood vessels lose their elasticity which means that the heart has to work harder in order to pump blood around the body. Aduna Super-Cacao powder contains eight times the flavanol content of regular cacao, supporting blood flow, maintaining elasticity of arteries and veins, and therefore protecting the heart.
According to the World Health Organisation, heart related concerns are the number one cause of death globally. Consuming 200mg of cacao flavanols for seven days, equating to two teaspoons of Aduna Super-Cacao per day, improves blood vessel dilation between 1-2% which means less stress on the heart muscle and improved blood flow in the whole body.