Cocoa, better know as chocolate, is commonly found in grocery stores. It's also what is used to make candy bars and desserts. Cocoa comes from a bean that is roasted, processed, and sold to consumers. Like most products that are overly processed, the nutritional content is virtually non-existent. Let me introduce you to cacao.
An ancient mayan superfood, cacao is an excellent source of dietary fiber and high in essential vitamins and minerals. Cacao is also a rich supply of antioxidants. Cocoa and cacao come from the same bean pod. Cocoa looks the same but it's different. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. Roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, and thus making it less nutritional. Cacao can be found in natural food stores or on-line.
Here are a few things that are beneficial about cacao:
- lowers insulin resistance
- protects the nervous system because it is high in resveratrol
- reducesthe risk of cardiovascular disease
- reduces the risk of stroke
- reduces blood pressure
- boosts mood
- rich in minerals (magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese)
Research suggests that using dairy with cacao blocks some of the nutritional values in cacao. So if you are making a shake or dessert, it's better to use a milk substitute like almond or coconut milk.
Below is a receipt for chocolate pudding that is both sugar and dairy free.
Dark Chocolate Pudding
3 TBSP cornstarch
3 TBSP xylitol* sweetener
2 TBSP organic cacao powder
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, thoroughly combine the cornstarch, xylitol, and cacao powder. Add the milk and stir until very smooth. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding comes to a boil. Then lower the heat and gently simmer, stirring continuously, for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, pour the hot pudding into a decorative serving bowl or individual custard cups, and serve warm or chill for about 2 hours, until cold and set.
*xylitol is a natural sweetener that has a low glycemic index and is safe for diabetics
Health-bite: replace cocoa with cacao