What's the Difference Between Cocoa and Cacao?

As you probably know, studies have shown that cacao beans may have a number of health benefits. Through the marketing might of candy manufacturers, this research has been translated into a common belief that chocolate can be healthy for you. Should you start loading up on chocolate bars for health?
Not exactly.

Before we dive into the details, let's understand what we're talking about. Cacao and cocoa are often used interchangeably, but in the professional world, cacao is the unprocessed bean inside the fruit of the cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao). There are 20 to 40 cacao beans per fruit. Cocoa is simply the name for cacao that has undergone processing.

Fresh cacao beans are naturally rich in flavanols, a type of antioxidant. Flavanols are plant-derived nutrients found in foods like apples, tea, blueberries and especially cacao. The flavanols are what gives cacao beans a bitter flavor. Processing the beans to remove the bitterness, destroys much of the flavanols as well. More processing means less health benefits.

According to a study from the University of California, Davis, eating foods high in flavanols, like cocoa, may improve the health of people with coronary artery disease (the leading cause of death in many countries), improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Study participants consumed a cacao beverage twice a day for a month and compared to a control group that drank a beverage low in flavanols.
The Kuna people of Panama can drink up to 40 cups of cacao drink per week. A population study by researchers at the Harvard Medical School found that the Kuna people had very low rates of 4 common diseases: stroke, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - less than 10 percent. They are also the longest living inhabitants of Panama and have not been shown to get dementia. Note that other factors may be at play: genetics and lifestyle.

Consuming raw cacao beans or powder would be more beneficial than processed cocoa powder or chocolate bars, especially since those can have added fats and sugars.

If you are looking for a tasty and healthy snack:
1. Chew on cacao nibs - these are simply small pieces of cacao beans.
2. Add raw cacao powder to smoothies and many other homemade foods and treats.

Source: http://www.fooducate.com/

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