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Everything You Need to Know About Cacao

March 17, 2024

Cacao has been delighting taste buds and nourishing bodies for thousands of years, and there’s always been a mystique about it. To give you an idea of how large it looms, the scientific name for cacao is Theobroma cacao, and “Theobroma” means “food of the gods” in Greek. Cacao isn’t just the backbone of chocolate (though that would be enough to give it legendary status) — it’s also packed with good nutrition.

What is cacao?

In its purest form, it’s the unprocessed seed of the cacao tree. These seeds are harvested, fermented, and dried before being processed into various products. Unlike cocoa powder, which undergoes roasting at high temperatures, raw cacao retains its natural enzymes, antioxidants, and essential nutrients.

Health benefits

Cacao is renowned for its rich antioxidant content, which helps combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. It’s packed with flavonoids, polyphenols, and catechins—plant compounds that may improve heart health, enhance cognitive function, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. It’s also a good source of essential minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc, as well as B vitamins and vitamin E.

How to enjoy it

Of course you can eat dark chocolate or sip some hot cocoa. Here are some additional products you can try to truly experience all cacao has to offer.

  • Blue Stripes Whole Cacao Chocolate Bars

With a commitment to sustainability, Blue Stripes upcycles every part of the pod (the shell, fruit, and beans) so that nothing goes to waste. This results in a rich, nutrient-packed chocolate bar that’s luscious and refined sugar-free. The bars come in pure dark, hazelnut butter, almond butter, crunchy coconut, and creamy oat milk flavors.  

Buy it: Blue Stripes Chocolate Bars, $48 for 12
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  • Oroa Drinking Chocolate

Oroa’s decadent drinking chocolate is crafted from 100% pure cacao, ethically sourced from small regenerative farms. There’s no sugar or anything else added. Simply combine the disks with hot liquid for a soul-warming, decidedly grownup drink.

Buy it: Oroa Drinking Chocolate, $26 for an 8-ounce bag (10 servings)

  • Navitas Cacao Nibs

The crushed pieces of the beans are called nibs. When ground, they become the cocoa liquor that transforms into chocolate. But left alone, they’re unsweetened crunchy bits that add a delightful texture and a rich chocolatey flavor to smoothies, yogurt bowls, baked goods, and more. Navitas’s organic single-origin nibs are a good source of fiber with no added sugar. 

Buy it: Navitas Nibs, $6 for a 4-ounce bag

Read next: The Milk Chocolate Is Low in Sugar (and Crazy Delicious)

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