When you’re craving an indulgent treat, the sweet, decadent flavor of chocolate is probably the first thing that comes to mind. You might be surprised to learn that chocolate — especially high-cacao chocolate — provides many health benefits. But to reap the benefits of cacao, you can’t assume all chocolate is healthy; you need to know exactly what to look for in your chocolate treats.
High-cacao chocolate provides the body with various nutrients that can enhance health. In fact, studies show that humans have been consuming chocolate for its healing properties since as early as 460 A.D. But, while some chocolate containing products are bursting with cacao (and its associated benefits), others contain very little.
If you thought of chocolate as an unhealthy snack, we’re here to make you reconsider. Here’s what to know about the benefits of cacao and why you should eat more chocolate.
What Is High-Cacao Chocolate?
Generally speaking, dark chocolate has a higher cacao content and therefore provides more benefits of cacao. Unlike milk and white chocolate, dark chocolate contains little to no milk solids — though it may still contain added sugar and fat to cut the bitterness. Dark chocolate is made primarily from cacao liquor (a paste made from cacao nibs), cacao butter, and sugar.
The amount of cacao liquor and cacao butter in the chocolate is typically what determines how dark the chocolate is or how high the cacao percentage is. The higher the percentage, the more health benefits: You want to aim for chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao.
Cocoa vs. Cacao: What’s the Difference?
Fun fact: The words cocoa and cacao are interchangeable in the English language and refers to the dried and fermented seed of the cacao fruit.
Although both terms are used interchangeably, cacao and cocoa differ slightly — specifically, in how they’re processed. Both come from the cacao plant and are harvested, dried, fermented, and roasted. However, cocoa is roasted at high temperatures to sweeten the flavor, whereas cacao is roasted at low temperatures.
The higher temperatures cause cocoa to lose some of its nutritional value. Cacao, on the other hand, retains a lot of nutritional value due to the low roasting temperature. So while cocoa still provides benefits, cacao provides more nutritional value. Either way, look for high cacao or high cocoa in chocolate, as both provide nutritional benefits.
4 Benefits of Cacao
You don’t have to feel guilty for satiating that late-night sugar craving. By choosing a high-cacao treat, you can both curb your sweet tooth and reap the numerous health benefits of cacao. Among its many benefits, here are the four most notable reasons to eat more dark chocolate.
Improves Gut Health
High-cacao chocolate contains a prebiotic fiber that encourages the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
With a happy ecosystem of bacteria in your gut, your body can better absorb nutrients and metabolize them more quickly.
Fights Aging and Disease
High-cacao chocolate is a powerhouse of antioxidants — specifically, flavonoids. Antioxidants are known for their ability to protect cells from free radicals, which contribute to aging, disease, and cancer.
Flavonoids even contribute to heart health. A 2010 study concluded that the consumption of dark chocolate helps to prevent heart disease. So in addition to protecting your body against disease and aging, one of the impressive benefits of cacao is its ability to lower your risk of heart disease.
You might have noticed you feel happier after you’ve eaten chocolate. That’s not just from the tasty chocolate itself, and it’s not just a sugar high. One of the benefits of cacao is that it contains a chemical called theobromine, which studies show is responsible for boosting our moods and our alertness.
Chocolate also contains a unique mix of chemicals, including phenylethylamine, which may be responsible for that comforting feeling you get when you bite into a piece of chocolate. Either way, next time you’re having a rough day, grab a dark-chocolate treat with a minimum of 70% cacao and notice how much better you start to feel.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Eating a bit of chocolate a day can help keep diabetes away. It sounds too good to be true, but research shows that one of the benefits of cacao is that it reduces oxidative stress, which is believed to play a role in developing diabetes.
By reducing oxidative stress you reduce insulin resistance, thus decreasing your chances of developing diabetes.
Enjoy the Benefits of Cacao Chocolate
Next time you’re craving chocolate, take a look at the snack’s ingredients, sugar content, and cacao percentage. The benefits of cacao will enhance your health, but even healthy dark chocolate is meant to be consumed in moderation.
ModBalls are a great way to get the benefits of cacao and dark chocolate in one bite-sized ball without the added sugar or other unhealthy additives. Each ball contains dark chocolate made with 85% cacao, plus 85 all-natural, nutrient-dense ingredients like fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and the perfect amount of chocolate to boost your mood and your energy.
For those who want to increase their nutritional intake while enjoying chocolate and the benefits of cacao, be an Oddball. Join ModBalls.