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Chocolate, Cocoa, Cacao

It may surprise you that chocolate is on the list of anticancer foods as we tend to think of it being a sugary sweet. This is true in the main, however if you choose dark (above 70%), good quality chocolate (preferably organic) it’s a different story. The antioxidant rich ingredient in chocolate is cocoa or cacao and just 40g a day can confer many health benefits.

In the processing of chocolate, the beans are roasted, then cracked and deshelled. This leaves pieces of bean called nibs which are often sold as cocao nibs in health food stores and can be used in cooking or for snacking on. The nibs have a higher nutrient content than most chocolate and also a higher level of theobromine which is similar to caffeine. It is theobromine that is toxic to dogs.

Cocoa beans are collected from the cocoa pod and fermented, dried and roasted. A kilogram of chocolate contains around 300 to 600 processed beans depending on the cocoa content desired. Cocoa butter and the powder are often separated but a healthier dark chocolate contains higher levels of the nutritious cocoa powder thus providing higher levels of antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, copper and calcium. It also reduces the amount of sugar and milk solids in the chocolate.

Wholesome World is choco-block with addictive recipes and so worth a lot as to how you can have it in aubergine fondants, chocolate shots, cakes, smoothies, nutriballs and even a main course of the deliciously addictive beef cacao stew – which reminds us all of the Jonny Depp Chocolat film and the sultry garden dinner (watch it!) while healthy eating any of the above dishes. Double tick off.

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What is the difference between cocoa and cacao? Let’s start with that they are very similar. Simply is processed at a much higher temperature. Cacao is made simply from fermented beans that have not been roasted.

Raw chocolate is the healthiest of all and is becoming increasingly popular. Unroasted beans are used in the production of raw chocolate which protects the vitamins, minerals and polyphenols. Polyphenols include flavonoids which are antioxidants and these have been shown to interfere with the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer cells. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation and colorectal cancer.

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  2. Martin MA, Gova L, Ramos S. Potential for preventive effects of cocoa and cocoa polyphenols in cancer. NCBI. 2013 Jun;56:336-51. doi: 10.1016
  3. Rodriguez-Ramiro I, Lopez-Oliva E, Ramos S. et al: Cocoa polyphenols prevent inflammation in the colon of azoxymethane-treated rats and in TNF-α-stimulated Caco-2 cells. NCBI. 2013 Jul 28;110(2):206-15. doi: 10.1017
  4. American Cancer Society. Can chocolate be good for you? https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/can-chocolate-be-good-for-you.html.
  5. Healthline. 11 health and nutrition benefits of cocoa powder. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cocoa-powder-nutrition-benefits.