Cocoa vs Cacao: Which One Should You Go For?

Chocolate is love for all. No matter what we do, who we are or what our age is, we all have a sweet tooth for chocolates. A health expert or a die-hard dietitian, all would suggest you take chocolate but the right one and in the right amount. The lip-smacking taste leaves us with a strong urge to consume the same. A chocolate bar is the most tempting thing we all can have. Right? But when it comes to cocoa vs cacao, which one should we take?

With the increasing awareness and the urgent need to undertake the health effects, it is imperative that we know how chocolate consumption effect the same. While looking for the kinds of the gulping chocolate, we come across two of them. The one being cocoa and the other cacao. Well, both might at first view appear the same. Also, if you spell you might have an impression that both are two different names of the same variant. However, this is not the case. Where one is a pure bean, other has to undertake multiple processes before being the one it is.

Breaking the glass, cacao is the raw chocolate been in its pure form. After intense processing, it becomes what we call the cocoa. Owing to the stipulated rise in health risk and obesity factor, people look for alternatives, and these are the best choices.

Having said all, it is now time that we look into the actual meaning of both the cocoa and cacao. There is a common misunderstanding regarding both. Most of the population believe that cacao and cocoa are a different way of pronouncing the same product. However, this is not true. Though they both start from the same place, their destination is miles apart and the effect both induce on health is way opposite to each other.

What is Cacao?

Cacao is the reflection of the pure bean extracted from the seed pods. Either of them originates from the Theobroma trees. These trees are found in South America. It is believed that these trees produce seed pods. After the production, the harvesters have the job to crack them wide open and what pops out is the raw bean or the cacao. The appearance of the cacao beans is almost similar to the coffee beans.

Depending upon the soil and growth condition, the taste of the cacao beans differs. It has a subtle texture with a bitter taste. If eaten raw, cacao beans are the healthiest. Yes, chocolate can be bitter too. And why not when you are looking for health benefits then you need to pay a price. Agree?

However, you don’t need to worry about the taste. These beans are dried and then fermented, and this brings about a considerable difference in the taste and also the texture of the cacao beans.

So, all good until now. You might be wondering where do the difference between cacao and cocoa lies. The difference regarding processing determines whether the product would be termed as cocoa or cacao. Being a chocolate lover, you are bound to have extensive knowledge about the various forms in which chocolates can be found.

Do Chocolates Make You Fat?

We all love chocolate. I do and so do you. But before we grab that piece of chocolate, we always remind ourselves about the pros and cons of the same or the relationship between the chocolate and our health. You might find plenty of articles or blogs that draft down the add-ons of consuming a chocolate bar. But do you know that all those are not for the milky bar you buy from the local store?

True that chocolate is delicious and advantageous too for the health, but if consumed in the right amount and most importantly the right chocolate. The splendid form of chocolate that aids a healthy lifestyle are the cacao beans. You can choose to eat them raw or even in processed forms. But the focus is not just consuming chocolate; the key lies in knowing the difference between the cacao and cocoa. Also, what each has in store for your health.

Let’s have a quick look at the health benefits of both

Health Benefits of Cacao Beans-

Cacao Beans: The raw form obtained from the seed pots, cacao beans have a pool of benefits.

1. Antioxidants:

Decked up with the flavonoids and the phenolic phytochemicals, the cacao beans are effective in keeping your cells away from the free radicals thereby preventing damage. The damage due to oxidation leads to premature ageing, and also few the common health issue.

2. Leverages Cognitive Performance and mood:

The main component of the flavonoids namely the epicatechin helps in controlling mood and boosts your cognitive skills.

3. Reduced Blood Pressure:

It is seen that the flavonoids present in the cacao leads to a reduction in the blood pressure and also enhances the flexibility of the blood vessel.

4. Good for Heart:

Few researchers found that the flavonoids present in the cacao beans increases the capacity of the antioxidants in the blood plasma and also brings about a reduction in the activities of the platelet thereby making your heart far healthier.

5. Boosts the level of Insulin:

Another flavanol present in the cacao beans namely Epicatechin is seen to regulate the level of glucose as produced in the body and also triggers the key proteins. All of this, on the whole, is good for diabetic people.

One of the richest sources of magnesium, the cacao beans also have an excellent quantity of nutrients such as iron, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and calcium.

All the die-hard Choco lovers would be well aware of the fact that you can get a variety of products from the cacao beans. The beans are first dried followed by the fermentation. The same is heated at a significantly lower temperature that segregates the fatty tissues from the beans.

The three variants namely the cacao nibs, the cacao butter, and the cacao powder of cacao rule the chocolate world. Cutting or chopping the beans into small size gives you the nibs. They are like the Choco chips which you can munch with the only difference being in its taste. Less sugar with no added sweetener, nibs are packed with nutrients.

Extracting the fattiest part of the cacao beans produces the cacao butter used mainly for baking. Similar to white chocolate, the taste of the butter is also similar. Lastly, the cacao powder is prepared by removing all the fats from the cacao beans. Refine this, and your powder is ready. Cake fudge, brownies, and baking are its main uses.

Having said all about the cacao beans, its time we shift our focus to the cocoa beans.

What are Cocoa Beans?

The birth of the above is the same as the cacao beans. Fee out of the seed pots; the beans then are exposed to high temperature for processing. This leads to added texture and a sweet flavor. However, the above also has a different impact on health. The cocoa finds it’s major usage in the bakery sector. Baking or dessert recipes drive benefits from the cocoa powder.

There are two kinds of the cocoa powder available:

  • The cocoa powder produced by Dutch: The above is also termed as the dark cocoa. This needs to undergo more processing with the induction of an alkaline solution. Though these add taste yo the powder, it also reduces the antioxidant property if the same.
  • Naturally made cocoa powder: This is bitter and also acidic as compared to the Dutch produced cocoa powder. Few recipes that induce baking soda also seeks cocoa powder as it alkalizes this.

Cocoa vs Cacao: Difference Between The Two

So, we saw how intense processing converts cacao to cocoa. The effect is much more intense. Extensive heating at higher temperature alters the molecular structure of the cacao beans, thereby degrading its antioxidant and the nutrient properties.

Though they are present, yet the level reduces. It becomes obvious that the less produced will be more healthy. They are richer in nutrients and also have excellent health benefits. The ORAC capacity of 100 grams of cacao is near about 95,500. This is basically the antioxidant property. The same, when crumbled to form nibs, reduces to 62,100. A drastic decline to 26000 when the beans are turned to cocoa powder.

So, we saw what the actual difference is between both the cacao and the cocoa. And how do they affect our health? It is not that cocoa is not worthy, or you should not intake products made from cocoa. Simply that cacao is more beneficial than the cocoa. No matter what you use for baking, either of them will experience a reduction in the property. Choose the one that suits your needs and also maps with your dietary requirements.

Needless to say, chocolate is love. But dark chocolate is not just tasty and delicious but also good for your health

The fact that they are made from the cacao, they are always healthier than the milk made chocolate.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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