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Cacao vs. Cocoa – What is the difference?

Article Written By: Dr. Jacqueline Moulton, ND BSc.(Hons)
Instagram: @drjmoultonnd 

Despite the similarities in their spelling, cacao and cocoa are two very different ingredients. However, let’s start with the similarities; all of the chocolate products you eat are derived from cacao seeds in some form or another. Cacao seeds are derived from the cacao plant — an evergreen tree that grows in South America and West Africa. Cacao seeds grow in large pods on the trunks of these trees.

Despite coming from the same plant, cacao and cocoa have numerous differences. Cacao is a pure form of chocolate that comes very close to the raw and natural state in which it is harvested.

When the cacao beans are released from their pods, they are sometimes blended into cacao butter. Cacao butter contains the fatty part of the cacao fruit and is white in color. 

The remainder of the fruit is used to make raw cacao powder. It is also possible to purchase cacao nibs, which are cacao beans that have been chopped into smaller pieces. These are similar to chocolate chips although much more intense in their chocolatey flavor.

Cacao seed contains oils, tannins, and alkaloids, including theobromine 1% to 4%, caffeine 0.07% to 0.36%, flavonoids & magnesium. The butter contains oleic acid 37%, stearic acid 34%, palmitic acid 26%, and linoleic acid 2%.

The bean powder is a source of phytonutrients called polyphenols, which include epicatechin and catechin. These polyphenols are thought to have beneficial effects on health.

The seed is used for infectious intestinal diseases and diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis, lung congestion, diabetes, liver, bladder, and kidney ailments. The husk is used for constipation. The powder is used for cognitive function and preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and cognitive impairment. It is also used for diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and to improve the look of aging skin. 

So what was the difference between Cacao and Cocoa? Well, Cocoa is heavily processed and cooked at a high temperature, then sugar and other additives are added to the final product to improve taste; so the main differences are the health benefits. Cocoa being more processed will have less health benefits then the raw form Cacao. As we process our food, we remove many of the nutrients & natural goodness found in the original product. 

Are you new to using cacao nibs, powders, husks or even butter? Miski Organics provides an amazing Cacao Superfoods Box with nibs, beans, powders & husks. Follow this link to learn more or buy this cacao collection for your healthy pantry.