Chocolate? Cocoa? Cacao? What’s the difference?!  There’s a lot of talk about chocolate (especially in dark form) being “good” for you. While there are certainly some nutrients to be found buried beneath the sugar in a decadent chocolate bar, the true nutritional benefits of chocolate are better realized in the raw, unprocessed ingredients of that sweet treat.

But, again— what’s the difference? Cacao (say it: cuh-COW) is the unprocessed product of the Theobroma Cacao tree. This Amazonian tree produces cacao pods, which hold cacao beans. Those beans are typically roughly chopped or finely ground into cacao nibs or powder. Then, there’s cocoa. This is what you’d enjoy in your average chocolate bar. Unlike cacao, cocoa has been processed to eliminate much of the natural bitterness. Unfortunately, along with the bitterness disappears most of the nutrients.

So, what’s the good in making raw cacao a part of your diet? Here are three great reasons to incorporate this superfood into your routine:

1. Lift Your Mood – You aren’t just imagining the joy that chocolate brings you! Cacao has five “bliss chemicals” which are known to cause neurotransmitters in your brain to trigger feelings of happiness and contentment.

2. Pump Up The Antioxidants – Raw cacao has not double, not triple, but 40 times the antioxidants that blueberries have! Antioxidants are important to protect us from free radicals, and in turn help prevent cancer and other health conditions.

3. Keeps Your Blood Flowing – Cacao is a great source of flavanols. Flavanols keep your circulatory system running in great condition, which means essential nutrients and oxygen can flow throughout your body.

Now…how do you practically get in the kind of cacao (not cocoa) that provides all these benefits? Try sprinkling nibs into your morning oatmeal, or mix up a glass of chocolate milk by using cacao powder and your favorite nut milk (you may want to sweeten it with a natural sweetener). Better yet, stop by The Urban Juicer! We offer both cacao powder and cacao nibs as superfood add-ins. Pump up your Liquid Lunch or Chocolate Raspberry smoothie for an extra boost.

Do you have any creative recipes that use raw cacao? Let us know in the comments below!

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