So, what's up with cacao powder?
Raw cacao powder is produced when the cacao butter is removed from the bean. If we chop up a handful of cacao beans, we get cacao nibs. Although quite bitter, they're a healthier alternative to chocolate chips (without the added sugar, milk and fat).
Cacao paste, on the other hand, is made when cacao nibs are gradually heated and melted into a bark. It makes a yummy crunchy snack, and can also be used in baking.
Cocoa vs. cacao
Cocoa powder, the processed version of raw cacao, is still good for us when we source a brand that doesn't contain added sugar, oils or milk fat. Although cocoa is heated at a high temperature, it still maintains a fair amount of antioxidants.
Dutch-processed cocoa may sound like it walks around in mini wooden clogs, but it's really a form of cocoa that has been processed with an alkalized solution (potassium carbonate). This works to neutralize cocoa's acidity, rendering it much richer and smoother. Best for use in recipes that call for baking powder (with a neutral pH).
Health perks of raw cacao
A serving of cacao (about 3 heaping tablespoons) offers 40% of our recommended daily intake of magnesium, 20% of our daily iron and 15% of our daily zinc needs.
Contains anandamide, a.k.a. the bliss molecule.
Studies show that consuming raw cacao (and cocoa) can have similar effects to aspirin in improving blood circulation.
The fibre in cacao helps optimize digestion and keep blood sugar levels balanced.
When shopping for high quality cacao, look for a cold-pressed, non-GMO cacao powder (preferably sourced from organic heirloom cacao beans).