All the chocolate you consume,
whether it's a handful of cacao nibs,
or a square of Lindt chocolate, comes from the cacao plant.
There's more to comparing cacao and cocoa than the way they're spelt.
When the beans in a cacao pod are released, they are ground down into a fine powder.
The remainder is often blended into a butter (so good in sweet treats!).
There are also nibs, which are the chopped up beans.
This superfood is rich in: magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus.
It's also high in dietary fibre and excellent in regulating blood glucose and fat metabolism.
What separates cacao from cocoa is the¬†temperature.
Cocoa is processed at a high heat and used in the production of chocolate and chocolate flavoured products.
There are typically two different types of cocoa; natural and dutch-processed.
To make these two types of cocoa powder, the cocoa butter is removed using extreme heat in excess of 150C¬∞.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder which is slightly less acidic in taste; is less bitter because the beans are additionally soaked in potassium carbonate.
This article by Nourish my life
contains an explanation detailing how cacao contains over 3 times the amount of antioxidants compared to cocoa!
Cocoa powder on its own still contains some nutritional benefit.
However, a lot of its nutritional qualities diminish during the heating process.
It's when sugar, oil, butter and fat are added to the mix (which is quite often), that chocolate gets its bad rap.
So keep in mind, cocoa powder does contain nutritional benefits, just to a lesser degree.
The main reason chocolate is associated with poor nutrition, is because cocoa powder in cooking typically includes other not-so-great ingredients.
The heat applied to cacao that produces cocoa instantly destroys some of the antioxidants present .
Another factor that affects nutritional content is the addition of milk.
Research shows¬†that milk can weaken the absorption of antioxidants. This is why we consider dark and raw chocolate superior to milk chocolate.
So when you're scanning the aisles for a powder for your next chocolate-y dish...
Remember that the nutritional benefits of cacao and its¬†other forms go in the order of:
1. Raw cacao
2. Natural cocoa
3. Dutch-processed cocoa