cacao vs cocoa

Cacao vs Cocoa: What’s the difference?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between cacao vs cocoa?

I’ve been meditating for over a decade. Living amongst hippies and seekers, one tends to come across all manner of mind-expanding, consciousness-altering, and otherwise otherworldly substances.

Over the years, I’ve participated in a few cacao ceremonies. The cacao itself tastes bitter, but I always end up feeling kind of “high” after drinking it. I don’t know how much of it is placebo, and how much is from the natural chemicals in the cacao itself. It’s a kind of clear, euphoric buzz. Almost like coffee, but cleaner. A good mood, creative, hopeful, without the jittery anxiety I get from coffee.

Cacao (the raw powder, before it is super-heated, mixed with sugar and turned into cocoa & chocolate) has been touted for years for its healing properties. But hot cocoa is just so much tastier! I’ve wondered for years about what the exact difference is between cacao and cocoa, and why one is so much healthier than the other. So I dove in and did some research!

What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?

While both cacao and cocoa powders come from the beans of the Theobroma cacao tree – a small evergreen tree native to Central America – they are processed in vastly different ways. Cacao is the raw powder from the ground beans; it retains all of its natural vitamins and nutrients. Cocoa, on the other hand, is simply a processed form of Cacao. When Cacao is roasted at high heat, it becomes Cocoa.

cacao fruit
A farmer picks a cacao fruit from a Theobroma cacao tree.

Cacao vs Cocoa: which is healthier?

Spoiler alert: cacao is healthier than cocoa.

The main problem with cocoa is that it is roasted, and loses a lot of its superfood properties in the heating process.

The secondary problem with cocoa is that it is generally mixed with sugars, fats and dairy products before being sold to the consumer.

So when you eat cocoa or cocoa products (like chocolate), you’re missing out on most of the nutrients from the raw cacao (since the powder was roasted at high heats), plus you’re consuming a whole bunch of unhealthy stuff (sugars, fats, dairy products, etc).

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Is Cacao a Superfood?

Cacao is loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients, including fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium.

It even contains a type of unique antioxidant called “flavanols.”

For these reasons and more, delicious cacao is often considered a “superfood,” along slightly less delicious health foods like kale and spirulina.

What are the benefits of Cacao?

Recent studies have shown many amazing benefits of cacao, including:

  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased energy
  • Improved brain functions & cognitive abilities
  • Better skin
  • Anti-aging effects
  • Lower depression, anxiety, and stress levels
  • Digestive health
  • Increased muscle growth
  • Improved mood

What is the history of cacao use?

Native mesoamerican peoples have been cultivating Cacao for thousands of years, for its health benefits, and for use in spiritual rituals (like the cacao ceremonies that still exist today). They even used cacao beans as a currency!

According to legend, the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl discovered Cacao (or as they called it, cacahuatl, literally translated as “bitter water”) in a mountain filled with other important plant foods.

How to use Cacao in a ceremonial way

I’m a meditation teacher, not a shaman! Cacao ceremonies are not really my expertise. But the video below can give you a good start!

Kevin Ellerton
Kevin is an ever-changing flow of matter and energy that is often described as "human." From the perspective of those who perceive him as a discrete entity, Kevin has been traveling the world, teaching & writing about meditation since 2010. Kevin loves you and wants you to be happy. In his words, "we are all one consciousness," or some weird hippie crap like that.

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