The growing popularity of cacao powder and its related products came about as a result of a published study in 1996. The study was conducted using the active ingredients found in raw cacao and concluded that cacao polyphenols (active ingredients) had a strong antioxidant action. Cacao could now be considered as a dietary source of antioxidants. Studies conducted using raw cacao have identified that the heart and the vascular system are the main areas to benefit from the polyphenols.
As a reminder antioxidants (including polyphenols) are enzymes and nutrients that are able to counteract the damage that is done by oxidation.
The terms Cacao and Cocoa refer to two different products, cacao refers to the raw powder and cocoa refers to cacao powder that has been roasted at a very high temperature. The roasting of the powder reduces the levels of antioxidants therefore cacao is a preferable product. “Dutch processing” refers to a process where the cacao beans are highly fermented and dried at extremely high heat with the addition of various agents.
At VIVE the cacao powder in our bulk bins is RAW. The process used by our supplier is to wash the cacao pods, mildly ferment the beans, then dry the pods at less than 50 degrees C in large dehydrators. Once dried the skin is removed from the pods and this is how we get raw cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground, that product is called “raw cacao liquor” and the liquor is then pressed giving us two products cacao butter and cacao powder.
A perfect afternoon treat, why not try this quick and simple raw cacao recipe from The Lunchbox Revolution with the kids this school holidays?
Chocolate Balls
250g Medjool Dates (pitted)
2 tablespoons Raw Cacao
1 Cup Almond Meal
2 Tablespoons Agave Syrup
Shredded coconut for rolling
Tahini if required
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until well combined. Roll into approx 22 heavenly chocolate balls, tossing in coconut or raw cacao before refrigerating.
References: Cooper, et al. (2008). Cocoa and health: a decade of research, British Journal of |Nutrition, 99, 1-11. Hurst, et al. (2011). Impact of fermentation, drying, roasting and Dutch processing on Flavan-3-ol stereochemistry in cacao beans and cocoa ingredients. Chemistry Central Journal, 5(53) 1-10. Loving Earth website. Tomas-Barberan, et al. (2007). A New Process to Develop a Cocoa Powder with Higher Flavonoid Monomer Content and Enhanced Bioavailability in Healthy Humans.  Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 55, 3926-3935.