In this article, we’re giving a summary of some of the health benefits of Cacao, which should not be confused with Cocoa. For a full explanation of the differences see this article.

To summarise, raw cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted, but are fermented which keeps more of the natural health benefits.

Cocoa is made of beans that have been roasted and often processed with chemicals which results in potentially a ‘safer’ product but loses an amount of the natural vitality.

So, a product that uses raw cacao has been minimally processed without additives retaining the natural healthy elements.

On the other hand, cocoa has been developed for the traditional taste preferences of the general public and is often combined with sugars, milk powder and other chemicals. See the USDA Food Central website for examples of the additives used. e.g.


The Food Central Database goes on to list Cocoa as having the following nutritional values:

NameAmountUnitDeriv. By

So, let’s look at 7 great healthy reasons why you should stop buying cocoa, and eat more cacao:

1. Helps prevent heart disease

Studies support that premium dark chocolate with fewer ingredients, and without dairy can reduce the risk of heart disease. Cacao how been shown to protect the heart by preventing the oxidation of LDL (“bad cholesterol”). When bad cholesterol oxidizes, it lingers on the walls of arteries and raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

These are commonly known issues with cholesterol, but in fact, there are many negative impacts from having an excess of LDL. As we age, a lot of people start to lose feeling in their extremities, such as feet and hands.

This can be caused by a hardening of the veins and arteries called atherosclerosis, and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

Around one in five people who suffer from this on to develop critical limb ischaemia, the most severe form of PAD. For those suffering from critical limb ischaemia the outlook is dire – half of those with it are likely to die within five years!

Further, although the feet go numb, it actually becomes painful to walk. However, quite a recent study, although it was small in size, showed patients over 60 who drank hot cacao 3 times a day ability could walk 42.6 meters further over a 6 minute time period when compared to the non-cacao drinking patients.

2. Good for your brain

Cacao rich chocolate is listed as the best food for brain health. Flavanols in dark chocolate were found to relax the arteries and increase the flow of oxygen to the brain.

It was also found that Flavonoids protect neurons from oxidative damage, which decreases cognitive function. In this study they found:

in particular flavonoids, may exert beneficial effects on the central nervous system by protecting neurons against stress-induced injury, by suppressing neuroinflammation and by improving cognitive function.

British Journal of Nutrition (2008)

3. Helps alleviate asthma

Asthma is an inflammatory disease that acts upon the airways and can be deadly.

Cacao is believed to have beneficial impact on people with asthma, since it contains anti-asthmatic elements, such as theobromine and theophylline.

Theophylline helps your lungs dilate, your airways relax and decreases inflammation while Theobromine helps reduce the coughing according to this report.

Anecdotal reports indicate that regular consumption of unsweetened natural cocoa powder (UNCP), a common practice in Ghana, West Africa, has the potential to reduce the tendency of asthmatic episodes

Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Has Anti-Asthmatic Potential

4. Minimise the risk of diabetes

Quality cacao products contain high levels of magnesium which is important in regulating blood pressure – something people with diabetes often suffer from. People who are prediabetic can reduce their blood sugar levels by switching from regular processed chocolate to premium dark chocolate.

Raw cacao, which contains the epicatechin, which may help regulate blood sugar levels. A 2017 review looking at a number of small studies suggested that cacao may help slow the progression of type 2 diabetes and reduce insulin resistance.

5. Naturally boosts your mood

If eating chocolates makes you happy, cacao could be the reason for that. Cacao offers your body four important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, anandamide, and phenylethylamine.

A study on Cocoa Polyphenols affect on mood in 2013 found that:

After 30 days, the high dose of treatment significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo

Journal of Psychopharmacology

All of these boost your mood. This makes cacao a perfectly natural way to combat depression and feel happier. Unfortunately, this study also contradicted the findings in the study below that showed Cacao contributed to mental acuity. In fact, science rarely proves something outright, but instead moves towards a consensus, based on the number of studies performed.

6. Improves cardiovascular health

Fermented foods are essential for your gut health. Cacao must be fermented to remove a majority of bitter tannins. These water-soluble plants contain polyphenols which are a cooling defence mechanism that many plants use to protect their unripe fruits from predators and protect against parasites.

Those Polyphenols have been shown to have benefits to our Cardiovascular health as shown in this study.

7. Healthy skin

Because cacao is also full of antioxidants, it is a powerful component in anti-ageing. Cacao has over forty times more the number of antioxidants than blueberries do. 

Raw cacao contains four times more antioxidants than any other varieties of dark chocolates. Compared to many other foods cacao is a rich source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect the mitochondria used in cell-division thereby ensuring less damage or mistakes which can cause premature ageing and rogue cell development.

a growing body of evidence from clinical and bench research has begun to provide scientific validation for the use of cocoa-derived phytochemicals as an effective approach for skin protection

Cocoa Bioactive Compounds: Significance and Potential for the Maintenance of Skin Health

It is now commonly accepted that antioxidants are one key to slowing the impact of exogenous ageing, that is to say, ageing that is inflicted upon the body through external factors such as pollution, excess sun, diet, etc.

8. Athletic Endurance

Studies in 2011 and 2017 reported that the key flavonoid Epicatechin present in Cacao had some significant athletic performance benefits.

 A significant increase was observed for time for relative peak anaerobic power (p < 0.01), relative anaerobic capacity (p < 0.01), and fatigue index (p < 0.01). A significant increase was observed for time for absolute peak VO2 (p < 0.01) and peak power output obtained during the peak VO2 test

These measurements were performed on cyclists for whom Anaerobic and V02 max are important metrics. Anaerobic (without oxygen) is how your body copes with exercise when it is unable to provide oxygen to the muscles in sufficient quantity. Something that happens during a hard burst of activity, such as a sprint.

V02 Max is a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise.

So, consuming a substance that is completely legal and poses no risk from doping tests, that increases V02 Max and Anaerobic performance is of great interest for athletes who’s sport require a burst of high intensity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *