Cacao bean is the dried and fully fermented fatty bean of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted. They are the basis of chocolate, as well as many Mesoamerican foods such as mole sauce and tejate.
A cocoa pod (fruit) has a rough and leathery rind about 3 cm thick. It is filled with sweet, mucilaginous pulp enclosing 30 to 50 large seeds that are fairly soft and white to a pale lavender color. While seeds are usually white, they become violet or reddish brown during the drying process. The exception is rare varieties of white cacao, in which the seeds remain white. Historically, white cacao was cultivated by the Rama people of Nicaragua.
The superstar of chocolate known as cacao beans are grown on small trees named Theobroma cacao, which literally translates to “cacao, the food of the gods” in the Greek language. These trees are native to Mexico, Central and South America. Each cacao pod that emerges from the tree typically houses between 40 and 60 cacao seeds. After careful harvesting, the pods are opened, the seeds are removed, and they undergo a natural fermentation and drying process. After the drying process is completed in 1-2 weeks, you are left you with raw cacao beans.
To make the chocolate that we all know and love, these raw cacao beans are then roasted to form cocoa, which is then combined with sugar and fats until the beans are unrecognizable. The high heat during the roasting process reduces the levels of antioxidants in the cacao, minimizing the powerful health benefits found in the unprocessed, raw cacao. To receive the greatest benefits from cacao, look for ‘raw’, non-roasted cacao beans.
Raw chocolate contains many important vitamins and minerals including: Magnesium, and other essential minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese, Polyphenols called flavonoids, with antioxidant properties, Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E, Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat, Protein, Fiber
Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels
The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning5 by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.6
High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health. For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy; “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression.
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