Cacao is known as “the food of the gods” that anyone who tried the delicious tastes of seeds is loss for words. There were other beliefs that Aztecs considered cacao as man’s inheritance from the god of the air Quetzalcoatl. The history of cacao traced back on the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus when he intercepted canoe with cacao. However, it was Cortez who use and carried back the cacao beans to Spain and use it for a drink exclusively made for wealthy people. They used to combine the cacao with maize, sugar, and vanilla. Later on, Cacao was cultivated in South America and western Africa and becomes the most common source of cocoa powder and chocolate.
Cacao trees grow in partial shade with an average temperature of 25.5 degrees Celsius. The fruit of cacao tree has yellowish red color with white pulp and fruits are harvested and broken to take the seeds. These seeds undergo fermentation for one week in sweat box until these become purple brown in color. The purposes of fermentation are to remove the mucilage, loosen the seed coat, kill the embryo, and produce the quality color and flavor. After which, the beans are now dried and stored.
The Process and Best Preparation for Cacao
The preparation of cacao involves very simple process. The first process is the grinding of cacao using hot rollers to turn it into a form of paste. Then sugar and little starch are mixed with the paste and remove the fat portion. But in processing of chocolate, the same procedure is done but manufacturers remained the fat portion or known as the cocoa butter.
There are myths saying chocolates are bad for the health. Everyone has guilty pleasure to taste the tempting chocolates in which others claim that these may have some health implications. Yes, it is partly true that some variations of chocolates (white chocolates, pure chocolates, etc) are linking to various diseases. The high fat content and high cholesterol of chocolates are said to be culprit.
Nevertheless, if chocolates are purely made of raw cacao beans and nibs like dark chocolates, these are nothing but a healthy source of flavonoids or antioxidant responsible to lower the cholesterol. Indeed, health experts reported the numerous healthy effects of cacao to human. Therefore, it is worth taking a note how we can promote the wonders of cacao in its abundant benefits.
- Cacao beans contain unique properties and bountiful sources of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron. Likewise, cacao are also good sources of vitamin A, vitamin B complex, (B1, B2,B3), vitamin C, vitamin E, and panthothenic acid.
- The alkaloid component of the cacao butter known as theobromine (theobrome is the Greek word for “food of the god”). Cacao butter has the same effect of caffeine. The only difference is that is has less upshots on the central nervous system but has more pronounce effects on some parts of the body such as the muscle, heart and kidney.
- Cacao is prominent to its benefits of having rich in antioxidants. Many clinical studies showed how dark and bittersweet chocolates made from raw cacao are rich in flavonoids that counteract free radicals and prevent the ageing process. These flavonoids have positive effect that strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and greatly improve the function of blood vessels. For some patients, doctors recommending cacao for people with high blood pressure because it can dilate blood vessels.
- Cacao butter which has yellowish white solid property is extracted to make coating for pills and suppositories. Likewise, it has emollient properties to protect and soften chapped lips and hands. The cocoa butter becomes an ingredient in most products for skin repair especially if the skin is exposed to sun damage, application of lotion with cocoa butter can replace the moisture to the parched skin.
- Cacao has diuretic effect because it can stimulate the renal epithelium. The natural diuretic found in cacao increases the flow of urine and removes excess fluids from the body. People who are suffering from edema accumulation (excessive liquid in some parts of the body), high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease can benefit from this natural diuretic.
- Cacao stimulates appetite for people who like to gain weight and improve digestion for better elimination. More of its wonderful health claims are used to treat mental fatigue, anemia, poor breast milk production, fever, tuberculosis, and poor sexual appetite.
- Cacao can stimulate the nervous system and the production of antidepressant (serotonin and endorphins). There was an interesting animal study of cacao and its anti-depressant like effect to rats. The natural substance of cacao like polyphenolic extract was studied using forced swimming test among rats. Conclusive results were confirmed after the sub-chronic treatment and conclusions were made that the anti-depressant like effect of the cocoa extract is very specific, positive and related to the active polyphenols compound.
Cacao beans can be whole or broken as nibs. The typical forms of cacao are prepared as raw, roasted, brewed, or extract powder. Among these preparations, health experts recommended that cacao is best eaten as raw because the complete health benefits are destroyed and lessened when subjected to high temperature and processing.
PRECAUTION: People who developed an allergy in any chocolate must avoid eating cacao because chances are it can only trigger the allergic reactions and migraines. Other symptoms of chocolate allergy are acne, eczema, sneezing and heartburn. Consult a doctor if these symptoms persist.
Consider dark chocolates for delivery when you’re looking for a sweet and healthy treat to give to a special person in your life.