Have you ever asked yourself this – or did you just think it was a spelling mistake?
It’s not– cocoa and cacao are different – yet it’s more complex than you might think.
Most of us love chocolate, that’s not in question and especially when the statistics show that in Britain we eat an estimated 660,900 tonnes of chocolate a year, which is an average of 11kg per person, per year!
With more of us considering healthier options in our diet, for many different reasons, knowing the different between cocoa and cacao could make a difference!
Cocoa vs cacao
Chocolate is made from cacao beans – seeds from the Theobroma cacao tree. The plant produces large pod-like fruits, each containing 20 – 60 beans, surrounded by a sticky, sweet-tart white pulp.
The contents of these beans provide the basis for chocolate products.
However, there isn’t complete agreement on when to use the terms ‘cacao’ and ‘cocoa’.
Cacao is used by some people in the chocolate industry and botanists as the relevant term, while others may refer to cocoa as any of the manufactured products of the plant, especially powder.
Yet, it seems that English is the only language to have a problem with the terminology and its use. Most other languages only have one word for the plant and its many forms; ‘cacao’
The main difference between the two is around the level of processing involved to arrive at the finished product.
Makers of raw (unroasted) or less processed cacao bean products often use the word ‘cacao’ rather than ‘cocoa’ as they believe their products are more natural. We do this at Creative Nature!
Mainly though, ‘cocoa’ is made of beans that have been roasted
Bean-to-bar chocolatiers who make chocolate from scratch, starting with fermented, dried beans, only use the word ‘cacao’ for the pod and beans before they’re fermented. After fermentation they call them ‘cocoa’ beans.
Our raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans, and this process retains the living enzymes and removes the fat.
Cacao products, such as unsweetened cocoa powder, nibs and dark chocolate are rich sources of minerals. Minimally processed, raw cacao products contain little or no added sugar and are higher in antioxidants than more highly processed products.
Benefits of cacao
Cacao beans the products made from them are rich sources of beneficial plant compounds, particularly flavanols, which have antioxidant, heart-protective properties among other health benefits.
Cacao contains iron that is readily absorbed by your body, unlike some plant sources of the mineral. Vegetarians and vegans can profit from this, as their sources of iron is limited.
Cacao also contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid your body uses to make serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax and feel good, sometimes called the happy hormone!
However, despite these benefits, all chocolate is high in calories and you do need to be aware of this. That’s why choosing lower fat and more natural products like our’s can make a difference. Take a look at our products here.
By choosing dark chocolate and unsweetened cacao products like nibs, you can minimize health risks linked to eating too much sugar, including weight gain. Not to mention the sugar benefit for those with diabetes or who are deemed pre-diabetic.
If you use raw cacao powder or raw cacao nibs, some of the antioxidants will be destroyed by heat if you bake with them. But used in smoothies, or sprinkled in porridge is a great way to use them, and also perfect for making uncooked desserts, or protein snack balls.
Creative Nature recipe links:
Our Cacao Nibs are used in this recipe
Here our Raw Cacao powder is used in the chocolate topping
How about no-cook, Raw Chocolate Cookie Dough Bites
A chocolate mousse – Vegan chocolate and Goji Berry Mousse
Maca and Mocha Smoothie, using our Raw Cacao Powder and Cacoa Nibs
You can use either cacao or cocoa powder for your cooking, they are interchangeable.
As with many things, you need to read the labels. The important thing about chocolate is how it is made. Generally, raw cacao products, made from fermented, dried, unroasted cacao beans, are less processed and healthier. It is always worth reading, because sometimes trendy marketing outweighs authenticity!
Remember, not all chocolate is the same – give cacao a go!