Cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate, and at Ombar we think raw cacao is pretty incredible. A superfood in its own right, this magical plant is packed full of nutrients and essential minerals1. For centuries cacao has been linked to numerous health benefits which have been reconfirmed by modern researchers, including improving your heart health, mood, energy, and even memory!2
But the natural goodness in cacao is reduced when the cacao beans are roasted, as they are in conventional chocolate-making3. So to preserve as much of the beneficial nutrients and minerals in cacao as possible, at Ombar, we keep it raw.
What is raw chocolate and how is it different?
In making conventional chocolate, cacao beans are usually roasted at high temperatures to remove the husks around the beans before further processing. But as we mentioned, this roasting process reduces the natural goodness of the cacao. So to keep as much of that goodness intact as possible, at Ombar we don’t roast our beans or heat them to high temperatures. Instead, we dry our beans gently in the sun to remove the husks, and we keep our chocolate below 45°C at all points in the manufacturing process.
So what are the health benefits of raw cacao?
Antioxidant Effect on the Body
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of cacao is its apparent protective effects, including for our heart, brain, skin, and immune system. This protective activity is thought to be thanks to the high concentration of flavanols found in cacao4. Flavanols are a type of polyphenol, a broad group of natural compounds found in plants. Many polyphenols, including flavanols, play a protective role for plants and when we consume them, they’re thought to have a protective or antioxidant effect for us too.
Cacao contains many natural, active chemicals which help release ‘feel good’ emotions. Theobromine, one of these active chemicals, increases the release of dopamine, or the ‘pleasure’ hormone, to the brain5. Phenethylamine, the chemical that is released in the body during emotional euphoria, is also found in cacao and is known to help relieve stress or depression1. So eating raw chocolate could help boost your mood!
Cacao also contains a number of essential minerals that can help boost our energy levels. One of these is magnesium, which plays an important role in our cells’ ability to make energy from our food, but can be difficult to get in adequate amounts from our usual diet. So a lack of magnesium can be a cause of fatigue and low energy. Pure cacao may contain as much as 499mg of magnesium per 100g6, which is more than 130% of our recommended daily intake. So a 35g chocolate bar containing 90% cacao could provide up to 40% of our recommended intake!
So why not harness the power of raw cacao and check out our delicious chocolate here.
1) University Health News. (2017). Surprising Cocoa Benefits Include Heart Health and Prediabetes Improvement. [online] Available at: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/heart-health/surprising-cocoa-benefits-include-heart-health-and-prediabetes-improvement/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2018].
2) Dillinger, T., Barriga, P., Escarcega, S., Jimenez, M., Lowe, D. and Grivetti, L. (2000). Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(8).
3) Hitti, M. (2006). Why Cocoa May Help Heart Health. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20060118/why-cocoa-may-help-heart-health#1 [Accessed 1 Feb. 2018].
4) Barns, C. (2017). Cacao: the mineral marvel. [online] Ombar. Available at: https://www.ombar.co.uk/blogs/news/cacao-the-mineral-marvel [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
5) Warrington, R. (2015). FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE: WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY? – The Numinous. [online] The Numinous. Available at: https://the-numinous.com/what-is-a-cacao-ceremony/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2018].
6) Nutritiondata.self.com. (2018). Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened Nutrition Facts & Calories. [online] Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5471/2 [Accessed 11 Apr. 2018].