Vegan Day 3: The Power of Cacao


Today I was introduced to cacao, more commonly known as cocoa, which is the deliciously bitter part of chocolate. I was drinking an Arden’s Garden “Cocomotion” smoothie and noticed the ingredients — carrots, bananas, cacao, and cocoa nibs. This delicious concoction left me wondering what the difference was between cacao and cocoa, and how exactly is chocolate considered healthy?

As it turns it, cacao and cocoa are the same thing. The official name of the “chocolate tree” is Theobroma cacao. Over the years the word “cacao” became Anglicized and people started replacing it with the word “cocoa”. Today, cacao is refers to the bean, while cocoa refers to two by-products of the cacao bean – cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Both are extracted from the bean when it is processed in the factory.

By the way, cacao is pronounced (pronounced cuh-COW). Here’s a video on how to pronounce cacao.

Where Does Cacao Come From?

The cacao beans are the seed of the Theobroma cacao fruit tree, which grows in the shades of the rainforest between 15-20 degrees North and South of the Equator. All chocolate is made from cacao, the edible part of the cocoa bean after it has been harvested, dried, fermented, and hulled.

Is Cacao Good For You

Cocoa gets a bad wrap from chocolate, which adds sugars, milk fat, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavorings. In fact, dairy has been found to block the absorption of antioxidants, such as those found in chocolate.

Cocoa in raw form, however, is inherently “heart-healthy”. The Aztecs called cacao “yollotl eztli,” which translates to means “heart blood.” In comparison by weight, cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than blueberries, red wine, or black and green teas; it has up to 4x more than green tea!

So here’s a recovery drink recipe idea for cacao — a nutty, chocolate smoothie!

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa nib chunks
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • crushed ice as desired



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