Theobroma Cacao/Cacao is an evergreen tree that is native to Central and South America. Theobroma is the Greek term for “the food of the gods”. Aztecs believed that cacao was given to man by the God of Air, Quetzalcoatl. They brewed the Cacao seed along with maize, vanilla and chili peppers to make a drink that was offered to the Gods. While Mayan who called this fruit Kakaw. According to them it was given to the mankind by the Plumed Serpent. In April, every year they honored the Ek Chuah, the cacao god.
It was Hernán Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador, who introduced cacao beans to the elite circle of Spain. The seeds were crushed to make highly flavored cacao powder and was then combined with maize, sugar and vanilla extract to make a drink that only the wealthy could afford. Centuries later it was introduced to Trinidad and the African continent.
Difference between Cacao and Cocoa
All the products that are produced from cacao beans such as cacao butter, nibs, powder and paste are generally known as Cacao. These products are derived from unroasted and raw cacao beans. The cacao products are made using cold-press technology. This process keeps the living enzymes and removes the cacao butter, the fat content.
The cocoa powder that you purchase from mom’n’pop stores or online are made by roasting the raw beans at high temperatures. However, it still retains some of the antioxidants and is good for heart, blood pressure and helps in reducing stress levels.
Health benefits of Cacao
- Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in Cacao protects the nervous system.
- Studies show it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of many cardiovascular disease including stroke.
- This bean has the ability to repair the damage caused by free radicals.
- Increases the levels of neurotransmitters that promote the feeling of well-being.
- Increases energy levels and helps in weight loss
How much to consume
No guideline exists as to how much of cacao nibs or cacao products to consume in a day. For optimal health benefits, you may consume one ounce or even less . Always use cacao products instead of cocoa for medicinal purposes.