19 Aug Top 31 Comprehensive Science-Backed Cacao Benefits
Cacao often gets associated with confectionary like chocolate. While chocolate (especially dark) can be good for us in moderation, the health benefits lie in the raw cocao. The cacao benefits are wonderful and below we will discuss the 31 benefits of taking raw cacao – backed by science.
- Cacao Can Boost Your Mood
- Cacao Improves Your Cardiovascular Health
- Cacao Slows the Progression of Premature Aging
- Cacao Can Help to Lose Weight and Burn Fat
- Cacao Can Lower Blood Pressure
- Cacao is Rich in Antioxidants
- Cacao Contains the Highest Plant Source of Iron
- Cacao is Great for Bone Density and Health
- Cacao Encourages Natural Energy Production
- Cacao Is a Stimulant to Combat Fatigue
- Cacao Creates Healthy and Radiant Skin
- Cacao Fights Tooth Decay
- Cacao Promotes Healthy Digestion
- Cacao Improves Your Brain Health
- Cacao and Cancer Prevention
- Cacao Can Improve Insulin Resistance
- Cacao Helps Your Body Remove Toxins
- Cacao Improves Airflow to the Lungs
- Cacao Is an Anti-Inflammatory Agent
- Cacao Can Improve Cholesterol Levels
- Cacao Helps You Sleep
- Cacao Improves Gout Symptoms
- Cacao May Prevent Kidney Stones
- Cacao Has Anti-fungal Properties
- Cacao Acts as an Antimicrobial Agent
- Cacao Supports Healthy Nail Growth
- Cacao Can Help with Hypothyroidism
- Cacao Enhances Your Libido
- Cacao Protects Your Pancreas
- Cacao Speeds up Your Metabolism
- Cacao Helps to Prevent Sunburns
What is Cacao?
If you’ve never heard of cacao, you most likely have no idea what cacao benefits can come from using it. Cacao is derived from Theobroma cacao, and this is a scientific classification for the Cacao tree. Cacao is a bean that people harvest from the Cacao tree to make chocolate.
One of the main components in cacao beans is called Theobromine. Theobromine is the component that makes cacao such a powerful health aid. It’s also what gives processed cocoa its signature rich and lingering taste.
To make it slightly more confusing, many people use the terms cacao and cocoa interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Before we get into the 31 comprehensive science-backed Cacao benefits, we’re going to tell you the differences between cacao and cocoa. This will help to ensure that you get a good understanding of them both.
Understanding the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa
When someone talks about cacao, they’re usually referring to the raw and unrefined form at the origin or farm level. This includes the seeds, trees, and pods. Again, there is some debate about this depending on the region, but this is the most widely accepted definition of cacao.
On the other hand, went someone talks about cocoa, they’re referring to the same bean. However, the bean has usually undergone a fermentation process that includes drying and roasting. It could also refer to the bean at the end of the process when it’s powdered or finished and separated from the cocoa butter.
31 Science-Backed Cacao Benefits
Now that you know what cacao is and how it differs from cocoa, we’ll go over 31 science-backed cacao benefits. This will allow you to see what a powerful aid this is when it comes to improving your overall health.
1. Cacao Can Boost Your Mood
Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? Perhaps you work in a high-stress environment, and it affects your mood in a negative way. Either way, ingesting cacao is a natural way to boost your mood. It contains flavonoids, and these are the naturally occurring agents are one of the main things that alter mood.
One randomised trial had groups of participants with depression eating and drinking small amounts of dark chocolate each day. One control group didn’t consume any dark chocolate during this period. The group who got the high dose of chocolate reported feeling calmer, more content, and less depressed.
2. Cacao Improves Your Cardiovascular Health
Eating cacao routinely may have to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of having a cardiovascular event. It can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and it’s an anti-inflammatory.
One study followed 21,000 Norfolk residents for the span of 11 years. They found that, on average, older and middle-aged adults who at 3.5 ounces of cacao every day showed a 5.4% lower rate of cardiovascular problems like heart disease when they compared it to the control group who didn’t eat the chocolate.
3. Cacao Slows the Progression of Premature Aging
Common signs of premature aging include wrinkles or skin that looks worn out and faded. Several things can contribute to premature aging, such as a lot of sun exposure, smoking, an unhealthy diet, and using harsh skincare products or a lot of makeup without cleansing your skin. Eating cacao powder or incorporating it into your diet can help to slow this progression.
Cacao contains polyphenol antioxidants, and you also find these in green tea. A double-blind clinical trial had two groups of women consume high or low flavanol cacao powder every day for 12 weeks. The group who got the higher amount of flavanol cacao powder reported firmer skin and less sun damage.
4. Cacao Can Help to Lose Weight and Burn Fat
In many developed nations, the majority of the population is obese. For example, in Australia over 28% of the population identifies as obese. This includes every one in four children under the age of 17. Although adding cacao to your diet alone most likely won’t make you lose weight, you can pair it with healthy lifestyle changes and nutritious meals.
Cacao contains MAO inhibitors that work to suppress your appetite. Studies have suggested that drinking cacao powder before you eat can help you eat less and lose weight. You do want to pair this with eating nutritious meals to help maximise your results.
5. Cacao Can Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts you at higher risk for a cardiovascular event like a stroke or a heart attack. Around the globe, over one billion people have high blood pressure. Of these one billion people, around 7.5 million people die each year from a heart attack or stroke brought on by having high blood pressure.
Cacao works to lower your blood pressure by causing your blood vessels to widen at a rapid pace. One study gave 42 participants 1,000 mg of cacao per day over the course of three weeks and monitored their blood pressure. They noted a clear decrease in the blood pressure levels during this three-week study.
6. Cacao is Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants work to protect your skin and cells against free radical damage. They can also help to repair any damage that the free radicals have inflicted on the cells. This can lead to healthier skin, a healthier immune system and reduced risks of infections.
Harvard and various researchers found out that when you compare cacao to blueberries in an ounce-to-ounce comparison, cacao contains 40 times the amount of antioxidants as you find in blueberries. This makes cacao the single biggest source of antioxidants on the planet.
7. Cacao Contains the Highest Plant Source of Iron
Iron deficiency is one of the top nutritional disorders in the world with an estimated 80% of the population having some form of it. Iron found in your diet comes in two forms called heme and nonheme. You get heme and nonheme iron from meat, poultry, and seafood, while nonheme iron comes from plants.
Cacao is the single highest plant source of iron available. A three-ounce portion of dark 45% to 69% cacao solids contains seven milligrams of iron. This works out to around 39% of your recommended daily iron intake. This will help to ensure that you get your daily recommended iron intake each day.
8. Cacao is Great for Bone Density and Health
As you age, your bone density drops. This can lead to fragile or brittle bones that are easier to break. They can also have more difficulty healing. This is especially true for people who eat an unhealthy diet or people who have chronic problems that contribute to poor health.
Several randomised studies placed three groups of women in a trial and gave them varying amounts of cacao each day over the period of three weeks. They measured the women’s bone density each week, and they found that the women who consumed higher amounts of cacao have improved bone density and health.
9. Cacao Encourages Natural Energy Production
For many people, the early afternoon can bring about an energy crash. You could start to feel unmotivated, sleepy, or fatigued. What’s worse, it can come on for no apparent reason. If you sit still for hours, eat a heavy lunch, or your body temperature drops, you’re more prone to this afternoon slump.
However, cacao encourages natural energy production because it contains phenylethylamine (PEA). One study has 42 healthy people a dose of cacao ranging from 300 to 1,000 mg. After five hours, they noted that the participant’s heart rate had increased by six or seven beats per minute, and this helped the participants feel more active and alert.
10. Cacao Is a Stimulant to Combat Fatigue
Fatigue is a common condition that affects over 25% of the population. Chronic fatigue can leave you feeling exhausted, worn out, and generally unenthusiastic. While you could drink energy drinks to try and boost your energy levels, natural stimulants are better for your body.
The Theobromine in cacao is a natural stimulant that can stimulate your heart and brain. One study took 24 healthy participants and gave them varying doses of cacao. They monitored them over a three-hour period and found that the participants showed increased activities and study.
11. Cacao Creates Healthy and Radiant Skin
Have you noticed that your skin is starting to look a little damaged or worn out? Perhaps you can see more age spots or wrinkles. As you age, your skin loses its elasticity. This can come about from lack of vitamins, sun damage, chemical treatments, and more.
Cacao can help to restore and create radiant skin. It has a high amount of vitamin C, magnesium, fatty acids, and antioxidants that can help to repair cell damage and restore your skin. Double-blind studies showed that daily use of cacao improves the skin’s hydration levels and elasticity, and it decreases the appearance of sunspots.
12. Cacao Fights Tooth Decay
One study compared the Theobromine content in cacao against the fluoride that is a common ingredient in toothpaste. They found that Theobromine can actually be more effective when it comes to protecting your teeth from cavities and decay. The study showed that Theobromine could help to strengthen the enamel and lead to healthier teeth.
13. Cacao Promotes Healthy Digestion
Digestive problems are extremely common around the world, and they amount to over 70,000,000 people reporting digestive problems each day. One key problem for a lot of people is that they don’t have enough fibre in their diets to keep their digestive tract regular.
Cacao is a great source of fibre, and you get around seven grams of fibre per ounce of raw cacao powder. This can help to regulate your digestive system. A study on rats showed that rats who ate a diet high in cacao had regulated digestive systems after three weeks compared to the control group that didn’t get the higher fibre amount.
14. Cacao Improves Your Brain Health
Age, health risks, chronic diseases and cardiovascular events like strokes can all wreak havoc on your brain’s health and its ability to function. This can lead to you forgetting things, having confusion or showing signs of mental fatigue.
However, recent studies showed that cacao may improve your brain health. In a 30-patient study, participants drank cacao-based products with varying levels of flavanols and Theobromine. They performed tasks before and after consuming it. The participants had higher accuracy and scores after consuming the cacao-based drinks.
15. Cacao and Cancer Prevention
Roughly one million people visit their physicians each year for suspected cancer. However, there are things that you can do to improve these odds.
As we mentioned, cacao contains Theobromine, and this agent has cancer-fighting properties. One long-term study showed that the Theobromine in cacao can inhibit the enzyme responsible for cancer growth. It can also reduce the body’s rapid cell regeneration, and this can slow tumour growth as well.
16. Cacao Can Improve Insulin Resistance
Your pancreas produces insulin, and insulin’s main role is to help the body’s cells absorb sugar from the food you eat and convert it into energy. However, a person who has insulin resistance has cells that won’t allow for the conversion of sugar into energy. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, whether you really need it or not.
A short-term study took 15 participants and gave them either 15 or 100 grams of cacao-infused chocolate. After a week, they switched to no cacao to measure the results. They found that the insulin resistance fell during the week that the participates ate the cacao.
17. Cacao Helps Your Body Remove Toxins
When your blood vessels constrict, this allows for less blood to flow and circulate through your body. In turn, toxins can start to build up in your bloodstream and travel to other areas of your body.
Introducing cacao to your diet can help to widen your blood vessels and encourage blood flow. One study showed that this reduces the amount of any excess fluid in your body, which will be eliminated as urine.
18. Cacao Improves Airflow to the Lungs
With rising levels of pollution, respiratory issues are on the rise. This includes conditions like asthma, COPD, bronchitis, and more. However, cacao can help to open up the airways to the lungs and has been shown to have good respiratory outcomes.
A randomised double-blind study took 21 young adults who had asthma and gave them capsules of cacao powder. It showed that cacao is effective for opening up the airways and that the effects can last up to six hours. In fact, it was almost as good at opening the airways as the asthma medication theophylline.
19. Cacao Is an Anti-Inflammatory Agent
Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself against perceived threats or injury. It also occurs with chronic conditions like arthritis where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
Cacao is effective in reducing the amount of inflammatory cytokines in your system including IFN-y and TNF-R. A study showed that adding cacao to your diet is an effective way to reduce the amount of inflammation present throughout your body as a whole.
20. Cacao Can Improve Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can appear in otherwise healthy individuals, and it affects both males and females. For example, in Australia, high cholesterol is the second leading cause of cardiovascular problems after high blood pressure. Roughly 32% of the male population and 33% of the female population report high cholesterol.
However, various studies about the effects of cacao and cholesterol levels show promising findings. Ingredients in cacao can work to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in a person’s system. A hundred and fifty-two participants drank cacao powder once a day for four weeks and showed significantly reduced LDL, as well as increases to their HDL cholesterol levels.
21. Cacao Helps You Sleep
Inadequate sleep can affect your daily routine. It can leave you feeling fatigued, worn out, and sleepy throughout the day.
Researchers performed a survey of 5,587 people. They gave the participants 30mg of Theobromine to take before bed. They found that the participants widely reported that they were able to fall asleep faster and stay in a deeper sleep for longer periods.
22. Cacao Improves Gout Symptoms
Gout is a form of arthritis, and it occurs when there isn’t adequate blood circulation throughout the body. This poor circulation allows for uric acid to build up in the joints, and this is what causes the pain and inflammation associated with a gout attack.
As we mentioned earlier, cacao has agents that help to improve your circulation. Promising studies show that introducing Theobromine into your diet through cacao is one way to help prevent gout flares and uric acid build up in the joints.
23. Cacao May Prevent Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are an extremely painful condition that occurs when mineral deposits, uric acid, and calcium build up in your kidneys. You pass these kidney stones through your urinary tract, and round 4 to 8% of male and female Australians have kidney stones each year.
Since cacao contains chemicals and enzymes that increase circulation and prevent uric acid buildup, it makes sense that it can help to prevent kidney stones. If there isn’t any uric acid present, it won’t build up over time and turn into a painful kidney stone.
24. Cacao Has Antifungal Properties
Did you know that cacao has powerful antifungal properties? This is great news for both people and for farmers who want to protect their crops from fungus infestations. What’s worse, these fungus infestations can spread from plants to animals to people.
However, promising studies show that cacao extracts have antifungal properties. This makes them a safer and natural alternative to other fungus remedies. The extracts inhibited the growth of the fungus, and it also greatly reduced the amount of fungi that were present during the study.
25. Cacao Acts as an Antimicrobial Agent
Bacteria is one of the main causes of infections and illnesses around the world. The problem is becoming worse aswell with many types of microbes now becoming resistant to various antibiotics.
Researchers studied several fermented cacao pod extracts to determine the antimicrobial activity. They found over 500 different compounds that have a variety of uses, including anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial. They found a high concentration of steroids as well, and this helps to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
26. Cacao Supports Healthy Nail Growth
Dry, brittle, weak, cracked, or split nails can be a sign that your body isn’t getting all of the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy. Particularly, you could have a deficiency in magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, or vitamin C.
Eating raw cacao is an excellent way to boost your daily intake of these essential vitamins and nutrients. Double-blind studies showed that adding cacao to your diet not only improves the nail itself, but it also helps to strengthen the nail bed. This can encourage healthy and fast nail growth.
27. Cacao Can Help with Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid upsets the natural balance of reactions and chemicals in your body. It’s prominent in women over 60, and it can be difficult to detect, so it often goes untreated. You could experience fatigue, moodiness, swelling joints, thinning hair and more.
Studies show that eating raw cacao powder as part of your diet can help to restore the chemical, vitamin and mineral balance to your body that hypothyroidism can unbalance. When you combine this with lifestyle changes and certain medications or supplements, you can get relief from your symptoms.
28. Cacao Enhances Your Libido
Age or medical reasons can cause your libido to decrease. For men, this usually starts to decline in their mid-60s. Women start earlier with the onset of menopause in their mid-40s to early 50s. This can be frustrating for anyone, but cacao can help restore your libido levels.
Cacao contains high levels of PEA or phenethylamine. This mood-enhancing compound can encourage your brain to release endorphins and chemicals that have an opium-like effect. Studies showed that women who ate cacao each day had higher desire and drive than women who didn’t eat it.
29. Cacao Protects Your Pancreas
Chemical imbalances, infections and more can all cause negative consequences for your pancreas. If you don’t have enough sulphur, your pancreas will have difficulties producing enough insulin for your body.
Researchers showed that cacao can help to protect your pancreas against oxidative stress as well as boosts the sulphur levels in your body. This means that your pancreas will be able to perform at peak levels, and it’ll be able to keep up with the insulin production that your body needs.
30. Cacao Speeds up Your Metabolism
It’s not uncommon for your metabolism to slow down as you age. Unfortunately, this also means that you have to be more conscious of what you put in your body, and a slower metabolism can lead to weight gain.
One Swiss study took two groups of participants and had one group consume cacao each day for two weeks. The other group didn’t consume any cacao during this period. They found that the group who ate cacao had reduced numbers of the stress hormone cortisol in their system, and it improved their metabolism.
31. Cacao Helps to Prevent Sunburns
This final Cacao benefit too us by surprise and has promising practical uses for non-toxic sunscreen and skin care type products.
London scientists performed a study with two groups of participants. One group didn’t eat cacao over a two-week period. The other group ate 20 grams of cacao for 12 weeks. They reported that this group was able to stay in the sun for twice as long as the control group without getting a sunburn.
Final Thoughts on the Cacao Benefits
These 31 comprehensive cacao benefits prove that adding this superfood to your diet can help you both internally and externally. Whether you use it topically, add the raw powder to your food or drinks or use the extract, you can reap the benefits.
It’s a natural substance that can help you live a more healthy and fuller life simply by adding it to your diet. If you haven’t already, you may want to consider using cacao so you, too, can experience the cacao benefits.