In Greek, cacao is the ‘food of the gods’ and understanding the difference between cacao and cocoa is important as they are two very different things. Cacao is the highly nutritious, vitamin and mineral loaded form of untreated, raw chocolate.
Cocoa, on the other hand is the not as healthy, processed chocolate. The elevated level of the heat during the roasting process of the cacao beans, destroys some vital antioxidants and the addition of sugar and fats further reduces its nutritional value.
Nutritional Facts of Cacao
- Vitamin E, K, B1, B2, B3 and B9
- Oleic acid (monounsaturated/healthy fat)
Heath Benefits of Cacao
Choline is a neurotransmitter, which is essential for communications between the brain and the central nervous system. The other nutrients are generally more commonly recognized, and should form part of a healthy diet.
The nutrient theobromine found occurring naturally in cacao is believed to be a non-addictive stimulant, useful in treating depression. It makes the brain produce more anandamide, another neurotransmitter that is responsible for the feelings of euphoria associated with chocolate.
Theobromine, in combination with flavanols and other nutrients found in cacao such as leucine, linoleic, lipase, beta-carotene, alkaloids and lysine, may be responsible for reducing blood pressure by promoting better circulation, cutting down on LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reducing plaque accumulation on arterial walls.
The enhanced levels of antioxidants found in cacao rid the body of free radicals, which if allowed to remain in the body speed up the aging process, give rise to cancer and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, by attacking healthy cells. The ample amount of fiber found in cacao aids digestion and encourages the body to produce digestive enzymes.
Banana Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Most people just grab a banana without giving much thought to all the health benefits it offers. One average sized banana delivers 467 mg of potassium, which supplies potent protection against blood pressure, atherosclerosis and stroke.
While bananas are not a rich source of calcium, they do supply plenty of fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic (substances that stimulate probiotics, the friendly bacteria living in the digestive tract). When fructooligosaccharide’s are broken up in the digestive system, they promote the absorption of calcium by the body, which helps to maintain bone health.
The micronutrients tryptophan and norepinephrine in bananas avert depression and bring on a feeling of well-being (increased serotonin), while the vitamin B6 in the fruit protects against sleeplessness, irritability and mood swings.
Researchers have also discovered that a lectin, a protein found in bananas that binds to HIV-infected cells, surrounding them and stopping them from duplicating and thus being transmitted.
How to Make a Maca and Cacao Smoothie
- 1 banana
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 tbsp maca powder
- ½ cup crushed ice
You may also like to add cinnamon or honey for a little extra flavor!
Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and decorate with a pinch of cacao or cinnamon.